A year ago today, about the time I left the safe harbor of employment and a stable, routine-based life, I embarked upon a journey to become more time conscious. The way I view my life changed forever, and it led me closer to the life I’ve always dreamed of.
When I say time-conscious I am referring to the state of being aware of the time passing and consciously choosing how to spend each hour. Most of our actions as humans are automated reactions to our surroundings, our imminent needs, wants and desires. Whatever makes us feel good in the moment. It is so easy to just go on living and not really think too much about why you’re actually doing what you’re doing, and where it’ll take you or how you are really spending your days. One of the quotes that first really started opening up my thinking around this was from one of my first and biggest influencers and mentors in personal development, Robin Sharma:
“As you live your days, so you live your life.”
Or another great line of his is “Your days are your life in miniature”. At least for me, it’s been such a huge and easy-to-fall-into trap to just go on living with the fake conviction that one day, somehow, I’ll get to that life I’ve always wanted. That physical stamina and strength, that professional setup that makes adrenaline pump through my veins, that amazing partner I want to share everything in life with, that cozy house on the beach, etc. Don’t fall into that trap! One day, or day one. You decide.
I think there are a couple of reasons for why people, myself included, fall into that trap. One of them is urgency, or rather lack thereof. If you’re comfortable in the chair you’re sitting in, you will never feel the urgency to make a change. For years, I was super comfortable with the life I lived. Outside of work, it was the kind of life I’ve always wanted. When it came to what I did for a living, I didn’t fully feel the meaningfulness and the passion. But for years I never managed to make a change. It almost felt like I was stuck, I couldn’t even start. I was just too comfortable. So I made myself uncomfortable.
I quit my job without much of a plan and and I was living on my constantly diminishing savings. This created urgency. It drove me to create the life I am now living. But you don’t really have to disrupt your entire life to make a life change. Becoming more aware of your time will also make you more aware of how short our lives are and how fast time flies by. It will make you value your time more and it will by itself create an urgency for you to start investing your time in your best life.
The second reason why people don’t make the change is that dreams are often overwhelming. When all you see is that “perfect” relationship, dreamy house, or image of yourself running that big company, you don’t even know where to start. So you don’t.
However, if you start to become more reflective about your time in terms of your daily activities and what they result in, it’s a whole new ball game. Once you become aware of how your every action, of how every hour you spend, either contribute to those bigger dreams or not, once that connection has been made, you’re bound to succeed. It will automatically steer you in the direction of the activities that contribute to your dreams.
Sure, Netflix might make you feel better in the moment, but if your dream isn’t to become a Hollywood professional, it might not be the best investment for you. Knowing that, thinking about your alternative cost of how you could have spent that time instead, and being aware of how your days are your life in miniature, when you flip on the TV as an instant reaction next time, you will question that action and decision more.
Another insight from successful people that helped me believe in the importance of daily activities is how success is nothing more than regularly occurring actions, or habits if you may, over time. You don’t go from employed to employing others into your own company overnight, you don’t become a great athlete in a few weeks. The best in the world have one thing in common, whatever they’re best at, it is something they’ve been doing repetitively for a long time. And it always starts with one tiny little move. It can be the smallest, most ordinary thing, that with frequency and time becomes extraordinary.
So how do you get to that state of always being aware of how what you’re about to do will contribute to your dreams or not? Well, for me, it starts with allocation and mapping. For about nine months now, I’ve been allocating my every awaken hour to a specific type of activity. I have a routine where I know that I have to sit down at least at the end of every day and account for how I spent every single hour this day in an excel sheet. E.g. I know that if I watch a movie tonight, I’m gonna have to put down 2h in the category of TV & movies.
However, the magic lies in seeing the accumulated picture, to get that understanding of how you’re actually spending your hours over time. Once I had my first couple of weeks mapped out, I could start to see patterns and habits. Based on that outcome and overview, I could start making a realistic plan. I called it my time budget. To avoid inflicting unnecessary stress on myself, I only recorded and budgeted for 15h per day, leaving a black window of 9h out every day for things related to bedtime, sleep, and waking up. I started with only registering whole hours to get a roughly right picture, but once I started getting into it, I went down to half hours and sometimes 0.25 hours (15min). I created a few main categories, such as Exercise, Create (work), Relations, Transport, Necessities, Growing, and Entertainment. In each category I have sub-categories such as e.g. girlfriend, family, close friends, bigger group of friends, messaging, and networking where I log my hours as numbers, in this case inside the main category of Relations.
I sort of started seeing it the same way I had seen money and financial planning before. My time is the most finite resource I have, it makes sense that I should be spending it at least as cautiously and consciously as my money. I started viewing my time as investing in myself and my future. The more number of hours I put into one of the categories, the closer it would take me to the dream I had connected to it. The finite nature of time then made me realize that I had to limit it to a few core dreams, and then find a balance of how I should invest my time between them.
This system also enabled me to see small progress in terms of the amount of time I had invested in things like my work, my growth, and my relations, which motivated me. It also helped me realize when I was going astray from my health or when I spent too much time on escapism like movies. I had it set up so that every week’s results, as well as my accumulated averages, were matched with my budget and it would show up red or green compared to my plan. It kind of made it feel like I was playing a game where I could track my progress towards my dream life and it got me hooked to keep doing it.
I started to view this whole exercise as architecting my life. I imagined myself ten years from now, how I would ideally want to live my life and spend my time, and I did a weekly time budget based on that vision. I even have a pie chart of how I want to spend my hours in a general week, ten years from now. If nothing else, it has helped me visualize the life I want and it makes me feel like I’m more in control of my own destiny and that those dreams coming true is up to no one else but me. My “one day” mindset does not exist anymore, becoming time-conscious reduced the feeling of overwhelm and incubated the urgency that I needed. My “one day” finally became my “day one”.
All love and no fear,