This recent Thrive Global article by Benjamin Hardy is very compelling for anyone trying to optimize their time, and thus, their lives.
“We should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best.” — Dallin Oaks
It's a constant effort to adjust your actions based on your long-range goals, but it's worth it. This kind of discipline can actually change the outcome of your life.
“How would your life change if you made decisions TODAY as if you were already the person you want to become TOMORROW?” — Richie Norton
Is it "good" to keep working on your side hustle one more hour, or is it "better" to spend time helping a relative in need? Sometimes it's better to help yourself progress, but other times, it's better to give your time to someone else, and thus by proxy, improve your life.
Maybe it's better to skip the gym tonight in favor of working on that upcoming presentation, or to take a day off work in order to spend time with your family. Context. Timeliness. Long-term goals.
Most times, we are disconnected and distracted from our big goals, so we don't take the time to be mindful of context and make appropriate decisions.
Highly effective people begin with the end in mind, says Stephen Covey. So to determine how to best use your time, you first have to determine your long-term goals and then distill your progressive, but sustainable plans accordingly. Working 16 hour days for 10 years isn't a sustainable plan, for instance. You're likely to lose your health, your sanity and your best relationships in the process. Being a balanced person means taking the whole picture of your life - who you are and who you want to be based on your values - into account.
In Third Circle Thoery, Pejman Ghadimi explains that most people envision their lives no more than 1–3 years into the future, mostly living week-to-week. Ghadimi argues about 20% of people envision their lives 5–10 years into the future, and thus act accordingly and become enormously more successful. Lastly, 2% of people envision their lives in whole — “beginning with the end in mind” — of who they want to be the day they die. Consider these words by Elon Musk: “I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.” It’s obvious how that vision determines Musk’s daily behavior.
Becoming a master of your thoughts and time requires a commitment to daily practice. You won't perfect it, but you will improve at the practice - and at progressing toward your goals if you do.
Benjamin's steps for using your time more effectively include:
- Work on being more aware of what you’re doing. Catch yourself disengaging. If you’re with people, leave your phone in your car, or in a drawer, or somewhere it doesn’t tempt you. Work on being where you are, and embracing the moments.
- Take time to write down your core values and goals. Consider Stephen Covey’s advice and imagine your 80th birthday party. Who do you want to be at the end of your life? What will you have wanted to accomplish? This vision determines what is good, better, and best in your life. Once you know what you want, it becomes painfully obvious what you don’t want.Thus, you won’t be seduced by the many good things in life distracting you from the better and best.
- When given an option, choose the harder right. As we can learn from Steve Jobs, standards aren’t for bending. Consistently walk the higher road and you will be transformed internally and externally.
- Remove the things in your life that get in the way of the “best” things. Or, be highly thoughtful about how you keep these things in your life. You don’t have much time on this planet.
- Become the master of your thoughts. When you catch yourself mindlessly wandering, or going places counter to your values and goals, stop yourself. Memorize a poem, quote, scripture, or song that brings clarity and light to you. Whenever you have a negative or unhelpful thought, recite or ponder your memorized friend. Then, reflect on your values and goals. Eventually, you’ll get better — even automatic — at thinking about the things you want to think about. Your thoughts are what create your reality.
I am a recovery multitasker. I know to do better, but I don't always do it. The urgency to attempt to accomplish multiple things concurrently is a big drive in my digitally programmed brain. I used to be decent at multitasking (maybe even in the 2%, but as I've aged, and subjected my brain to a high degree of constant input and output, I find that I am not as successful at that tactic as I used to be. I'm also aware, and mindful, of the age-old wisdom to focus on one task or thought process for a better outcome. Thus, being more aware of what I am doing and whether I am staying on track with my goals is a continual, yet satisfying pursuit.
Maybe I can't accomplish as many divergent tasks in an hour as my multitasking-former-self could, but I am more effective at the processes I am deliberate about and find that I am more peaceful, fluid and satisfied as a result.