“I don’t have time.”
Think about this statement for a moment. How often do you say it to others? How often do you tell it to yourself?
Have you ever considered what a killer of dreams this sentence is?
The list goes on and on. But what’s fascinating is that the most accomplished and busy people seem never to say this. Warren Buffet’s schedule, for example, is almost empty (1). How can this be?
The big idea is this: Time is more valuable than money. You can always get more money, but you can never get more time.
Most people are way more careful with their money than with their time. If someone tries to take our money, we tend to be very protective. But if someone is trying to take our time, usually we don’t care as much.
Realizing this critical blind spot is what separates accomplished people from the rest.
In his essay, ‘On the Shortness of Life’ (2), the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca writes that we suffer from a “foolish forgetfulness of our mortality” and reminds us that if we waste our life, nature will not give us any warnings or signals. Instead, life will “silently glide away”:
It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.
According to the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy in wealthy nations is about 80 years (3). So, assuming if you’re lucky enough to live in one of these countries and that you’re not a statistical outlier, you can expect to live about 80 years x 365 days = 29,200 days.
Of course, you cannot know exactly when you’re time is up. All you can know for sure is that once you’ve spent one of your days, you will never get it back.
So, obviously we’re not talking about having more time in terms of adding more days to your life here, but rather how to have more time for what is important to you. And the first step to doing that is to appreciate fully how scarce a resource time is.
Once you’ve done that, you have to make a commitment to change. You have to decide what is truly important to you and start to ruthlessly cut out everything else.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
— Warren Buffet
OK, so now that you’ve decided that your time is precious to you, let’s look at some ways to defend it:
You have plenty of time. You just need to defend it.
“Time is what we want most, but what we spend worst.”
– William Penn