Ask someone what the most valuable thing in their life is and most people will give some relatively predictable answers: their children, spouse or other loved ones, perhaps their home or other treasured possessions, some might even say their career. I believe the most valuable thing in our lives is something that everyone in the world has and yet everyone wants more. Some people have a lot, some people have a little; yet, you can’t manufacture or forage for more of it. I am talking about time. Indeed, what value do any of our other possessions have if we don’t have any time to enjoy them? So how can we get the most out of our time? Here are five simple strategies worth trying:
- Sleep more. This one sounds counterintuitive but sometimes the best way to maximize the value of time is not to maximize its quantity but its quality. When we are sleep deprived, our senses and abilities are dulled and the quality of our time suffers. Just one extra hour of sleep a night vastly improves the quality of my hours awake.
- Eliminate distractions. Multitasking is the enemy of productive use of time. I have implemented various strategies to filter out the noise in life. When I need to focus on reading, I turn off the notifications on my tablet computer. I have installed software on my PC that limits my ability to access social media. The less my phone buzzes and bothers me the more I get out of my time.
- Reduce choices. I am a big believer in free choice but there are many academic studies that have shown how burdensome and stressful making a decision is to the human mind. We’ve all struggled with making choices and sometimes over the most mundane things in life, e.g., what kind of pasta sauce to buy at the grocery store. While I am not arguing that we should stop making choices altogether, there is a lot of merit to the idea of focusing on the choices that really matter. By reducing the number of decisions I have to make on any given day and simplifying the options I give myself, I free up time and mental energy that can be invested elsewhere. (Guy Raz does an excellent job of exploring this topic in this episode of the TED Radio Hour: http://n.pr/2oW0Y4s).
- Multitask. I know; I am contradicting myself here but while I try my best to focus on one thing at a time, there are some relatively mundane tasks that cannot be avoided. The best example is sitting in traffic. While I used to listen mostly to music or news on the radio when stuck on one of LA's freeways, I have increasingly used this time to listen to my favorite podcasts. This allows me to recapture otherwise idle time through acquiring new knowledge or exploring new ideas.
- Invest in meaningful relationships. Much effort has been poured into the age-old quest for the Fountain of Youth. Yet, so far, the academic evidence seems to suggest that the secret to longevity is quite simple: love. Individuals who have deep, engaged and trusting relationships with at least one other human being seem to live longer, happier and healthier lives. In any case, what’s the point of having more time in your life if you don’t have someone with whom to share it?
What other strategies have you pursued to get more out of your time?
“Don’t waste time or time will waste you.” —Muse