Time is the raw material from which you build your life. It’s given to all of us, free of charge.
You cannot buy more of what you have, you can only spend it (or waste it).
There’s a ton of time management systems out there teaching you how to make the most of your time. A lot of them repeat the same things we’ve been told as kids.
- Reduce interruption
- Don’t multitask
- Plan ahead of time
You don’t need to be told these things.
You already know what to do to maximize your time. Whether or not you’ll do them…. that’s the real question.
I’m not going to add to the looooooooong list of time management techniques out there. I’ve already made a post about my view on time management.
Instead, I’m going to ask you to think about time management and its various techniques another way.
If I’ve done my job right, at the end of this article you should have a better understanding of the nature of time in the modern world. This will give you a better ability to make better choices on how to spend your time.
Building a tower
Imagine every single one of your accomplishments as a tower that you built. In your tower, every brick and stone has its place.
If even one aspect of the tower is faulty, it will probably crumble to the ground and all that work will have been for nothing.
I want you to think of the hours, minutes, and seconds in your days as building blocks for the tower.
Every minute of your day is contributing towards building a certain kind of tower. You can create virtually anything you want…but you have to be deliberate and know WHY you’re building this tower.
Is this tower a goal of yours to build? Or did someone convince you it would be a SWELL idea to build it?
If you spend 8 hours of your day at a job you don’t like, you’re building a shitty tower.
If you come home and do nothing to change that, you’re building a shitty tower.
If you spend your free time scrooolllllllling down the Facebook news feed, you’re building a shitty tower.
We don’t want to build shitty towers.
Instead, think of what would happen if you were to spend your energy making an awesome tower.
What if you were able to spend time reading and growing in your base of knowledge?
What if you were able to spend time getting a better body for your health (and your looks, don’t lie)?
What if you were able to just cut out allllll of the bullshit and just focus a majority of your time creating a better life?
That’s the key time management question you have to ask yourself.
Segmentation of time
Any big goal you have can be broken down into smaller steps. Think of them as “Day-tight compartments”, as Dale Carnegie would say.
A goal of yours will take about a year to complete. Ok… what is a year? A series of months.
What is a month? A series of days.
What is a day? A series of hours. Minutes?…..Seconds????
When you think about it that way, it’s just not that bad.
At this point, a key question should arise in your mind:
“Am I doing shit that really matters?”
This question will make you examine time down to its littlest components. You think wasting a few minutes here and there doesn’t matter, but it really does add up. If you waste 15 minutes on watching pointless YouTube videos, that’s a quarter of an hour you’ll never get back. That time could have been added up towards getting into a flow state and working on shit that really matters….
You can read all of the books and articles on time management…but until you grasp this truth, they mean nothing.
Here’s some common excuses that people use to try and invalidate this technique.
“I don’t have enough time”
Oh? But you have time to aimlessly browse the Internet?
You have time to scrolllllllll down the Facebook news feed? To watch TV?
You have time. You just put it towards activities you deem “important”.
“I can’t do it”
This objection arises when faced with an overwhelming obstacle or challenge. It’s really a knee-jerk reaction. If it’s something you really want to do, you’ll just break it down as I said earlier and compound your time towards the achievement of those tiny victories.
With deliberate practice, you’ll get better at whatever you practice. Just make sure it’s something you want to get good at.
“What if I fail?”
This is really the root problem of all this procrastination and indecision, I’d argue. Fear of failure is constrictive. It stifles creativity, problem-solving, and creates unnecessary anxiety.
Fear of failure is another topic in and of itself. In the meantime, ask yourself “what if I succeed”?
What then? Would you still be scared? If so, then you have a fear of success, which is also another gargantuan issue beyond the scope of petty “time management”.
Hint: A therapist would do some good.
How to use the Tower Technique
Where are you going, ‘mon?
You can’t hit a target you can’t see. That target are your goals. You’ll have no idea on what to spend your time on if you don’t know. It’s like driving a car to a destination. You need an end point.
My suggestion? Be as clear as possible. Write them out on paper and segment them into smaller steps.
Following the train of thought started a couple paragraphs back…every year can be divided into seasons.
Every season can be divided into months and weeks. Every week into a day, and every day into an hour.
Think of an hour divided into four segments of 15 minutes. If you squander a majority of these 15 minute segments on meaningless activity, you have lost the hour.
Your goal is to “win” every hour and spend the majority of it towards something meaningful or productive.
If you spend a majority of your waking hours towards doing that has no end benefit, you have “lost” the day. Congratulations.
If you spend the majority towards a goal you have want to accomplish, you have crafted another brick that will be used to build an eventual tower.
In the back of your mind you should always ask: “does this task bring me closer directly or indirectly to a goal of mine?”
If the answer is no, change it to yes. What constitutes a “yes”?
Cut it out.
You know those times you go onto Facebook to just “out of curiosity”? Just a peek, right? Just a peek turns into five minutes. Five minutes then turns into 30.
Cut that shit out.
All these little “checks” distort your focus when you’re on an important task. They also suck up your precious time, those quintessential building blocks.
Constant checking on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even email…all that shit’s gotta go, man.
If you have to spend time on these sites – batch it out. Spend a period of time going through all of them. Don’t check it for the rest of the day. Get all those little obligations out of the way so you have more mental bandwidth to deal with deeper tasks.
Can you do it? If you can, you’ll separate yourself from the majority of people.
Don’t major in minor things.
Following the train of thought above, there are little things that take a toll on our attention.
“Shit, I forgot to pay my [insert pending disaster here] bill”
“Oh man… I still gotta [do this long overdue something or other] today”
“My room is a fucking mess… I want to clean it up, but I don’t know how to start”
All of these little occurrences snowball into a massive thing you have to deal with. I call these “bottlenecks”. Until you get rid of these, your progress towards bigger goals will be slowed.
If you have to pay your bills on a certain date, automate it.
If your room is a mess…clean it. You’ll feel so much better afterwards.
Your goal should be to reduce friction in the process of building one of these towers. The less bottlenecks you have, the less friction.
Every activity you do should build on the last activity.
One step forward and two steps back is not normal, unless you fuck up somewhere. Why would someone build a house and tear down a wall after it’s all said and done?
Answer: they fucked up somewhere.
When this idea comes to time management techniques, you should have a series of orderly steps leading to a goal.
Let’s say you set aside an hour block of deep work towards building a web site. In this time block, you’re working on coding the website. During a coding session, you can’t leave a certain section of code half-finished and go to the next. If you do this, you’ll wind up with jumbled code and a page that makes no sense.
My suggestion? Focus on completing each hour block as well as you can. Make each block as perfect as possible before moving onto the next block. You do that through doing tasks in a conscious manner. How’s that for a time management technique?
Think before you leap
The worst waste of time is spending it on something you shouldn’t be spending it on at all.
Again, ask yourself: “does this bring me closer directly or indirectly to a goal of mine?” Now can you see why goal-setting is so essential?
Use the Pareto Principle to extract the most out of your time in combination with deep work. You’ll get so much done, you’ll be building all kinds of towers. All kinds.
Now, I want you to take charge. Here’s some action steps for you:
1. Write down ten things you’d want to achieve in the next year.
2. Circle the most important one.
3. Focus the majority of your time and energy on fulfilling that goal as perfectly as possible.
That’s it. That’s all you’ve got to do. Easier said than done but this will exponentially increase your results.
This is how you work “smarter, not harder”. This is how you actually move the needle and get more results in a year than most people can get in five years.
My main question for you is: will you do it?
Let me know in the comments.