Why you always have time
“I don’t have time.”
Oh, I hate this phrase with a passion. Why? Because it’s a lie. Every single person on this planet is the owner of exactly 24 hours per day. Every single person on the planet has the same amount of time. While time may pass slowly or quickly, depending on your state of flow, it is absolute in the spaces that we move in. What you are really saying is:
“I have other priorities that are more important.”
We all have priorities. Priorities that are constantly changing. Let us assume, for instance, that your job is your #1 priority from 9-5 during the week. If I asked you to hang out at 11am on a Tuesday, the answer would probably be “no”. Hanging out with me might be nice, but it isn’t your top priority. Earning money, not pissing off your colleagues and climbing the career ladder are far higher on that list. Say you had the opportunity to go on an awesome trip. 4 weekdays. No vacation days left. Again, the priorities mentioned above win the battle inside. Now consider your spouse just got in an accident – everything stops. Your priorities shift, and you make sure you get to her or him as fast as possible. Nothing else matters at this point.
Welcome to our lives. Everything we do is related to priorities. The reason I am writing this right now is that I enjoy doing it, hope that other people will enjoy this post and that it helps me sort my thoughts. Writing this has a higher priority than working on my paper that is due in two weeks (yeah, I’m gonna hate myself for that tomorrow. But that’s okay).
Sometimes, it isn’t as easy to figure out why things actually are up high on your priority list. The underlying motives are a lot more relevant. Using your job as example again: do you really love it that much that you would not want to do anything else? Or is it so important because you cherish the money, the power and the fame you get from it? Like I said in my first post, electing to study management wasn’t really my #1 priority. More importantly, I did not want to hear anything about how any of the studies that I would choose probably would not yield a great job.
The most important piece information that I want to convey here is:
GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT.
You have to understand why your priorities are the way they are. Do you do certain things because it is “expected” of you despite the fact that you do not really want to do them? Do you keep pushing off things that are not urgent, but important for the sake of urgent, but not as important things? Do you catch yourself saying “oh, I can always do this later” often? I do, and I hate myself for doing so.
Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principles (courtesy of mindtools.com)
In a time of instant messaging, notifications, 24/7 connectivity, social media and smartphones, most people spend their day running after urgent tasks that they have to complete. A rather typical day at the office for me looks like this: open Outlook, look at the 10 new mails that require “immediate” attention. Answer those. Attend a meeting. Help out a fellow employee who needs a certain piece of information only I can provide. Oh look, new mails – better answer them. Lunchtime. More meetings. More mail. You get the idea.
At the end of the day, I barely got anything done because I spent all day running after things from quadrants 1 and 3. The tasks, that really get things going, usually cannot be found there. They hide in quadrant 2. My workday is a metaphor for the life that most of us live. A few examples include:
- working out – you can always do that tomorrow, as right now you “don’t have time”
- cooking – takeout seems a lot easier, and you “don’t have time” as you need to binge on Netflix
- learning a new language – yeah, maybe on vacation, because right now I’m too tired
If you keep living your life that way, things will probably not change or improve. Look: there is NEVER “the” right time to do things. Sometimes, you just gotta go ahead, focus on quadrant 2 and get shit done. In the end, you’ll feel happy.
Think about my words the next time you catch yourself saying “I don’t have time” and evaluate. Do you really not have time? Or is it something else?
Take your time when it comes to important things. After all, you might not have the opportunity to do them more often. When you look at the bigger picture, you will see that your seemingly endless life is actually rather short. Assuming I will live until 82, I will only read 1500 more books in my life at my current rate (1 book in 2 weeks). If you do the math for all of your activities, you will soon learn that you have to choose wisely. In order to understand this more clearly, I will hand over to Tim Urban, who wrote an incredible post on “the tail end.”
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