If you opened this hoping for some tips on how to save time, sorry to disappoint you.
You can’t save time.
You can’t pile it up.
You can’t bank it.
You can’t set it aside to use later.
And yet, when you see an ad, or article, or Facebook post that says “How to save time“, you still click on it. Don’t deny it. You clicked on this one, didn’t you?
We use Google Maps to find the fastest route. We invest in new computers and phones that promise to operate faster than our old ones. We feel a sense of relief when someone takes a task off our plate. We’re addicted to “saving” time.
But we can’t save time.
We Don’t Really Want to Know How To Save Time
We’re not really looking for how to save time. We are looking for a way to re-engineer our to-do list to either do more, or do less.
If we create any margin in our schedule we immediately fill it with another activity (i.e., we do more). That’s the equivalent of saving $50 on a pair of shoes, then immediately spending $50 on a matching hat.
The alternative is to do less. This is SO HARD to do. Because truly doing less would mean spending time doing nothing. By that I mean no scheduled activity, no checking another item off a to-do list, no effort spent trying to get a result of any kind.
We can’t handle doing nothing. It feels wrong. It’s as though we are all sharks and we must keep moving or we will die.
But, but, but…
…I have so much responsibility!
…people are counting on me!
…I have deadlines!
…If I don’t make dinner (or do laundry, or vacuum the house, or mow the grass, or walk the dog), then it won’t get done.
…I have so much to do!
Here’s the Truth: You’re as Busy as You Want To Be
Whenever I say something like this, I know from experience it will evoke an emotional reaction in some people. That reaction often manifests as resistance or defensiveness. I prefer to call it conviction. People don’t even have to say anything. The look on their faces says, “Mark, you’re wrong. You don’t understand MY life. I don’t have control over a lot of this stuff.”
I say you’re as busy as you want to be because your current level of busyness is the direct result of the choices you have made in your life prior to this moment. You can’t necessarily flip a switch and change it overnight, but you can start making different choices today that will give you a little more space in your schedule tomorrow, or a week from now, or even a month from now depending on how many commitments you’ve made.
Could you give up some responsibility (or delegate more effectively)?
Could you negotiate more generous deadlines for yourself?
Can you plan your meals better, ask your family for more help around the house, or hire someone to mow your grass?
Can you start saying no to more things? One of my most read blog posts of all time is this one: Think You Can’t Say No? Yes, You Can.
Decide Now What You Might Do With the Time You Save
The only way you’ll succeed at being less busy is to know what is possible for you to do with the time you “save”. You don’t have to spend it meditating or chanting mantras. You could sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. You could take a walk through your neighborhood. You could spend a few extra minutes reading greeting cards at Hallmark. You could freely play with your kids. NOTE: Don’t you dare add any of this to your to-do list. If you do, you will completely defeat the purpose of creating that time in the first place, and you will end up in a never-ending viscous cycle of too much to do and never enough time to do it all.
Oh, and decide right now to give up the guilt that inevitably comes with having nothing to do. That guilt is 100% manufactured by you. It feels real, but it’s not. It’s a feeling generated by the thought that says you must always be doing something or you’re not doing enough. You are not a shark. You do not have to keep busy every second of every day.
Are there people who don’t do enough? Sure. But, people who read my stuff aren’t those kind of people, so I know you already do enough. In fact, I’m pretty sure you always do too much and you needed to hear this today.