As we all know, time is one resource that is limited for everyone. We won’t live forever. In plenty of occasions it’s even more important than money. There isn’t any realistic limitation to the money we can potentially acquire in a free country. At the same time it sounds ironic that the income of the vast majority of the wealthy people who live the what we call good life doesn’t actually depend on the amount of time they work. They make money even when they are on holidays. I am on purpose comparing money with time because I have noticed the tendency from people to protect their money but they do not care about their time at all even if they think they don’t have much free.
When you want to achieve things that other people have already done you study them, don’t you? One way to become better in what you do is to recognize common patterns in behaviors that lead to the achievement. And possibly by implementing them you can also become better. Well, one of the common patterns I have recognised in succesful people is that they firmly protect their time. They are extremely careful in what activities they use it. Perhaps the fact that they were coming from that mindset, let them to achieve a life that their money doesn’t depend on their time…
And while we don’t seem to show much respect in our time, we simultaneously recognize that we don’t have much. Don’t blame me wrong, I know that the hours of working and commuting are many but I’m trying to talk beyond this. At the same time many people don’t have time to perform hobbies while others don’t have time to engage in self- evolving activities . In my view, what commonly happens is the following:
- We waste time and we simply don’t recognize it.
- We have mistaken beliefs about the good use of our time.
- We have mistaken beliefs about the time we consider as already lost (e.g. commutes)
The human brain works in a way that is not capable to monitor our actions all the time. In fact most of the times we behave according to habits that suit the particular situation. One very simple example is when we make coffee in the morning after waking up. Most of the times I am sure you don’t track every action that leads to your drinking that coffee. In this way the majority of the “decisions” we make during the day are habitual.
Neither our brains have the cognitive resources to observe everything nor the modern societies teach us the value of mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you increase the times that you are consciously in the present moment. You have a very good sense of the situation and the emotions that exist tend to not cloud your judgement even though you recognize their existence. Meditation is actually the training of your brain to be mindful.
Losing track of the passing time
So in most cases the fact that we aren’t observers of our actions leads us to lose track of the time that we engage in them. Or some other times are immersed in them because we enjoy them. We acknowledge that it’s not so useful time but in most of the situations we underestimate it. Two very typical examples are Facebook and the TV. Many people habitually open Facebook plenty of times per day while others check it immediately when they receive a notification. The problem is that in plenty of occasions we don’t only look at the notification but something else catches our attention that leads us to another page or link and we end up somewhere else only to return to what we were doing before Facebook probably an hour later. I don’t think that the majority of the users really understand how much time is wasted , by day. If you don’t believe me, you can try to measure it for a few days and find out how much time you spend there. Time is wasted many times more than what we have observed.
Same happens with the TV. People have the TV open just for company and they are supposed to do, simultaneously, something else . However, sooner or later they will notice something interesting that will keep their focus for, who knows, how much time.. Afterwards, it’s difficult to know or even consider the latter amount. And judging from the fact that this stimuli came from the TV I am pretty sure that this distraction is absolutely useless or even emotionally injurious.
Mistaken Beliefs About the Use of Time
The second thing that happens is that even though we observe the time we spend in some activities we haven’t fully examined how much that serves us in getting what we want. We have mistaken beliefs that most of the times come from social programming. There exists well spent time that we consider as wasted and wasted time that we consider as useful.
So there are things we do that everyone thinks are right but if we look at them with a clearer look we may find that they don’t help us so much compared to others in achieving our goals. This is what makes a decision about the use of your time cost- effective. The fact that you have examined it and recognised that it will provide you with the best outcome compared to all others. Or else it’s most efficient in giving you what you desire.
One example that comes to my mind is our interaction with our friends or boyfriends/girlfriends. I know everyone considers it the right thing. Of course we enjoy their company, we exchange good feelings and most of the times they are people who understand us. At the same time we are social primates and is in our deep nature to make friendships and sexual relationships. Avoiding that can be even fatal.
