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Is Time Your Friend or Your Enemy?

Is Time Your Friend or Your Enemy?

Western society promotes being busy at all times and at all costs. As a result, it seems that we are always rushing. We live by the calendar and we are run by the clock. We learn early on in life that you had better be on time for things or bad stuff will happen. Be late to turn in your papers and your grade gets lowered. Be late to pay your bills and you get stuck with a penalty. Be late to finish your work and you may be out of a job.

As a result many people conclude that time is their enemy. It must be battled and beaten. But there is no permanence in any victory over time — the clock gets reset tomorrow and the calendar at the first of the month, or at the very latest at the first of the year.

Consider the popular phrase, “Life is too short to __________.” Here are some beauties you hear all the time:

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  • Life is too short to hold on to regret.
  • Life is too short to work at a job you hate.
  • Life is too short to play small.
  • Life is too short to {insert your favorite here}.

Aphorisms like these certainly imply that time is your enemy. However, time is not the reason why you ought to give up regret, revamp your career, or up your game. Even the shortness of life is not the reason. There is an assumption going on here that entirely misses where the real problem lies.

A short life and limited time would be a blessing in these circumstances. After all, the less time one spends in some undesired state, the better. A short amount of regret? Sounds great. A short time at a crummy job? Excellent. A short time of cowering in the corner? What could be better?

So let me give you a different way to look at things:

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“Life is too long to __________.”

When you approach your problems and challenges from this standpoint, time is not only not your enemy, it is your best friend. It is because of the abundance of time and life that you are motivated to seek change and transformation. After all, since you are going to be here for some time, don’t you want to make the best of it?

When you have a habit or circumstance that needs fixing, imagine what your life would be like if you delayed taking action to fix it. See yourself a year from now with this problem still hanging around. What impact has it had on you? How has it hurt your relationships? What is it doing to you at work? What cost have you paid to your health?

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Now take it out to five years. What have you lost? What have you suffered? What have the people close to you been forced to pay?

Time keeps marching on. It is now ten years with your unresolved problem. What has happened to your faith and hope? How insurmountable does this problem now look? How much weaker are you now than when this problem first arose?

We are far from the end of the calendar. Twenty years go by. Can you even remember life without your problem? Can you muster the energy to even care anymore? Are you locked in to a state of resignation?

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When you consider the impact that leaving something unresolved for a long period of time can heap upon you, you start to realize the value of taking action in this moment. Time isn’t out to hurt you here. It is giving you an opportunity. Some resolutions will require hours or days, some weeks or months. But time is there for you. Take what you need.

Time has no agenda. It will allow you whatever you need. This is not to say that some problems don’t have deadlines. But it is not time that imposes such restrictions. Time will either offer you volume or impetus. It is on your side.

Waiting for the perfect moment is a fool’s errand. You don’t have to be very experienced in life to know the truth of that. Partner with time to get the most out of life. Time is waiting for you.

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Are Your Goals and Your Purpose the Same Thing? Active Listening – How to Truly Listen Do You Have a Big Mission? The Difference Between Dreaming and Having Vision Is Time Your Friend or Your Enemy?

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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