Time is the most valuable thing we possess, and the argument can be made that it is actually the only thing we really possess. You can lose your car, lose your house, lose your money, but your time is always yours, and only you can decide how you’re going to spend it. So why, with the understanding that time is the most valuable thing, do we still waste most of it? Why is it that we can’t get ourselves to do productive things now, and that we seek pleasure, distraction, and vices to fill up our time with?
Is it because we don’t value time enough? I don’t think so.
Is it because we don’t know how to productively spend our time? No, not that either.
It stems from a couple of human tendencies, such as our utter shortsightedness, not being able to look beyond the present moment and see the consequences of our actions, and also the pleasure principle, that humans always seek out what’s pleasurable to them in the moment. So for people who can’t control these tendencies, time is their enemy. It goes by and they have nothing to show for it because of their lack of self-control. They spend their time on useless activities that have nothing but disastrous results to show for them in the long run.
There are also people for whom time is their ally. These people use their time productively, they work towards goals and allocate their time well. They experience the lasting delayed gratification of their enormous success, instead of the fleeting instant gratification of bad habits.
It’s important to know both sides of the equation, and how you can go from having time as your enemy, to having it be your ally. Let me explain how you can make time your ally starting today:
How time can be your enemy:
For most people, time is their biggest enemy. They fear getting older because they know that with their current lifestyle, getting older will be an absolute disaster. They tend to age terribly: they get fat, have all kinds of health problems, lose their meaning in life, and regret all of the things they didn’t do earlier.
The problem that most people have with time is how most of it is spent with bad habits or aimless behavior. They may spend their time playing video games, watching all kinds of series and movies, going out to parties, etc.
With these bad habits, time will surely be your enemy, because you have no result to show the time you’ve spent. There is no advantage you gain because of these habits, there are no fruits of your labor, and when you stop doing them, it’s almost like all of that time never passed anyway. This way you only get the negatives of getting older, and none of the positives which would be the experience you gain.
When you’ve played video games for 10 hours a week for 10 years, that’s 5200 hours. Say you decide to quit playing video games, what have these video games offered you, how did you become a better man because of them, what did you learn? The answer is: Nothing.
You didn’t learn any useful skills, you may have achieved something inside the videogame, but when you turn the screen off, you have nothing to show for all that effort. This means that in this example, you’ve completely wasted 5200 hours of your life, with nothing to show for it. That's 216 full 24-hour days.
I believe that for a lot of people, this is even putting it mildly. Tons of people nowadays go way over 10 hours a week. There are a lot of people wasting their time on video games or Netflix, watching series after series, one more braindead than the other, and this time is completely wasted.
In your use of time, habits play the biggest role because they take up most of your time. They are the activities you do on a consistent basis, which allows you to get better at them.
What most people do not realize is that these habits will compound. The tiny actions you do every day will stack up on top of each other, producing significant results, whether for good or for worse. So what happens when you fill your time with bad habits, is that all the little actions build up, producing terrible results.
If you eat at McDonald's every day and make it a habit, the eventual result is that you get fat. You don’t get fat instantaneously, it happens over time, small actions compounding on each other, resulting in your pot belly.
When you play video games all day, you may get better at playing video games, but if you’re not looking to go pro and make money doing it, there are no results in the real world. This means that when you turn your screen off, you’ve actually done nothing, and your time was completely wasted. Changin your habits is the cornerstone of making time work for you, instead of against you.
How time can be your ally:
Time will only be an ally for those of you who use it right, and the easiest way you can do this is by creating good habits.
Because habits take up most of your time every day, it is best to make sure that they are good, this way most of your time is spent well automatically, you don’t even have to think about it.
Once you’ve acquired such a habit, you won’t instantly gain any results, but once the compound effect starts to come into effect, your progress will skyrocket and the result can become massive.
For example, you won’t notice any changes in your body after exercising for a week, nor will you be a lot smarter when you’ve finished one book, but all of these habits done consistently over time, say a year or a decade, will compound into amazing results that look impossible from where you are now.
When you’ve been exercising for a week, you won’t notice any significant changes, but if you stay consistent for a year or two, you will see dramatic differences in the way you look and feel.
When you’ve read your first book, you won’t really be that much smarter than you were when you started, but if you read a book every week, for five years consistently, then you’ll probably be the smartest person in the room.
Consistency combined with good habits is key.
In the moment, these good habits may seem boring, or perhaps even painful. You’d much rather sit on the couch, playing your favorite videogame, eating Cheetos, and staying a loser. But do the short-term pleasures really outweigh the prospect of being an absolute failure? Think about what allocating your time to positive habits will do for your future self. Keep in mind what you’re doing it for and who you’re doing it for, then it simply becomes some discomfort you have to push through.
Keeping good habits also becomes way easier once you’ve pushed past the first phase of discomfort. Once you become good at performing the habit and start seeing some actual results from it, doing it becomes fun. Now you can’t wait to go to the gym and become stronger, you can’t stop yourself from grabbing a book in the excitement of becoming smarter, you can’t stop yourself from working on that project because you know what the end result will bring you. Doing productive things becomes fun once you’ve got a taste of the results they can produce. Let these possible results stay at the forefront of your mind, and call on them when needed.
Focus on the results:
To get the reason why you’re doing good habits clear, you need to have an idea of where they are going to get you. What are the results you want these habits to produce, how do you want them to change you as a person?
Think to yourself: what do I want my future self to have, and what kind of person do I want him to be? Most likely your answer will be: Strong, smart, competent, successful, and many other more personal attributes that you want to develop. So now the question remains, what habits do I need, what actions do I need to perform every day, to come closer to what I want in the future? What do I need to do to become stronger, smarter, more competent, etc? Once you ask yourself this question, you can come up with the answers. But they are based on your personality, so I’m not able to give them to you. You’ll have to find out for yourself what you want your future self to look like, and what you want him to have.
Life now becomes exactly like a video game. Do anything you can to level up your skills in the area of life, complete level after level, and become someone your future self will be proud of.