However, at least in my view, most of these interactions are not helping us in many other goals that we have or we should have. When you talk 6 hours per day with your boyfriend/girlfriend or any friend then – seriously – what do you expect you will be saying in the majority of this time? Words of wisdom? Clearly at this time you simply don’t invest in yourself. You are just being engaged (hopefully). Although this seems pretty normal, in my opinion we do this either because we aren’t enthusiastic about any other goals that we could pursue or because by keeping interacting we feed the greedy mouth of our insecurities. The irony is that the other people want us more because of the things we create the time we aren’t engaged with them. You aren’t valuable to others because you interact with them. Instead they want to interact with you because of what you are and so you can offer to them. And what you are is the value you have built as an individual entity and by yourself. I believe this is one important mindset boundary that the succesful people have passed. They learned to say NO.
The Time Neglected
The third category is the time that is considered as already lost or the time that we need to be engaged only physically. In the first situation is when people commute to work or elsewhere. When they use the public transport they may listen to music or read a magazine, a newspaper or a novel. If they are driving so they are engaged only physically most of the time either talk on the phone or listen to programs with music and light discussion on the radio. When people clean the house or cook they have the TV open and listen to it. When they go jogging most of the times they listen to music. So due to the fact that in all of these occasions the mind is not much engaged you could definitely use this time to absorb knowledge by listening to something more useful.
And I am saying all the above because we are humans and there are many observational and cognitive fallacies that exist. There are many events that we don’t observe, there are many impressions that we get but are wrong. There are also things we learn but we later forget because we don’t have them as part of our lives. There are others that we start doing , but soon we become tired, we stop, and we return in our previous situation. These are all normal to happen. That’s why we should keep reminding it to ourselves. And certainly it doesn’t mean that we can’t decrease them. It just needs every day commitment from our side in order to step by step be accustomed to these new processes and make them part of ourselves.
But what can we do?
First of all you need to always be cultivating a mindset of self-awareness which for me is the core. As long as you aren’t ready to accept when you are doing something that doesn’t help you, you will be imprisoning your progress between the walls of your own insecurities. So this way you should start recognising when you are wasting time and stop it.
The Did Principle.
Think of when you ask a friend of yours:”What did you do today?”. Most of the times you will receive a reply similar to the follows: “Well not something important. I went for beers with friends and I cleaned the house” or “I watched that movie and then I went to this restaurant” or “I was with John and Julia the whole afternoon” or “I went to buy this fantastic new shoes I had seen” etc. Well, even though, I am not the one to judge how happy these activities may make us, I can literally say that they most of the times don’t progress us. Once again they aren’t investments to ourselves. And before you think I am overcritisizing, just to say that these are not bad things. However, that doesn’t mean that should be chosen abundantly.
That’s why I created the Did principle. Because when we mention that we did something doesn’t necessarily mean that we were actually productive. By replying with long and many sentences in the question “what did you do?” we can easily fall in the illusion that we were over-productive and we have a full life. And thus feel satisfied although we actually didn’t do steps closer to our progress.
So by using the Did principle you can make a basic evaluation of how much you help yourself towards getting to where you want. When you ask yourself what you did today and you don’t have an actual reply then this means that something is wrong. In any choice that you make try to recognize if it’s helping you in what you want or not. And if it’s helping you then it can be contained in the “Did category”. How many “did’s” did you have today?
As mentioned before in order to improve your “yourself observational mechanism” and have better control of your actions one very effective way is practicing meditation. I don’t want to elaborate here but I want to mention two things in case you haven’t heard much about meditation. First that you don’t need to go to a mountain in Himalayas to practice it and second that meditation doesn’t need a lifetime to alter the brain and thus our behavior. In The Willpower Instinct Dr. Kelly McGonigal mentions about some studies on meditation. These studies take people who have never meditated before—even folks who are skeptical of the whole thing—and teach them a simple meditation technique. One study found that just three hours of meditation practice led to improved attention and self-control. After eleven hours, researchers could see those changes in the brain. The new meditators had increased neural connections between regions of the brain important for staying focused, ignoring distractions, and controlling impulses.
