It’s incredible how busy we all are.
Even six-year-olds are busy.
My 80-year-old dad is busy.
Every time someone asks me how I am, I say, “Busy!”
I guess my dad’s version of busy is different to mine (his is 90% fun).
But I’m wondering how the rest of us got to be so busy.
When did we forget to just…be?
Since the end of Word War II, it seems we’ve fostered and encouraged this mode of being.
It’s almost narcissistic – like we want to look busy.
Perhaps we think being busy makes us feel like we’re getting there, we’re doing the work, we’re making progress.
We’re doing it right.
I think it’s mostly bullshit.
Listen, you won’t be here forever.
One day the music will stop.
And when that day arrives, and you’re lying there in the hospital with tubes hanging out of you, you might realise that all the distractions you indulged and all that running around won’t have brought you the happiness you sought; much less, peace.
In the fluoro-lit quiet of your hospital bed, you might begin to sense that your life was like a concerto or a dance, and that the point of it was to dance while the music played; that the objective wasn’t the end, but the dance itself.
Why are we always so focused on getting ‘somewhere’, at the expense of the present?
Why is the future so much more desirable than the present – even though the present was once the future we so desperately sought?
Life is nature.
It’s playful, it’s experiential, and it’s happening right this moment.
Don’t be in such a rush to reach the end.
If you do, you’ll have missed the whole point.
How are you spending your time?
Like most men in our age group, you’re probably doing way too much of the wrong work, and you’re wasting too much time on the wrong things.
This ‘busy work’ that you do doesn’t make you more important, and the time you squander will never be returned.
I know some of it feels important, but a lot of it just isn’t.
If it doesn’t resonate with who you really are; if it doesn’t truly matter to you, it’s not important.
If the work you’re doing each day doesn’t bring you closer to your true purpose, you’re squandering time.
And if it pulls you further away from the things you value most (e.g. your family, your freedom, peace of mind, your health or your natural talents and passions), it just doesn’t rate.
Now don’t confuse ‘not important’ with ‘necessary’ work.
You’re always going to have some of that.
Even doing the thing you LOVE; done long enough, becomes a job.
If that ‘necessary’ work is an essential component of your ‘important’ work, you don’t resent it.
You just suck it up.
You embrace it.
The Big One
But getting onto where you spend your time, I know that for most people, television is a huge problem.
Today, the average Australian spends over 90 hours a month watching TV.
In the US, it’s about 120 hours.
These times are slowly contracting but guess where they’re going?
Phones and tablets – thanks in large part to YouTube.
People are devoting more than ten working days every month to watching a screen for entertainment.
And many of these same people will tell you:
- They’re sick of their job.
- They would love to start a business on the side.
- They don’t have time. They’re busy!
It’s been said that man’s most persistent cry is “Freedom!” I know it’s always been mine.
I value freedom over just about anything because without it, everything else becomes muddied.
A lot of men work themselves into an early grave and take the music with them, never having achieved what their heart desired all those years.
But you have to ask, how serious were they?
How badly did they want it?
I believe the simple answer lies in priorities.
When you’ve suited up for work every day for the last 20 or 30 years, it’s easy to think you deserve to relax.
And TV is an easy choice.
The barrier to entry is extremely low.
But that simple little choice is keeping your poor.
Not just financially, but in EVERY other area of your life.
That innocuous panel on the wall blocks so many of life’s riches – personally, spiritually and financially.
It pulls a veil over the things that really matter – experiences that only come through doing versus passively observing.
And one of the most valuable of those is the chance to uncover your hidden talents, passions and opportunities.
And starting a business, no matter how small, is one of the best places to do this.
Creating something of value, something people will pay you for, is one of the most rewarding and human interactions there are.
The Other Culprits
When you squander time, you’re literally giving away your life.
If you only had $100 to your name, you’d be extremely careful how you spend every one of those dollars.
There are lots of things that steal our time, and therefore, our lives.
But the ones described in this chapter can take an incredible hold over us and our capacity to step back, assess our lives and blaze a trail of our own making.
