How can a clock move so fast and suddenly so slow? How were the first two weeks of January soooo slow and then suddenly we’re in February? Why does it feel like we never have enough time to actually achieve the things we want to do? Is this going to be a boring article with rehashed time saving tips that don’t actually work?
Quick answers: 1) time only goes at one speed, you’re the one who changes. 2) January is like a hangover. 3) Because we don’t have a plan. 4) Probably not, and probably yes. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whether it works or not is up to you.
How about this…
We have precious time on this earth. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the fragile nature of life. Things change, stuff happens, and we’re usually too busy reacting to actually set out a plan. Time keeps moving while we’re busy filtering pictures on IG from last week. If you’re good with time saving, or if you suck at it… you’re still only living on one of the tips of the iceberg. No real control over your schedule, no real say in how the day goes. Sure, you can have the best planning this side of the Mississippi… but everything changes with so little as a flat tire.
The Rolling Stones say time is on my side, which fits… since they appear to be immortal. For the rest of us, if we look too close we end up in an existential dread. All because time is not on our side. It’s not on anyone’s side. It’s Time.
As for me…
I have an hour commute to work. That’s two hours in traffic every day. Sometimes more. For example, it took me 2 hours to get to work this morning. It’ll likely take me two more since it’s still snowing. I’m not much for road rage, but a man only can handle so much before he starts feeling hateful. Usually, I’m relieved to get home, only to realize I have less than 3 hours to spend with my wife and kids before bedtime.
But I’m ambitious. I got big goals. I want to be a New York Times Best Selling Author. To use my gifts to improve people’s lives. Fitness has become a key avenue for positive impact. Every ounce of my being yearns to make the world a better place. So I don’t sleep very much, because those goals are enacted when everyone else is in bed. My kids won’t suffer for my ambition. Neither will my marriage.
I’m the one who suffers. And I smile every ticking minute of it.
As for us…
We all have a similar story. If there were 36 hours in a day, we’d be better rested, achieve more, and probably be able to hang out with those friends we never have time for. It’s the dreaded limit that kills us. 24 hours just isn’t enough. So we’re stuck in a rat race of survival, pushing objectives back while saying, “I’ll get to that when I’m less busy.” And of course, then we’re left with 8 loads of dirty laundry and no clean underwear. Everything is a sacrifice of something else. Because we’re fighting a losing battle.
It starts with one key acceptance: We’re not in a battle with time. It isn’t our enemy, nor our friend. Time is just time. Time saving tips can’t slow down the clock, but they can make you more productive. They can help you manage the open spaces better. Life ain’t Netflix, there’s no pause/rewind. You don’t get to fast foward through the bad parts.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use this to your advantage. There are simple ways to flourish while everyone else is floundering. Once you realize that time isn’t an enemy, and instead view it as a wave. To use a surfing analogy (that I have no business using, Pat would be the better man to do this), every morning you are either on the wave or you’re under it. Regardless, the wave comes and you’re moving. Like it or not.
- Create a to-do list. I know I’ve said this before, but there’s something empowering about checking things off your list. I start my morning with a list of 35 things I plan to accomplish in a given day. Some of them are mundane (Forever #1: Make a List) while some are really just about breaking up my day (#25 is usually take a walk and text Joanie.) But most achievements can be broken down in the mini-victories. I personally subscribe to this being the most important objective of any list of time saving tips.
- Set time limits for tasks. A running clock actually makes time feel slower. In the middle of a workout, you get caught watching the clock. I set a timer on my computer when I’m writing for 25 minute sprints. It’s called a tomato timer. There’s some real science behind the Pomodoro Method and I’ve found it to be really useful for me. For example, the first draft of this post was done in two 25-minute sprints over the span of an hour. You’re more likely to be efficient with your time if you say to yourself, “For the next XX minutes, I’m going to focus ONLY on this task.”
- Eat the Frog. To quote Mark Twain: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” If you’re spending your day putting off tasks, then you’re dodging more than you’re dominating. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
- Audit social media. If you’re doing deep dives on someone’s younger brother’s best friend’s sister’s cousin’s relationship drama on Facebook. Or if you’re reading the comments on a famous person’s Instagram. Chances are, you’re wasting time. Nothing wrong with zoning out for a little, but check yourself before you wreck yourself.
- Rest more. That doesn’t mean take more naps or sleep in until 11:00. But rather, find peace in times of quiet and lack of control. My commutes are better because I call my parents while I’m fighting through rush hour. Or I’m listening to music/podcasts. Sometimes, I even just sit in silence. Use quiet time to your benefit.
Which brings us to Resiliency…
First off, I hope this helps. I’ve personally become more in control of my day because of this. Obviously, there’s no way to prevent a flooded kitchen, sick baby, or massive snowfall. But these allow me to stacks wins together and keep like I’m accomplishing something even when my day is still mostly reactive. I can go to bed at night and not be kept up by unfinished tasks. I jump back on the surf board every time the waves crash. There are plenty of times when struggle will come, but for Outsiders, we always come out of the struggle stronger. We adapt.