With a few exceptions, everyone lives within their means. Usually, in the context of money, most people live paycheck-to-paycheck regardless of whether they earn $50k or $100k per year. If you have read Rich Dad Poor Dad you will know that being wealthy doesn’t correlate with how much money you have and that smart people budget strictly and invest portions to make their money work for them — they turn their money into wealth.
Time is no different. Most people find themselves time-poor which is a direct consequence of everyone having 24 hours in a day. There are no exceptions to this. Few adults are ever idle and most describe themselves as ‘busy’. Worse, it’s frequently used as a badge of honour.
“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” — Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde makes a great point. It’s a reminder that there’s more to life than playing it safe and rarely taking time to enjoy the world we live in. The quote was made tongue-in-cheek, but my interpretation is, “let’s get creative and increase our opportunity to do more given the limited time we have”.
This article is a call to arms. For everyone to throw away their ‘To Do’ lists, stop being ‘busy’, and creatively find better ways to allocate and invest your time.
Busy is a strong word
I hate the word, ‘busy’. It implies only negative things: generally, that you see yourself on a pedestal and are fishing for a pat on the back for having used up all of your time, with an implication that your efforts are important, and probably more important than the person you're talking to.
In reality, it’s a word used by individuals who can’t prioritise tasks and manage their time well, otherwise, they’d be talking about their achievements instead. When everyone has 24 hours in a day it doesn’t make sense to feel pride for having sacrificed your hours with no indication of progress.
What matters is how you use the time you have to the best of your ability. Many cultures incorrectly think that being busy is a badge worthy of honour when we really should focus on productivity. People should instead strive to be productive and never busy.
Time is a Limited Resource
Unlike money, you can’t make more time. Occasionally you might feel you’ve found a life-hack where you sacrifice sleep or eat lunch at your desk, to gain an extra few hours of time to spend on another task. You convince yourself you’ve ‘made more time’.
Let’s be honest about what this is, though: divesting time from activities that allow you to be more productive, so you can spend it immediately.
Just like living from paycheck-to-paycheck rather than budgeting and investing money, sacrificing time from sleep, diet, exercise or social and family time is a short-term solution to get by but not ahead.
You can’t make more time, but you can decrease your productivity while fooling yourself that you have.
You can’t make time, only find time for priorities
While everyone has 24 hours in a day, our productive capacity and priorities differ from person to person. We need to live within the means that our productive ability allows us, and we need to ensure that each of our priorities gets enough attention. It’s important to not fool ourselves about this.
Sometimes you might find you aspire to undertake big priorities that begin to compete for your attention — maybe completing a PhD thesis and starting a business. If so, you need to be honest with yourself and to make a personal decision about whether you have the capacity to ensure both get the attention they need to progress.
If you find you use the term ‘busy’ frequently to describe your current state, and especially if you can’t dedicate enough time to all of your high-priority commitments, then you need to realise that you’ve already subconsciously decided you can’t give each the attention they need.
There is no dishonour in declaring that a certain project or task is not a priority — as long as it’s before you’ve committed to it. Learn to say ‘no’ more often, to avoid saying you’re ‘busy’ later on.
This is a problem frequently seen with new founders who won’t or can’t find the essential time to turn their project into a real business. This temporal tug-of-war is where ‘wantrepreneurs’ are born. Be honest with yourself and don’t get trapped by vanity by trying to be impressive without progress.
Drop the B word. It’s an unproductive word masquerading vanity as productivity. Who will join me?