Time, why do you punish me? Like a wave crashing into the shore, you wash away my dreams.
Hootie and the Blowfish
I remember listening to this song for the first time, circa 1995, and thinking to myself, “What garbage.” Wasted time, at least for me as an undergrad, didn’t really mean that much at the time. I don’t really know the exact moment that time became precious, but it seemed to happen overnight. In one instant, that which was plenty all of a sudden became scarce. Work, family, friends, and that little selfish individual inside were all conveniently requesting a share. In a second, I was left with just an empty pie tray and no pie. Hootie’s words came ringing in my ear, “An hour only lasts for one second, one second”…damn them!!! I decided that I will respect time and make it a friend. After much thought and meditation, I began exploring all things productivity.
Here are a few simple things that I implemented immediately, some of which I still do:
I carried post-it notes wherever I went to capture any ideas, tasks, appointments, and reminders. For about 5-10 minutes every day, I would organize those notes into a journal to keep track of what I needed to do that day or the following day. Once the journal started becoming a hassle to maintain, I upgraded to a software tool. Eventually, I found GTD. For those who don’t know what GTD is, it is a bestselling book by David Allen called “Getting Things Done,” and it can help you organize and manage your life. It’s one of the best books on productivity that I’ve ever read.
This was a great start, but eventually I came up with three things that MUST be done—in addition to the above suggestions—to really become productive day in and day out. I call them the three Hows. The three Hows are very basic: How do I create more time, How do I keep more time, and How do I grow more time?
How to create more time
This is, of course, not an all-inclusive list, but it’s a good start to reclaiming some time back. These were some of my biggest time-wasters:
- Television – just stop it. Besides the occasional news, a movie every once in a while, some documentaries, and Shark Week, I found it to be a huge time-waster. That’s not to say that there aren’t some quality programs out there, it’s just that you’re not watching those programs. You’re watching a rerun of Wipeout. Let me spoil it for you: they all wipe out.
- Internet/web – It’s really become the new television, and as such, an equivalent waste of time. Ask yourself this, “Do I really need to see another cat video?”
- Email – This was a more difficult one for me since responding to emails made me believe that I was being more productive. However, responding to emails all day was actually making me less productive by taking my focus off things that I really needed to get done. I now limit my time and frequency of responding to emails.
How to keep more time
- Outsourcing – Pay someone else to do something that will take you more time to do. Your time is precious, so if you can afford to pay someone to do the gardening or house-cleaning, do it. Using virtual assistants to accomplish certain tasks like research can also be an invaluable tool to save time.
- Time management system – It’s a must. Get yourself some type of time management system that will help organize tasks. There are a lot out there to choose from with many different features that range in price, so try a few and decide which one will match your needs. A good task management system will save you hours every week.
How to grow more time
I have no idea. Obviously, nothing you do will add a second more time to your day or your life, so I would be remiss here if I provided any advice on that. What I really mean is how do I ensure the quality of the time that I have just worked hard to create and keep? I have found that being surrounded with great people who are smarter and more productive than me always helps.
Also, there is something that is intrinsically mystical about being around those you love and respect, and those that love and respect you. It’s indescribable. Those moments seem to transcend time and just stand still, in all excitement and in full clarity. Those moments never seem to be affected by time.
Teach yourself to be aware of time and remember that time is not your enemy – so don’t fight against it, but use it wisely.