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Wasting Time Like It Was Free

May 8, 2021 - Reading time: 6 minutes

Time isn't infinite, it isn't free. If that is true, how do we make the most of our time?

I hate to waste time. In fact I feel that it is a lesser sin. As you can imagine one of the topics that I am passionate about is making the most of that limited gift. When I end for the day, tired, not only from working, but from having been productive throughout the day, of having taken advantage of the time I was given for taking care of useful things, I smile. There was some hardship getting here and I still need to work out the best way to make the most of my time and be more productive at work and in life. Thankfully I was blessed to have a grandmother that thought that this was also an important skill in life, and after school when I spent the afternoon with her she would sit down and share her tricks with me through anecdotal stories.

The attentive grandchild could learn a lot from those afternoons at grandma's house.

We tend to treat time as an understood component of life rather than as a currency, if the latter was true most of us would be millionaires, because we don't know how to take care of it or take advantage of it, however if time was only money, we could lose it, but time is more valuable than money, time is life, and we don't know how much we have left.

A good start to take advantage of it is to be aware that we are not taking advantage of it fully and that we can sit down and think for a moment about the activities we can do better. Some examples may be the number of hours to sleep, on average it is 8, it would be ideal to respect those hours, no more, no less.

Another interesting resource is to list outstanding issues: daily, medium and long-term, and prioritize each issue. Productive people don't just have lists of unfinished business, they stick to the lists. Managing meetings is also very useful, arranging them and meeting the start and end times so that they do not extend indefinitely. It is also very important to identify those activities that waste time, learning to avoid distractions. Use the 80/20 rule: 80% of our achievements come from only 20% of our efforts. The task is to find out what is contained in that 20% of productivity, and dedicate yourself to those activities.

Of course even if we set out to reach a 100% we will never be able to hit that number, not always.

Still, we can try.

Adjust the schedule according to our energy levels. If we are one of the people who have the most energy early in the morning, for example, we can plan the most important activities at that time. One of the main drivers is performing several different tasks the same time is how much energy we have. For example, I have the mania of checking my phone and email every 5 minutes, but I don't because it distracts and subtracts concentration from other tasks. Realistic deadlines should be set, not committed to meeting when we know we will have difficulty doing so. We can address these potentials stumbling stones with a quick checklist. Then assign the proper expectations to the different aspects so that we are not unrealistic when set time aside to complete them.

  • Identify the problem.
  • Gather relevant facts and data.
  • Collect general knowledge.
  • Look for possible combinations.
  • Sleep on it.
  • Use lists of pending issues.
  • Get feedback.
  • Ask others for help.
  • Give new ideas a chance.

Finally, I find it important to keep my life organized. Organization is easy to add to your life and you will save time even with a little bit of it. My grandmother recommend the following:

  1. Always carry with you a small list of to-do issues:
    In addition to the tasks to be done, write your thoughts and ideas there – so you won't waste time trying to remember things when you need them.
  2. Create a file system: that allows you to get what you need in seconds.
    A good file system is the most important aspect of time management and organization.
  3. Don't pile up trash: check your papers periodically, archive what you need, and throw away what's no longer good for you.
  4. Keep your desk clean: a messy desk is a big productivity impediment.
  5. Keep priority lists: update them over time.
  6. Learn to say no: you can't do it all.
    You mustn't feel guilty for saying no. Be polite, but be clear with things you're not willing to spend time doing.

If there is a situation that becomes increasingly common for many people it is the burden life chores, the day to day tasks that become - well - a chore. Many believe that it is irreversible and that you cannot live any other way. I heard one person say that they are overwhelmed, that they felt like a disease the basis of which is the lack of priorities and rigidity in what we have to do.

When someone says they don't have time to dedicate to the spouse, children, or do something for others, are they properly setting their priorities? The truth is that if we have a lot of things to do, we can only attend to a limited number of them, usually whatever we have in our heads takes first place. It is therefore a matter of order, we can do what we consider most important.

One proposal to combat the burden is to pretend every day that they are tokens, then decide what we have to put first, the important things come first. One of the characteristics of those that become overwhelmed is the routine. We all have time to dedicate it to others, to tasks that help us live better. To prove it, think about it like this, pretend that the day only has 23 hours. Can you do the same in a 23 hour day that you could in a 24? If we are honest with ourselves the answer will be yes. The hours aren't the problem, the real culprit is that we have plenty of mediocrity in our planning.