The one thing that human beings tend to take for granted but almost never realize is TIME.
How are you spending your time? Who are you spending your time with? What are you spending your time on?
Jeffrey Davis in his book '1,000 Marbles: A Little Something About Precious Time' talks about appreciating life's finite nature through a parable. At age 55, a man realizes his life expectancy is about 75 years and calculates that he has about 1,000 Saturdays left to enjoy. He buys a thousand marbles from a toy shop and marks the passing of each Saturday by removing one marble from a jar.
"I found that by watching the marbles diminish, he focuses more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on Earth run out to help get your priorities right."
Life is brief and short, that's why we have to make sure we are setting our priorities right. How do we know if we are investing our time in things that truly matter?
Seneca wrote in his essay entitled 'On the Shortness of Life'
I like the last sentence a lot: Life is long if you know how to use it.
Time is more valuable than money. You can always find ways to get more money but when time is gone, you can't get back time. Unlike money, time is limited; you can't bank, transfer or recover time. Now that you know you don't get time back, have you ever ask yourself these questions?
How are you investing your time? Are you investing time on the more important things before the less important things? How would you like to spend the rest of your time left on Earth?
Some lessons I've learned from successful people and books I've read on making sure I'm spending my time wisely:
1. Learning to say NO
Guard your precious time. Learn to say no to people and commitments that do not move you forward toward your goals. Successful people are successful because they know how to focus their time on the most effective things they need to accomplish. Learn to politely decline invitations from other people who are trying to take your time.
2. Tracking your activities
Review your calendar and commitments. Have you crafted a life that allows for the most important things that matter to you? Like your family? Your passions? Your dreams?
I read an article recently on how to creatively track what you spend your time doing on a daily basis. Check out 100 Blocks A Day! You will be surprise by the time you spent doing different activities.
3. Eliminating Distractions
The average American spends about 2 to 3 hours in front of the TV. That translates to about 20 hours a week. It's easily a part time job watching TV. The same goes to social media and the Internet. We spend countless of hours on them without realizing because it is addictive. Here's an infographic breaking down the time you spend watching TV and browsing social media.
The time we spend on social media and watching television could be use to do something meaningful like building relationships with friends, spending time with your family, doing things that help you to grow.
4. Applying the Pareto Principle
You probably have heard about the Pareto Principle. It's a concept that applies to both people and tasks. “roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
Reflect on the work you are doing. Can you be doing more of the things that would have a higher impact? Invest your time in doing the top 20% to achieve 80% of results. You could also apply the Pareto Principle in teams. Are you investing more time with people in your team who will bring the greatest impact?
5. Applying the Steven Covey Time Management Matrix
In the book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", Stephen Covey talks about the concept of prioritizing your tasks into 4 different quadrants.
Where are you in the four quadrants?
Highly effective and successful people learn how to spend most of their time in Quadrant II. They learn to do the important yet not urgent tasks. Tasks like building relationships with your family, eating healthy and improving yourself.
Be aware of how you spend your time and energy doing different tasks. If you find yourself spending bulk of the time in Quadrant I, III and IV, look to shift to Quadrant II.
Are you managing your time or is time managing you?
Learn to guard your time.
Invest your time in doing things that will bring you closer to your goals.
Decide what is truly important to you and cut away those that are not.
You are a human with one life and its up to you to make it the best life you can.