How to spend your time
While only a minority of us are investing money regularly, we all manage a fund of twenty-four hours per day. These hours are distributed along pursuits, such as eating, sleeping, working, traveling, socializing among other things. Our actions follow from a constant stream of constraints imposed by others, our willful decisions and short-term indulgences.
Strategies for making more use of one’s time are at the core of various approaches to productivity. From experimental sleeping patterns that reduce total sleep time to simpler productivity hacks like the Pomodoro method that incorporates timed breaks between uninterrupted productive work periods.
The problem with time management, however, is not coming up with new ways to spend it. The challenge is truly pursuing whatever strategy you have outlaid, then evaluating the evidence about its usability and adapting the method based on the results.
Influenced by some tech writers, we are led to believe that procastination is inevitable and everyone should expect a few dead hours scattered throughout the day. This is demonstrably false. What follows are three examples of occupations whose schedules overwrite this assumption.
Exhibit A: Navy Seal
- 7-9 Physical therapy
- 9-12 Training
- 12-13 Lunch
- 13-17 More training
- 18-20 Debrief (over beers)
The Navy Seals clock in 13 hours of time building on their core competencies. They are pushing themselves physically or mentally for a large chunk of that time.
Exhibit B: Buddhist Monk
- 5-7 Meditation
- 7-7:30 Breakfast
- 7:30-9 Praying
- 9-12 Studying writings
- 12-13 Lunch
- 13-14 Discussion
- 14-20 Classes and more discussion
- 20– Meditate or sleep
Monks promptly wake up to a bell at 5am and manage to stay awake and meditate for 2 hours. They don’t get to hit snooze.
Exhibit C: iPhone factory worker
- 6:30-8:10 Wake up and commute from the dorm
- 8:10-8:30 Unpaid 20-minute meeting
- 8:30-12 Work, includes 90 minutes of breaks
- 12-13 Lunch
- 13-21 Work, includes break at 17:00
- 21-22 Return to dorm
- 22-23:30 Try and get a shower, go to sleep
These extreme schedules reveal that it is humanly possible to constrain one’s productive schedule. Even people in more familiar professions, such as CEOs, athletes and classical musicians exercise a similar extent of self-control. Which begs the conclusion that wasted time (time that we ourselves acknowledge could have been spent better) is a product of our laziness and lack of will rather than biological constraints.
If you really wish to stop wasting your time, look back at these paths, know that you have choice over action and use your will to keep to a schedule, day by day.
The world deserves your full attention.