Stop Managing Your Time Right Now. Question Your Priorities Instead.
If you live up to 75 years, you’ll live for 27,375 days. And if you’re 25 years old, you only have about 18,250 days still left.
We live as if we have all the time in the world. But in fact, time is the most important asset you have. Time doesn’t care how rich, successful, intelligent, talented or famous you are. It treats everyone equally. The difference lies in how you treat your time.
We are frugal with money. We think through our purchases. We don’t freely give out our money for nothing. But money is abundant, what’s really scarce is time. You can lose $1000 and you can earn it back. But once you lose time, it’s gone forever.
“Just like people are billionaires financially, if you have more than a billion seconds left in your life — you’re a time billionaire.” (a billion seconds is slightly over 31 years). — Graham Duncan
Finding Clarity And Questioning Everything
Time management is really about priority management.
To be intentional about how you spend your time, ask yourself if what you’re doing is really essential.
You could do a billion things with your life. But if you’re unclear about the precise things you want in life, you’ll do a lot of unessential things and look back with regret.
The paradox of clarity is that it comes with actions on random things you’re not clear about. At first, you need to try a lot of things before you know what you want and what you don’t want.
As you gain clarity, you can prioritize, postpone, reduce, eliminate or delegate things from your life by reviewing your life regularly.
The two biggest mistakes I’ve seen people making is either not starting something because they’ve never done it before or not quitting something because they’ve always done it. Both mistakes come from resistance to change.
If you want to grow and find your essentials in life, you must change. Change comes from stepping out of your comfort zone and coming back into your comfort zone to pause and reflect.
Questions For You
- What can you try that you’ve never tried before so you can expand your horizons?
- What can you stop doing that you’ve never even thought about not doing?
- What are the current essential things in your life? Are you putting most of your energy and focus on them?
The Rules For Saying Yes
Saying “no” is an art. First, it takes clarity to know what to say yes to and what to say no to. Second, it takes courage to actually say no to people. Last, it takes social skills to say no to people without turning them down on a personal level.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to decide if you should say yes or no:
- What are you saying no to when you’re saying yes to something?
- Will it possibly be useful in the future?
- Will you cherish these moments? (Use the dosage principle to not overindulge in pleasures)
- Will it bring you two or more of the following?
If that’s too many questions, just listen to your gut and it will tell you the right thing to do.
“When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ — then say ‘no.’” — Derek Sivers
Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. For example, I have a daily success checklist that sets me up for success every day by default without even thinking about it. When there’s something new I’ve said yes to, I simply postpone or eliminate tasks. Or I reduce the time spent on the least important things on the list.
Making Wise Time Investment Decisions
If we treat time like we treat our money, we must make wise investment decisions to avoid wastage of time.
Just like any investment, you can’t predict the future, but you can learn to make better decisions and increase your chances for good returns.
Some common traps and logical fallacies to watch out for are:
A) The Productivity Trap
Our culture heavily promotes the idea of working hard. But working hard is only useful when you’re working on the right things. Working to keep yourself busy so you can avoid life is a deadly trap to watch out for.
B) The Power Of Your Defaults
Your systems and processes in life define how it will unfold in the next years with the compound effect. Having a set of default options also free up your mind to use less energy so you can put it to better use.
C) Sunk-cost Fallacy
When you’ve already invested so much of your time on a project or in a relationship, your mind fights hard to justify to keep investing in it because of the time and effort you’ve already spent on it.
D) Reciprocity Bias
We are wired to return the favor when someone does something for us. While it’s good to help each other out, it’s also important to protect your time and not be obliged to say yes.
Side note: If you want to explore further on how to make smarter decisions, Shane Parrish has written a lot about it here.
How To Make The Most Of Your Limited Time On Earth
“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.” — Seneca
The death clock is ticking. It doesn’t matter how long you live. What matters is what you do with the rest of the time you have left. It’s never too late to take control of your life.
As I’ve mentioned before, two of the most fulfilling life experiences you can aim for are state of flow and moments of awe. Here’s what you can do to fill your life with such experiences and live in a beautiful state:
A) Pursue What You Care About
Finding and living your passion is a long road. It may take you some time before you find your passion, but what you can always control is doing what you care about. When you follow your bliss, you ultimately stumble upon your passion.
B) Come Back To The Present Moment
The past has slipped away, and the future is yet to come. The present moment is all you have. As Dan Millman says in The Way Of The Peaceful Warrior:
“There’s never nothing going on. There are no ordinary moments.” — Dan Millman
C) Whatever You’re Doing, Put Your Heart Into It
“The way we do anything is the way we do everything.” — Martha Beck
I have always been impatient. I would do things in a rush just to get things done. It was until recently I realized that putting myself in the present moment and taking the time to do things calmly improves my wellness and performance in all other areas.
D) Manage Your Thoughts And Emotions
No matter how much money you make or how successful you become, you can’t live a beautiful life unless you learn to manage your thoughts and emotions. They dictate the quality of your life, regardless of your external situations.
Dead Time Vs. Alive Time
“The worst thing you can have in life, is a job you hate, where you have no energy, you’re not creative, and you’re not thinking of the future. To me, you might as well be dead.” — Robert Greene
In his book, Ego Is The Enemy, Ryan Holiday describes what Robert Greene calls as ‘Alive Time or Dead Time’ scenario. When Malcolm was in prison, he had a decision to make. He could keep suffering in dead time, or he could turn it into alive time by doing what makes him feel alive. In his case, it was reading books.
Learning, playing and doing creative work are the best uses of your time on Earth. Don’t waste your time getting sucked into social media, news or the internet. Instead, you could seize different opportunities like learning while commuting or doing creative work first thing in the morning before your job.
It’s never too late to take a hard look at your life and separate the essentials from the nonessentials. Your time on this planet is limited and you must have clear priorities. Otherwise, you will never escape the drama and distractions of the world.
Each day is a gift. Will you question where your precious time goes? Will you take the scary step of saying no to your biggest time-waster? Will you finally start the passion project you’ve been putting off for so long?
Stop Wasting Time Today By Designing Your Daily Success Checklist
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Originally published at DesignEpicLife.com