We all get “paid” with 24 hours every day. The big difference between us lies in how we use those 24 hours every day. How many of us are grateful (and self-aware) for that time on earth? We tend to take this daily 24 hours for granted, forgetting that our time on this planet is limited. If we don’t make something of it now, this time will pass before we realize it. I firmly believe that those who don’t respect time can have no regard for anything else in life.
The point is that at the end of our lives, we should have something to say for ourselves in terms of relationships (what others say about us in terms of character) and results (the contribution we make to the world). Whether we create a distinctive body of work, change the world in some way, or build a legacy that provides lasting value to others. In other words, we ought to begin today with that end in mind. Of course, once we know where we are going, then it’s all about spending as much time as possible doing those things.
I know what my end looks like. I have broadly defined my work areas in terms of doing creative work, consulting work, and admin work. My “play” time is spent learning, doing things I find interesting, spending time with friends and family, and learning about the world from the philosophers before our hyper-connected era. I also know that I want to build a body of work that I can be proud of and know that it will continue to provide lasting value to others for a very long time.
Of course, all of this can only happen when we use our time wisely. Ben Franklin called this virtue of spending our time wisely as “Industry”. He said:
Lose no time; be always employed in something useful and cut off all unnecessary actions.
There are a few reasons why we should all strive to be more industrious:
Using our time well ensures that we have ample time for our relationships and results, which is what matters when all is said and done.
When we use our time well, it makes us feel good about ourselves. It helps us develop self-respect for ourselves and also the self-confidence to take on the world.
Having put in an honest day’s work and adding value to the lives of others makes us feel useful and valued knowing that we were able to make a difference in their lives in some way. It makes spending time for leisure/recreation that much more meaningful, which in turn improves the quality of our work.
It is not enough to be industrious. What are we industrious about? It is not about “being busy”. What exactly are we “busy” about? It is about doing more of the right things.
How do you make sure you lose no time and are always employed in something useful? We start with an end in mind in order to have clarity. Figure out the relationships and results that matter to you.
As William Blake said:
Think in the morning, act in the noon, read in the evening, and sleep at night.
Start by planning your week. Block time for physical renewal in order to perform at your best. Block time for both work and play as they both feed off of each other. Always work first and play later as doing the work first improves the quality of your play.
Be ruthless with the time and attention you give to things (as time is a non-renewable resource). Prioritize yourself over others as we can only assist others (if we want to) when we take care of ourselves first.
At the end of the week, evaluate how you spent your time in terms of relationships and results. What is it that you would like to keep doing that is working for you? What is it that you would like to change? Remember, what gets measured gets managed.
Block time for leisure/recreation every day. This is about understanding that all of our time is important (not just work). Spend your downtime well. How you spend your time away from work becomes as important as the time you spend at work (if not more so). Do the things that invigorate you. Learn something. Read a book. Listen to music. Watch a great film. Spend time with those who matter to you. Do things that renew/rejuvenate you. Spending quality time away from work ironically improves your performance at work. For more ideas on using your time well during downtime, suggest reading Personal Growth.
Scheduling your recreation/leisure time in advance ensures you have something to look forward to at the end of each day. This keeps you from procrastinating at work because you know you have scheduled time later for “guilt-free play” and you have limited time in which you can finish the work. Work less but better.
Create boundaries and find out your dealbreakers. One way to do that is to say no to others unless those requests somehow overlap with your agenda.
Lead a simple life. Cut out everything unnecessary to make room for the essential. Removing things from your life ironically adds to your life. Gandhi was the poster child for leading a simple life. Always value experiences over material things.
Do one thing at a time. Whatever you do, give that thing your undivided attention. For instance, when you’re at work, work. When you are in a meeting (personal or work), just be. This requires you to be (mentally) present.
Always opt for spending money (if/when you can) as opposed to time. We can always make another buck, but we cannot make another minute.
Industry is about using all of our time wisely. Everything in our life should be important. If something is not important, it should not be in our life, period.
Only when we value our own time will people respect our time. When we don’t prioritize our life, others will. When we know what we have said “yes” to, it makes it easy to say “no” to other things.
Finally, when we plan our days well, we can do a multitude of things (more than we thought possible) in a present, relaxed, and stress-free manner, all without breaking a sweat. Imagine the number of things we could accomplish in the long term by being industrious.