It’s (All) About Time!
“I don’t have time.”
This is the excuse I hear from people who I coach through career transitions.
The conversation usually goes like this:
Client: “I’m looking to make a change in my career, and I need to start looking for a new job.”
Me: “That’s great! Have you started networking?”
Client: “I know I need to, but I don’t have time.”
Me: “What does that mean?”
Client: “I have a job. I have a family. I have a lot going on. There aren’t enough hours in the day to connect with people who could help me.”
How many hours do you need in the day to do the things to get what you want in life?
Let’s get smaller.
How many minutes do you need in your day to get where you want to go?
Time is an imaginary thing.
It’s something humans have made up based on the movements of the universe.
There are predictable movements in the universe we’ve identified to quantify the concept of time. The period between each revolution of our planet around our sun is a year. A year is broken down into days measured by the rotation of our planet. From there it gets broken down into hours, minutes, and seconds.
It’s useful because that’s how we make sure we all show up for the meeting together.
Time is constant. It’s measured the same way for everyone. I have the same number of minutes in the day as you. At 12:00:01 AM every day, I get a new allocation of minutes. I have 1440 minutes until the next allocation.
I like to measure in minutes. Seconds are too short; hours are too long. There are few things that I can do for an hour or more, and if I do something for longer than an hour, it’s a major commitment in my day.
You get the same allocation.
You and I both start every day with the same number of minutes.
Our minutes are given to us. We don’t have to earn them. We can’t earn more of them.
Time doesn’t discriminate. Whether you are male, female, old, young, black, white, American, Iranian, gay, straight, or uncertain, you don’t get any more minutes at the start of the day than I do.
The difference between us is how we spend the time we are given.
We trade time.
We exchange time for things of value. The most obvious is money. We give our time to our employers or our customers in exchange for money. We use money to buy other things we need or want, but at the start of the value chain, it’s time that gets us money.
We can also exchange time for physical health in the form of exercise, sleep, or meditation. We can exchange it for relationships. As we spend our time with people, we build feelings and emotions which may fulfill our psychological needs.
Some of us end up with more career success than others, but may feel less connected to other humans because we spent our time at work instead of with people with whom we are emotionally connected.
Some people end up with more money than others. This isn’t always a result of spending more minutes focusing on making money. The quantity of time isn’t the most important determinant in getting the highest exchange value for our time.
It’s the quality of the time we exchange.
I think of it in terms of leverage. Was the finite allocation of time used to its fullest extent? Was the time leveraged as much as possible to get the greatest return possible?
Leveraging time comes from using earlier allocations of time to acquire knowledge, skills, and experience. As we use time to gain these things we can use them in the future to either acquire more knowledge, skills, and experience or we can use our time to deploy these tools in the exchange of time for money or other items of value.
The more tools of leverage we acquire the more we can leverage our time.
Quality of time also depends on where we started.
We all start from different points in the world where we may have been given tools to leverage our time, but the fact that we all have the same amount of time remains the same.
All of us can decide what we want to exchange our time for.
How we spend our time reflects what we value.
We make these decisions according to what is important to us. Another way to say it is we make decisions according to our priorities.
Technically speaking, we can only have one priority. In Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown explains: “The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years.”
At the same time, we understand we all have a few things which are really important to us and we call them priorities.
What is important to you?
Are you sure?
How do you know?
You may believe some things are important to you, but are you acting in accordance with your priorities?
Think about where you spend your time each day. Is it on the things you prioritize?
We’ve discussed that time is constant and the one thing you get every day to exchange for other things of value. Are the things you are exchanging your time for the things most important to you?
You say your family is important, but are you exchanging your time for it?
You say that learning new things is important to you, but do you spend your time on it?
You say being physically healthy is important to you, but are you spending time on it?
This is the point in the conversation where you say, “Yes, these things are important to me. These things are my priorities, but other things take my time.”
· You have as much time each day as I have.
· You have been given the gift of time.
· You get it every day. No strings attached.
· You get to trade it for whatever you want.
· What you decide to exchange it for is what you truly value.
If you aren’t spending your time on what is important to you, how do you change?
Step 1: Watch Your Language
I’ve learned what people say about their time and what they do about their time are two different things. And as one of my favorite writers penned, “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”
I’ve also learned that by simply changing your language about time, you can change your mind about what is important to you and align your beliefs and your actions.
Language leads to mindset.
When you change your language, you change your mind. When I ask you why you haven’t started exercising, and you say, “I don’t have time,” stop yourself and say, “It’s not a priority.”
Does it change how you feel?
If you don’t feel different when you say, “It’s not a priority,” then great! What you say and what you do are aligned.
