You are here

Finding Time

I have on occasion joked to friends that I was planning to invent the 40 hour day.   The patent rights alone should be worth a fortune :-) 

Despite the fact that I don't have nearly the level of time commitments that most people do and seem to need less sleep, it often seems like I am living life at a dead run.  The problem is that, like most of us, I want to do too many things and don't always make the best use of my time.  Despite this, I suspect my success rate is a fair bit better than most people manage.

Time is a created thing. To say "I don't have time" is to say "I don't want to."
Lao Tzu

Ultimately, it is not so much a question of finding time, but figuring out how you are currently using it, not wasting any of it, and deciding what really matters. This most emphatically does not mean never taking time to relax, but it does mean getting the most out of every moment.

  1. Health: Your health should be the first priority.  People in good health, particularly those who work out regularly are typically better able to focus on the task at hand and work more quickly.  They also usually fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly, getting adequate sleep in less time than people who don't work out.  In some cases this time savings alone may be more than sufficient to make up for time spent exercising.
  2. Prioritize: One of the most important elements of success in reaching any goal, too many of us forget to ask ourselves if what we are doing right now is of any value to our most important goals.  If it isn't, perhaps it shouldn't be a part of our life anymore.  You can't do everything, so you must pick the most important things and discard the rest.  If you fail to do this, you may never reach any of your goals because of the time wasted on unimportant tasks.
  3. Maximize: Get the most out of every minute.  I lift weights four times a week, and between each set of weight lifting, I rest for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.  For six months I had a few hundred pounds of old papers, a shredder, and a recycling box sitting next to my workout area.  During each rest break I would sort through the old papers, deciding whether to shred, recycle, or keep each one.  Now I listen to Mandarin recordings to work on my language skills.  What could you be doing with your spare minutes of time?
  4. Overlap: Change your approach to daily tasks so that you accomplish multiple goals at the same time.  I have all but given up driving my car, using a bicycle for all transportation except when carrying large loads or traveling long distances (50 miles or more).  Travel time for a typical round trip into town by car takes a little less than an hour, by bike it takes roughly twice that time, but I get a two hour workout for only one extra hour of my time.  If this doesn't work for you, using mass transit or a car pool would allow you time to read, work on your computer or perform any other task which is reasonably portable.  This also saves a lot of money on your car (low mileage insurance discount, less wear and maintenance, months between filling the tank) allowing you to pay off debt, or save up for some other goal more quickly.  This works particularly well with exercise, as all of your daily physical activities (gardening, yard work, travel, etc.) can be a planned part of your exercise routine.  This works best if you treat these activities as exercise and perform them with the same intensity, rest intervals, and meal breaks you would use for any planned workout.
  5. Eliminate: Time wasters are often a large but unrecognized part of our lives.  It can take half a day or more to completely dust a house filled with knick-knacks, and 15 to 30 minutes without the knick-knacks.  If you wish to keep these items on display, you should at least be honest and recognize that this is a hobby, and dusting them is part of the hobby, not a part of regular household maintenance.  How many time wasters are built into your life?
  6. Relax:  Sometimes the best way to save time is to waste a little, or at least switch to a different task.  Relax your mind, give it a chance to roam, this is when inspiration is most likely to come, solving problems that you might have wasted countless hours on.  Some part of each day should be spent doing something essentially mindless.  No television or radio, nothing requiring deep thought.  As a cob builder/instructor (a technique for building with earth), my best ideas usually happen while I am standing in mud (which makes it very difficult to record them for later).
  7. Focus:  In the rush of modern life "multitasking" has become fairly standard practice.  Research has shown that we are actually fairly bad at it (no matter how good we think we are), in some cases where we have two tasks that are fairly mindless it may work reasonably well, but avoid multitasking while doing anything important - you will waste more time re-doing it than what you save!  When I switched to listening to Mandarin during my weightlifting sessions, I was fascinated to find that I don't even hear it while I am lifting the weights as that takes all my focus, but the moment I stop to rest, it is like someone just switched the lessons on.
  8. Attack:  We all have tasks to do that we don't want to.  Procrastination and foot dragging are often the result.  As a child I remember that I would drag out doing the jobs I really hated, making them take even longer.  In hind sight, it makes absolutely no sense, but I often see children and adults (myself included) doing the same thing today.  We need to recognize these undesirable tasks and attack them with everything we have got, this gets them done and out of the way sooner so we can get on to more interesting things.
  9. Life Job:  While this can be among the most difficult ways to save time, it is also one of the best.  Try to make your job and your life goals the same.  If you want to travel, find a job which would require you to travel to places you want to go.  If you want excitement, find a job that is exciting.  If you can't find the job you are looking for, learn about business, pick up new skills, and figure out a way to create the job you want.  A word of warning about this approach, as someone who has done it, I often find it difficult to distinguish between the job and my life. When my job is going well, so is my life, and when it isn't going well, often, neither is my life.

A final thought for you.  Starting with the day you are born, you have nothing but time.  You of course must spend some time sleeping and providing food/shelter, but that normally requires less than 1/2 of each day.  You can of course choose for these things to take more of your day (nicer shelter, fancy foods, lounging in bed), but that is all that is usually required.  It is the lifestyle you choose to live and the commitments you make which eat all the rest of your time.