If you were given the chance to do last week over, would you? Would it be worth living that week over again? More to the point, would you repeat your decisions or make different ones to try and improve your results?
How Did You Spend Your Time?
Each of us is given twenty-four hours each day to do with what we will. No one gets bonus time, and no one starts with less time. Almost all of us have responsibilities that consume some part of that time, as well as the agency to decide for ourselves what to do. Time and agency are both immutable; you are given time and control over what you do with it. Those decisions depend greatly on your priorities, goals, ambitions, dreams, preferences, self-discipline, planning, preparation, and intrinsic motivation. Each one helps determine what you do with your time—or prompts you to be ungrateful for the gift of time by choosing to waste it.
Over the course of the last week, you decided to do something with every hour of every day. I’m confident that you put some of those hours to good use, and that given the chance to do them over, you wouldn’t change one thing. Likewise, many of your 168 hours were completely wasted, something you would not want to repeat.
Wasted Days and Nights
Everything you do in a day or a week can be measured by the long-term value it creates for you and other people. Some of the things you spend time on deserve your full focus, attention, and energy. These are the things that are truly valuable. But other things you do don’t deserve your time; instead, you should spend that time on what is more important to you.
Were you to audit your time, tracking everything you did for a week, you would discover that you have plenty of time to do all the things you tell yourself you would do if you had more time. You do have more time—as long as you don’t waste so much of it on things that are meaningless.
You know, of course, that you won’t be given a chance to repeat last week. Time, once spent, is lost to you forever. Because this is true, time is the most precious commodity you will ever have, so take a cue from the smart and successful people you know: honor the gift of your time by making good use of it.
Saying No to Small Things
You can sit on the internet and scroll through the social sites, hoping that you see something novel and interesting, or just seeking more “proof” to feed your confirmation biases. You can become one with your couch, binging your favorite show or cheering on your favorite team, reveling in the distraction from all that is going on the world. There is nothing wrong with using time this way if you intentionally choose to do so. But when these choices become unconscious habits and dominate your time, they can become detrimental to your life and your results.
It’s not that you should avoid relaxation. In fact, it’s incredibly valuable to sit still with your eyes closed and notice your thoughts and feelings, something people have been doing for thousands of years. There is also no reason to plan every minute of every day, leaving no downtime and too little time for recovery or self-care.
What I am getting at here is that it’s easy to make poor decisions about time. When you say to yourself, “there goes two hours I will never get back,” you are expressing your regret at having wasted that time. To say yes to big things, you have to say no to small things. This is one of the laws of effectiveness and success.
Every twenty-four hours, you are provided with a do-over. You are given a chance to do better than yesterday. The same idea applies to every week, or month, or quarter. Asking yourself how you would have put your past time to better use provides clarity about what should dominate your time and what you should avoid. There is no reason to repeat all the things that caused you regret last week.
The time you spent procrastinating and avoiding your work comes at a very high price to your results. Putting off the call to your client so you can postpone a difficult conversation only makes the conversation more challenging because you allowed too much time to pass in the first place. Failing to prospect because you busied yourself with the transactional work that someone else should have done—and worse, telling yourself that you had to do it—is going to be a future regret.
You Have Plenty of Time
You have 168 hours in a week. You have plenty of time to do all the things you want—and need—to do. What you might be missing is the priorities that filter out all the small things that prevent you from doing what’s most important to you. You could be lacking goals and dreams that provide the intrinsic motivation that propels you forward. You might not have the discipline or the planning process to prepare for your days and weeks, making the most of the time you are given.
If time travel were really possible, who would turn down the opportunity to avoid future regrets? You have that chance every day, including this one.
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Filed under: Productivity