Do you say, “”Wait, that’s not true!” That thing — working out, eating better, learning something new, networking, getting a new job, starting a business — is a priority.
If you stop yourself and think that your language and your beliefs are not aligned, then your next step is to find a way to take the resource of time and reallocate it to the things in your life that are a priority.
Step 2: Stop Wasting Time
This is not easy.
This is going to require a lot of honesty.
It’s also going to require some pain because you are going to have to give up things that are easy.
You are giving up the easy and replacing it with hard.
Prepare yourself for it.
But, if you are honest with yourself, you will be able to find time in your life.
Let’s start with minutes in your life you shouldn’t touch:
· Sleeping. Unless you are sleeping more than 8 or 9 hours each day, you shouldn’t cut back on sleep to free up time in your life.
· Eating and personal hygiene are areas you shouldn’t target.
· Working. If you have a job or go to school or run a business, you may think you can cut back on the hours you spend on these, and you may be right, but be careful to separate these blocks of time from the rest of your life. If you spend your hours after the normal workday answering emails or continuing to do work, then yes, you probably could do less here. You are likely not using the time you have at work very efficiently.
I’m talking about time outside of these activities that you spend on things not aligned with what you say your priorities are:
· Binge watching Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon.
· Scrolling through your social media feed
· Playing video games.
These are all forms of mindless recreation. If your priority is mindless recreation, by all means continue, but don’t ever use the excuse that you don’t have time for other things.
Step 3: Find Gaps, Get Small
Find time in your day you aren’t using wisely.
Do you commute to work? What do you do on your commute? The average commute time in the U.S. is 26 minutes. But you don’t have to look at this time as wasted.
Do you listen to the morning show on the radio in your car? Why not listen to a podcast where you might learn something? Or an audio book. Spend that time enlarging your brain instead of mindlessly driving to your job.
Do you take public transportation? Use the time to write, like I am doing right now. I am writing the draft of this article on the train ride from the parking lot at Santa Fe and Mineral in Littleton, CO to my office in downtown Denver. When I ride home tonight, I’ll take out my laptop and work on writing some scripts in the R programming language to analyze data from my HR job.
Commute time highlights a key point about finding more time in your day to do the things you want to do: you don’t need a lot of minutes each day to make progress. On my 30-minute train ride, I can usually write about 800 words. On the way home, I can learn one new programming trick and test it out.
This goes back to why I like to think in terms of minutes and not in terms of hours or seconds.
Setting aside an hour seems like too much. Doing something for 60 seconds seems like too little. But 15 minutes is the number I really like. Why? Well, 15 minutes is just over 1% of all the minutes you get in a day.
I like looking at things in small increments. The smallest increment you reasonably think of is one. 1% seems absurdly small. If I tell you you’ll get 1% return on an investment, you aren’t likely going to think of it as much of an investment. But a 1% investment of your time seems like something you can do right?
If I told you I want you to take 1% of your day and do something that aligns with your priorities, you likely would not tell me you don’t have time, even if you are still using that excuse.
In 15 minutes, what can you do?
You could workout. It would be short, but you could do it and it would be better than a zero day.
You could listen to part of a podcast. You could read a few pages of a book.
You could write about an idea. You could start building a website.
You could spend time with your spouse or children and talk to them about their day.
1% is another language trick.
Reasonable people aren’t going to balk at focusing on 1% of their day.
And this gets you started. Gets you moving forward on whatever it is you want to do more of. Whatever your priority is, you can use 1% of your day on it.
1% becomes powerful when you do it today, tomorrow, the next day, and every day for a year. You may think you’ll never get anywhere or make any progress investing just 1% of your time each day.
And you won’t if you only do it one day. You won’t make progress unless you invest 1% every day. Consistently doing this will create huge gains.
15 minutes every day for a year means you’ll spend 91.25 hours on whatever it is you are working on. That’s more than two, full-time, 40-hour weeks!
The next time you are frustrated by not getting to do the things you want to do in your life, stop yourself before you say, “I don’t have time.”
Tell yourself “It’s not a priority.” If it’s not, let it go and move on.
If it is a priority, find 15 minutes in your day. Tell yourself it’s only 1% of your day and it’s an investment in your life.
Do it every day and see how far it takes you.
I’m a guy who has a lot of random thoughts. Writing helps me put clarity to those thoughts.
Most of the time, I write about how to network and find a new job. Other times, I write about things like time, and civility, and whatever else crosses my mind.
You can check out a few of my other articles:
How I Grew My Network And Landed The Job
“I’m making some changes to the department. I’m eliminating your position”
And if you are interested in growing your network, you can try my FREE email course: https://www.gregsroche.com/15minutenetworking/
But most of all, if you liked this article, it would be great if you could share it with one other person who might like it, too.