How to Use the Neglected Time
Another thing we can do is to find ways to use time that was previously neglected, time we thought would be lost anyway. So in the activities that don’t require any mental focus you can be using it in an efficient way. When you clean the house or cook and are alone you can listen to a podcast in your headphones. When you travel by plane, instead of trying to sleep in order for the time to pass you can work on something you are planning. I have seen many people in the planes doing that, already. A plane trip together with the commute to the airport is at least 5 hours. How many pages can you read at that time? When you travel by public transport you can be reading a book in your smart phone. When you want to chill and see something on the TV watch a documentary instead of a movie. Even when you eat and look at the TV it’s better to find a talk to watch.
Imagine a person that drives to go to work for 45 minutes which makes it 1 hour and a half per day in the car. That’s typical, right? Well if an audio book is 6 hours then without even doing the math you can understand that a person like him or her can easily be one book per week more knowledgable. Without changing anything in their schedule. Just by making use of time neglected. We are lucky that internet and technology today provide us with unlimited resources and super-easy ways to access them at any time. In the past, wherever I was about to go and there was a potential wait I used to carry a bag with a book with me. Now I don’t even need to be proactive as I have dozens of ebooks and audio books stored in my phone.
On Working Hours
Also, you possibly can save time in some occasions during the working hours. This doesn’t apply to everyone but certainly happens in many situations. Think of possible times at work between tasks that you don’t have anything specific to do. Instead of waiting for the time to pass, you can use it productively. The easiest thing to do is once again to read a book.
Moreover, in general people have the tendency to use all the available time space to finish a task. This is described by the Parkinson’s Law. So maybe you can achieve the same result in one hour and in two hours. This is the reason that most of the times in the universities students submit the projects at the last moment. Therefore, due to the fact that you know you ‘ll spend at work at least 8 hours you don’t have any reason to finish with your tasks earlier. You can shift your mindset by pressurizing yourself to finish with everything as early as possible and use the rest of the time that you will anyway be at work as an investment to you.
You can also use the method of batching in your lifestyle. You should try to put together similar processes. These processes don’t require change in our focus in between them so we don’t waste any time trying to regain it. For example, when the notifications of the social platforms come, instead of being distracted just ignore them and look at them all at one specific time. You don’t need to check your emails every now and then. Set up a time and read and reply to them all. Or try to fix a day of the month that you can pay all of your bills together.
All these come from an attitude that tries to utilize at best all the available resources. And certainly time is one of the most valuable ones. However, this doesn’t mean that we need to become maniacs with it and measure every single moment of time that wasn’t productive. Relaxing is significant as the effort. We are governed by the natural laws that indicate us to achieve the appropriate balance between the two. Neither to only struggle nor to only exist. And this is the most important issue in this. We are trying to control the use of our time in order to be able to achieve this balance. To keep our minds healthy with an efficient change between enthusiastic-productive-creative times and relaxing-calming-social ones. So when we make good use of our time not only we increase our productivity but we also protect our health. And there are other by-products that implicate our health. For example, when we don’t have time to do something important we become stressed, right?
If you have any serious goals most possibly you have competitors. Think that when you drive your car and listen to joyful music or when you spend all day with your relationship, maybe your competitor is reading a book that makes them better. Maybe they create something that puts them ahead of you. One hour may not be an issue but these choices can build skyscrapers as a compound effect. What you are now are all the choices you have made in your previous life. Day by day for thousands of days. What you will be in the future is the actions you will put in your table that will transform you. The difference between you now and that future self is the in between decisions you will be making every single moment from this moment now.
If you liked this post you can subscribe below and get instantly updated about useful news and informative posts like the one you just read.