We spend time in much the same way that we do money. We devote some of our time to actually earning money and some more of it in keeping up our lives by sleeping, spending it with friends and so on. Ultimately, the difference between achieving big goals and failing at them is how to use that time smartly. The real solution isn’t necessarily in some perfect time management programme, but in recognising some few basics about how you use your time in general.
First, embrace the idea that “empty time” is your enemy. “Empty time” is time spent not doing something that enhances your life in a positive way. It is really easy to allow “empty time” to substitute for other needs in our lives. For example, we spend “empty time” when we get home from work not really doing anything at all, when a productive task or sitting down and reviewing how things are going with our kids at school or building a plan for the near-term future would serve us better.
By the way, having true leisure time is not “empty time.” For me, an hour or two spent with a few close friends, talking about life and thinking about our future plans is more satisfying than spending same time in a chair Facebooking on some ‘funny nothings’. True leisure time—time spent doing something that brings deep fulfillment into your life —is the opposite of “empty time.” Leisure time is one of the most important and most valuable elements of life. It recharges you and makes the other demands on your time go much easier.
Secondly, never, ever undervalue sleep. Many people, when they are trying to build something new or make their day more productive, will sacrifice sleep along the way. They will go to bed later to squeeze in more work or wake up earlier (without a bedtime adjustment) to get exercise. Inadequate sleep makes almost everything worse in your life. It saps away your decision-making power and your ability to think properly. You often don’t see those deficits in the moment, but they add up over time and they can definitely rear their head when you least expect them to. For me murdering sleep actually affects me health wise—I get a bout of flu—I don’t know the connection but that often happens when I have worked all night into the wee hours of the other day. If you are going to sacrifice “empty time” to anything, I recommend a mixture of sleep and planning how to use your time. Sleep will refresh you. A bit of time planning will help you make smarter decisions.
Lastly, there are a few points where I have observed most people let precious time slip under their nose. Top is the time we spend in the toilet and yet some of us spend considerable amount of time in there. I normally use my time in the toilet to do check my mails on the phone or catching up on Whatsapp messages.
Relatedly, when you are travelling in a coach—you can use this time to read a book or watch that movie you have been looking forward to. Similarly, time you spend on the queue in the bank or waiting to pay for utility service or in shopping mall should be fully utilized, reading or reflecting on some important plans. It’s a sorry sight to see people in a queue that is moving very slowly doing nothing—just wearing bored faces. The short and long of it is that you should never allow time just slips through your hands like that—it’s an important non-renewable resource. You mess up with time today; you regret forever—remember age is catching up with you.
Blessed weekend to you and yours as you plan to minimise your ‘empty time.’