The need for moderation in all things, including time-management
I’ve grown to recognise and appreciate the value, the importance and the non-renewable nature of time.
Following this awakening, I’ve adapted how I live to ensure that I get the best out of my time, and waste as little of it as possible. I recognise time for what it is, the irreplaceable resource which nobody has the ability to secure more-of no matter how successful, righteous or powerful they are.
I awaken at what most around me describe as a ridiculous hour, in order to get in a couple of hours of creative work. I feel tired at times but enjoy the feeling that I’ve accomplished something while most are still dreaming. Even at weekends when I don’t set an alarm, I’m rarely able to sleep-in guilt free. As soon as I’m awake I feel compelled to get up and do something so as not to waste the day.
I’ve always hated commuting and the time lost in traffic, waiting for trains, buses and planes. These days I mostly work from home and revel in the fact that I can be productively working minutes after getting out of bed. I believe I’ve proved that physical presence in an office, showing your face in meetings for soul-draining hours on end, and staring into the whites of the eyes of my reports and co-workers isn’t essential to achieving professional success.
On the odd occasion I still have to commute to an office, I’ve come to resent the time lost in traffic and in getting from A to B. I fight an inner rage when I’m forced to do it and I hear a familiar inner monologue when I consider that the commuting masses can’t see the daily insanity of wasting time in this way. They collectively move from place A to place B only to put in 7 or 8 hours work when they could have done 2 or 3 of those hours already had they just logged on from home. They’d also have clogged up the road less for those like me who can’t afford to waste the time. Maybe they just don’t have the choice to work remotely.
I sound self-important, but these feelings come from knowing that precious hours of my life are ebbing away due to circumstances beyond my control. They’re hours I can ill-afford to lose. I can tolerate the disruptions to maximising the utility of my time that are of my own making, but those caused by others are harder to stomach.
I find myself evaluating social occasions and other commitments that enter my life without my choosing, through their impacts on my precious time. Will they enrich and add value for the hours they use up, or will I simply have to endure them and make up the time lost at a later date?
On the one hand, I believe that this focus is making me super-productive and I’ve realised that the biggest constraint on how much I can fit into my life is simply how much I take control of and manage how my time is used. Busy is a myth, a self-constructed excuse used by those who haven’t found a means of prioritising that which is important to them.
On the other hand it’s making me ever more isolated, insular and inward looking. In protecting my time, I’m fearful that I’m losing out on opportunities that might otherwise have enriched and enhanced my life. I recognise that my daily way of life does not conform to the tribal existence and the collective mentality that evolution has equipped me for. Instead of being part of something bigger, I feel at times like I’m stripping myself of social contact by instinctively and suspiciously viewing it as a potential thief of my time.
I meticulously plan each day with military precision, starting each week with a long list of the most impactful tasks that will help me to meet my goals. My purpose is to make best use of the 168 hours this week has bestowed me with. Since getting a FitBit heart-rate monitor I’m now able to analyse daily how many hours of sleep I get, ensuring that this is optimised to maximise productivity through the remains of the day (I’ve found that I need an average of 6 hours and 29 minutes, not the standard 8 hours that I had convinced myself was essential). After waking up the trend continues and I try and fit as much worthy activity and avoid as much wasteful distraction and procrastination as possible. When I reflect at the end of the day I recognise a great many achievements, but I still chastise myself for the minutes and hours wasted on the trivial tasks and the rabbit-holes of distraction into which I allowed myself to be lured.
The screen-time feature on my phone has provided further grist to the mill. When my weekly report arrives on a Sunday morning, I’m heartened if the trend is downwards from the previous week, and momentarily-devastated if my average has increased. I’ve stripped all but the essential apps from my phone, changed the colour scheme to make it less visually appealing, but the well-engrained habit of picking up the phone in an idle moment is a tough one to break. I burden myself with needing to set a better example to my kids, who I chastise for having their phones perpetually in-hand and in front of their noses and perpetually wasting time. I must set a credible example of the behaviours I wish them to adopt, not least so they too value the time that can be lost through smart-phone addiction.
All things considered, I think I have a problem of moderation.
In common with reflections on other aspects of my life which I’ve recently written about (such as my approach to fitness), I recognise that moderation is one of my biggest challenges to achieve in life. I pride myself on tenacity, resilience, discipline, determination and passion for things that I take up. I know that I need to temper these traits with is a liberal dose of balance and perspective too.
Positive habits and the practices that encourage a peak-state of performance are immensely powerful for the effects that they bring about, when done well and consistently. I attribute much of what I’ve achieved in the last 3 years to the establishment of a core set of habits that I’ve engrained in life. What I’ve learned though is that just as habits take time to embed and must be observed with diligence, moderation also plays a part.
- The benefits of gaining an additional 2 hours to your working day by getting up at 5am will be limited if you don’t get as much sleep as you require and end up sick and burned out.
- The long-term gains to your health and wellbeing will be minimal if you hit the gym so hard for 6-months that you end up injured, demoralised and dispirited by the process.
- Filling your daily schedule with journaling, meditation and reading of inspirational content won’t serve their purpose of quieting and lifting your mental state if you feel stressed by having to fit them all into your daily schedule around other immovable commitments.
These simple examples are chosen to illustrate my point, if only as a reminder to myself that moderation is key to all things, even in striving for peak-performance.
The familiar calls to action, to go-big or go-home and so-on have their place. However big you go with any habit or practice, it must be sustainable otherwise the effects of it will be short-lived and fleeting.
In the context of awareness and use of my time, I recognise scope for a more balanced outlook and way of life. I cannot un-see or un-learn the effects and lessons that I’ve experienced through my growing insight into the effects of time, and I don’t wish to.
None of us knows exactly when our time will be up, even those who live with the spectre of a life-shortening disease who have received an estimate of their remaining lifespan from a doctor. I will continue to cherish each and every moment, and make best use of it that I can and that is all any of us can do. What I need to change to bring about the moderation, is to appreciate the benefits that can be received not just from time spent alone, uninterrupted in pursuit of my goals. Of equal benefit and impact are the effects of being part of a community and existing within the tribe; more ‘we’ and less ‘me’.
A focus on maximising the use of time is a positive thing, but like all others things, balance and moderation is key.
Toby Hazlewood is a writer, parent, husband, project manager, entrepreneur and in his spare time, a cycling enthusiast.
As founder of the Kintsugi-Life movement, he advocates treating times of hardship, challenge and adversity as an opportunity not just to survive or recover, but as a prompt to grow and strengthen, equipping ourselves to live a better, more fulfilled and successful life.
You can learn more about Kintsugi Life and receive a free video overview describing the Kintsugi Life concept, here.