“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”
— Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
I absolutely loath the phrase “to kill time.”
I mean, think about it. Most of us are prudent with our money. We don’t waste it. We slog to earn it and invest wisely when we obtain it. We guard our fortune jealously.
Yet we are far less careful when it comes to our time. We even kill time, whiling it away on frivolous matters without so much as a second thought — yet time is a commodity far more precious than money.
One can always make more money. Time, once lost, is irretrievable.
2000 years ago, Seneca hit the nail on the head when he said:
“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”
In the hyper-consumerist culture of the 21st century, we’ve been led to believe that improvement necessitates an addition.
Adding one more room equals a better house. Owning more cars means more convenience, more clothes mean more options, so on and so forth.
I have found the opposite to be true.
Our lives are paradoxically improved via elimination. Most of us don’t need more stuff in our homes or more activities clogging our schedules — we need to trim the fat.
Prince, peasant, or pauper, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. We need to free up as much of those hours as we can.
Here are three common time-killers. Eliminate them to make the best of your time — and your life.
The 3 Most Common Ways We Waste Time
1. Toxic Relationships
I believe that surrounding yourself with toxic individuals is the single, most self-sabotaging act you can engage in.
There are many who invest years of time and effort into unworthy friends or unsuitable lovers. When the relationship inevitably sours, all parties leave with a bad taste in their mouths and not much else to show for it.
If you need advice on leaving a toxic relationship, I’ve written a curated article on the subject.
Extricate yourself from toxic relationships gently and with empathy — but always be firm.
To quote Tim Ferriss,
“Poisonous people do not deserve your time. To think otherwise is masochistic.”
In 2020, we are ceaselessly bombarded with stimulation.
The choices — oh, the choices!
Netflix, a bingers wet-dream. The endless scrolling experience built into Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram. The heady adrenaline rush of video games.
All of this and a million more options, all just a phone’s reach away.
Look, I get it. Sometimes, after a long day, you just want to put your feet up. I’m not suggesting you’re a loser for doing that — I enjoy my Netflix time as much as anyone.
What I’m saying is repeatedly consuming mind-numbing, cheap entertainment is not the best way to spend your time.
I know it, deep down inside you know it, and you can bet your last dollar that the corporations who hire well-paid experts to keep you scrolling like a drugged up hamster on a wheel know it — but they don’t care about you as a person, of course.
The important thing this: do you care enough about yourself to change your lifestyle? Or will you keep running the hamster wheel, seeking the next must-share meme, the next hit TV series, the next sweet sweet dopamine high?
The choice is yours.
3. Pretend Productivity
“Focus on being productive instead of being busy” — another seemingly no-brainer advice from Tim Ferris.
There is an important distinction between the two, though. Busy-ness does not automatically equate to productivity. It’s an easy trap to fall into.
A great example is meetings. They’re often pointless and unproductive. Yet people routinely attend them to keep up the facade of productivity, instead of, you know, doing the work and actually being productive.
Here’s an example from my personal life.
When I was a newbie, I often prioritized work that I enjoyed doing over work I disliked. E.g I would prioritize social media marketing, which I enjoyed, over sending emails, which I hated.
I committed the worst sin a founder can commit— deceive himself.
All the while I was feeling busy, but it was an illusion of productivity — fool’s gold. I wasn’t getting the more vital work done. Thankfully, over time this became apparent and I quickly corrected course.
Be productive, not busy.
There is a big difference.
3 Better Ways To Invest Your Time
Upon eliminating — or at least curtailing some of the above time-killing habits, we are now free to replace them with more time-positive ones.
Here’s a brief overview.
1. Invest In Meaningful Relationships
Like Conor McGregor said, “I keep my circle small. Nobody gets in. Nobody gets out.”
Invest in people who uplift you, who’s conversations have you feeling pumped instead of drained. People who elevate you to higher heights, not jealous crabs who hold you down.
These are the people worthwhile of your time.
2. Prioritize Education Over Entertainment
Education over entertainment.
Read an informative book instead of watching your third Netflix feature. Instead of hitting the club on Saturday, sign up for a seminar.
The changes don’t have to be drastic — you can let your hair down once in a while. The trick is to focus on getting 1% better every day.
The little things? They add up.
3. Real Productivity
The ultra-successful are never busy.
They are highly optimized and insanely productive. There is a difference.
Running around like a headless chicken means you’re getting less work done, not more. It means your life is out of control. And you don’t want that.
I’ve found the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, invaluable in separating the wheat from the chafe.
Focus 80% of your energies on 80% of the things that matter, and vice versa.
That’s a much better use of your time.
In Summary: Your Time Is Your Most Valuable Asset — Treat It That Way
“Imagine there is a bank account that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to used during the day. What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course? Each of us has such a bank, it’s name is time.”
The above quote by Mark Levy succinctly sums up the point of my article.
Time is a commodity far more precious than money. Most of us certainly make good use of our hard-earned cash— we should accord our time with the same level of respect.
You see, time constitutes our very lives. Just like how our bank accounts are made up of dollars and cents, our lifetimes are made up of minutes and hours.
How wisely we spend those minutes and hours directly equate to how wisely we spend our lives.
So don’t waste time. Don’t kill life.
Guard it zealously, spend it wisely, laugh uproariously, and love passionately.
That’s the best way to spend a life.
Thanks for reading my story.