The message here is, simplify, cull or outsource as many of them as you can.
- Never leave it running in the background. Switch off the alerts and if at all possible, remove it from your phone. How productive would you be if someone tapped you on the shoulder every few minutes and went “bing!” in your ear? Turn it off. The world won’t end. You’ll get a lot more done, you’ll do it faster, and it’ll be of a higher standard, too.
- Never check your email first thing in the morning. Instead, decide the day before what your three most importanttasks are, and spend at least 2-3 hours on the first one before you check your mail.
- Never check your mail just before you finish your day. The tension and nervous back-of-mind distraction it creates impacts your evening and quite likely, the quality of your sleep.
- Limit yourself to somewhere between two and four checks a day. That’s it. I check my email mid-morning, mid-afternoon and no less than an hour before finishing for the day.
- Stay away from email on the weekends.
Vexatious Pain-in-the-Arse Clients
The 80/20 rule is relevant here.
Twenty percent of your clients probably comprise eighty percent of your income.
Focus on them.
Delight them at every turn and show them how important they are.
Sometimes the best thing you can say to someone (clients especially) is ‘no’.
Sometimes you have to fire a client.
We spend so much of our time at work, the least we can do is use that time efficiently, effectively and with people who bring joy to our work.
Focus on the 20% – the ones who respect your work and who are happy to pay for your talents.
Recommend an alternative person or business to serve the remainder.
You’ll sleep better; you’ll enjoy your work more, and you’ll deliver better results for those you serve.
In all likelihood, you’ll end up earning a lot more too, because those 20-percenters will refer others to you who are just like them.
If you had to leave your city or town tonight and never return, what would you take with you?
Just a handful of items would make the cut, wouldn’t they?
I sometimes fantasise about coming home to find it burned to the ground.
It would be inconvenient, yes.
But it would also be wonderfully liberating.
Starting with a clean slate, devoid of the crap I’ve accumulated all these years would be incredible.
Sure, I’d miss a few irreplaceable objects, but so long as my family was safe, the other things could live in my memories, and that’s enough.
The things we have but don’t use and the things that don’t contribute real pleasure to our lives eventually own us.
They become a subtle intrusion into our subconscious.
That’s why spring cleaning and purging unwanted goods are such satisfying exercises.
They lighten the mental load.
The habitual accumulation of consumer products is never a road to happiness or financial success, and it’s a subtle but powerful time thief.
To purge and simplify is the high road to wealth and enlightenment.
The alternative is to amuse yourself to death.
Listen to Roger Waters’ song, ‘Amused to Death’, and you’ll understand.
Indulgences like fashion, fancy toys, expensive dinners and ‘new-shiny’ syndrome all conspire to keep you on the endless treadmill of working to consume.
What you give up in exchange for this is time.
Less Crap Pays you Twice
Eliminating the crap in your life – the things that rob you of your time and your hard-earned money – rewards you on two fronts.
You have more time to enjoy your life now and all the things that actually matter.
Plus you have more money to put into things that enrich your life later.
I advocate simple stress-free investments that pay you forever.
Invest your time in your family and your passions.
Invest your money in growth assets that deliver peace of mind now and freedom into the future.
The Wrong People
This is a touchy one because many of us don’t choose our friends.
More often than not, they’re friends of circumstance; people we met through a common interest, activity or third party.
But if you understand that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with, it’s incumbent on you to be vigilant over who’s setting your life’s agenda.
The same goes for family members, well intentioned as they might be.
If you want to spring clean your life and start blazing a new trail, you need to examine your influencers because, like it or not, they have an enormous impact on the expectations you set for yourself, the beliefs you hold and the decisions you make.
It’s really about practicality.
You’re blessed with 24 hours every day.
If you want to strike out on your own and earn your freedom – if you want to jump off the merry-go-round and create a life you’re proud of, you already have all the time you need.
Every investor and every entrepreneur has the same 24 hours that you and I have.
The difference is, these people value their time and they’re very deliberate about where they spend it.
They make a conscious decision each day to devote most of their time to creating the life they want.