Are you using your time sustainably?
There have been line charts from Sahil Bloom that have gone viral lately about how much time you actually spend with parents, friends, coworkers and partner. It was an effective piece of data visualisation that hits the emotional core of people because the most important resource you can give to the world is your time.
The one that resonates the most is the graph representing the time you spend with the most important person in your life — yourself. If everyone in your life leaves you and you’re left by yourself, you should love yourself enough to be fine.
It’s a good exercise to reflect about the time you have in your life. I myself am turning 32 soon and I often feel like I’m either running out of time or that I wasted my previous 32 years on wrong career and life choices.
Recently, I have also started taking advantage of the free sustainability courses offered in my company. The concept of zero waste is one of the things that stuck out to me. It means no trash should be produced from human processes, similar to how nature works. I thought that it could be a concept applied to time as well. Apparently I am not alone in this thinking. Ben Liongson wrote a very good article on the 5 principles of zero-time waste. There are a lot of good tips there and I highly recommend it.
Work Can Wait
I worry all the time about my career and that I haven’t done enough in the past 10 years. The fact that I have around 30 years left to work on it puts the whole thing in perspective. I’ve only used up 25% of my working time and I’ve already had 4 different career paths in 3 countries, a digital nomad phase and a dual masters degree. To say that I’ve put myself down is an understatement. Although I did not know where I was going that decade, now I have the compassion to tell myself that I have done the most I can with the resources and knowledge I had.
By that rate, I could have 12 more different jobs. My personal desire craves for variety in work. So I really shouldn’t worry. Being aware that I have around 30 years left helps me to have a general overview of where I want to be. Now that I have defined goals, I can use the next three decades better. I wouldn’t have found those goals if I didn’t wander around for the first 10 years. A friend told me she was afraid she would wake up at 50 and still be in the same job and not be able to compete with the younger ones to get a higher level job. Her job is her comfort zone that she doesn’t want to leave at the moment.
Time Divided is Time Wasted
Are you doing too many things at the same time and don’t even feel like you’re enjoying what you do? Then maybe you’re wasting your time if you are unable to be truly present. It will burn you out, and you will lose even more time. That’s why packing your schedule back to back beyond what you can handle is unsustainable living. If you work too much with such a busy calendar, you are working unsustainably and will eventually become unproductive.
Microsoft Viva Insights can actually detect when teams are working too much overtime or on the verge of leaving. We should be designing more sustainable workdays. Businesses that have unsustainable working models using people up by overworking them too early in their careers will eventually be disrupted.
The same applies to having a social calendar that is too packed. When you’re spread too thinly, your relationships don’t become very deep. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should never have shallow connections because those are valuable too. But one should be mindful of who really appreciate your presence rather than just tolerating you. If we truly value our own time, we wouldn’t say yes to everything just to please people.
Time with Loved Ones is Never a Waste
I would also hate to think that a lot of my life was wasted time. For example, I have had so many failed relationships. But if I reframe them as important lessons learned, then nothing was truly a waste. And it helps me save time in the future because I learn to walk away when my precious time is not being valued by a partner instead of staying past the due date. With that feeling, I can move on from them.
After three years of the pandemic, I will finally be able to go home and see my family. I decided to make it a longer trip than usual and minimise my remote working days so that I can be present with them this holiday season.
Live in the Present, It’s a Gift
Worrying wastes time. I even worry that I worry too much, so I try to stop worrying and yet end up in a downward spiral. My therapist helped me accept that my brain just works this way. By accepting it, I judge myself less. She says the overthinking and paying attention to details is why I’m also good at my job because I look at all the worst case scenarios and plan for them which is good for consulting and project management. Ironically, by allowing myself a bit of time to worry, I’m able to spend more time focusing on being present.
A retired neighbour of mine recounted that too many of her friends didn’t like all the years they spent in their lives. Although she has gone through divorce, a son’s death and other misfortunes, she has no regrets and thinks she has lived an amazing privileged life.
Everyday, I challenge myself to cross off one of my things in my todo list because there’s no day but today. If we live life to the fullest, no matter what happens then we have used our time sustainably.