Think back to when you last missed a deadline. How’d that end up? Maybe you got a stern warning or a slap on the wrist. If you really screwed up, you might’ve lost some trust or a great opportunity. It probably hurt for a while, and you probably hated yourself for it.
But, after all that, you’re fine now. There’s a good chance that you barely remember that it even happened. Looking at the big picture, that deadline was nothing more than a tiny blip.
There’s just one exception.
Whoever you are, you have about 24 hours a day, and about 30,000 days to do everything you want to do. No excuses or retries on this one. Once the time’s up, you’re (literally) dead:
If there’s anything you really don’t want to procrastinate for, it’s your life
Every once in a while, you look at the mountain of things you want to do, and you can’t help but wonder how you’ll ever get to the top.
Just take a moment to think about the all the things people did and created with that same amount of time. Some of us sent 1000-ton hunks of metal into space, others conquered half the Earth, and a few of us became wealthier than entire continents. You name it, and there’s a good chance someone’s done it.
Every one of those people had something in common. They knew what they wanted out of their life, and chose to spend their time doing certain things over others. It’s really that simple. Where you get in life isn’t a question of how much time you have, but how well you spend it.
In one of my articles from a few weeks ago, I mentioned the hugely underrated idea of investing your time like you’d invest your money. It’s just another way to think about how you get the best returns on the time you spend doing something.
“Consistently spend your time in the right places for a long enough time, and you’ll eventually get the results you want.”
Anyone can do the same. The million-dollar question (literally) is how.
But don’t worry — I’ve got you. I spent the past five years of my life to figure out where and how I could spend my time better. Here’s what I wish I knew.
Don’t Sprint In A Marathon.
I’m going to make a quick guess and say you’ve heard this quote being tossed around before:
Or some other variation of the same thing. I’ve got to say that it’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. And I’m guessing you’re wondering if “stupidest” even counts as a real word. Well, I don’t care, because that’s how mad I am right now.
I see why people try using it to cheer themselves or others up, but it’s like they cropped out the best part of a photo. The real quote goes something like this:
“Nothing’s impossible with enough time.”
Bringing time into the equation changes everything.
What makes me so upset about the more popular version of the quote is how people actually believe it — even though they know it’s not true. If you want to become a millionaire, of course that’s possible. If you want to get a six-pack, go for it. If you want to rule the world, it’s going to be tough going — but it sure isn’t going to be out of your reach:
But you know what’s completely insane to me? There’s people who actually try getting these miracles to happen in a month. The worst part is how they get disappointed when they fail. No kidding. In reality, if you want to get (and keep) many of these things, it’s a lifelong process. I’m talking about consistent work and progress till the day you die.
Difficult things take time. Lots and lots of time.
What prevents some of the most talented people in the world from reaching their potential is usually some combination of trying to do everything on their own, and expecting that life’ll let them take the shortest route to get there.
What you can do about it: If you’re the hyper-ambitious type, give yourself just a little bit longer to finish your goals than you’d first thin. You’ll be doing yourself a bigger favour than you can imagine.
About two years ago, I was given the beautiful nickname of butterfly. As much as that confused me back then, my best guess now is because I used to fly around between different thoughts and things like it was my last day on Earth.
I suffered from a complete lack of focus, and I hated it. I kid you not when I say that my “flow state” was any time I could focus for more than six minutes on something:
If you’ve been through anything similar, you know how just how annoying that can be. You start to wonder if there’s something wrong with you — especially if you know exactly what you should be concentrating on, but can’t. I’m glad to say things changed for the better, but it wasn’t exactly a smooth ride.
Earlier on in this article, I forgot to share an important insight. It’s that the next largest factor that prevents talented people from reaching their potential is a lack of direction.
Diversifying your money is one thing. Spreading out your willpower, focus, and energy too much eventually makes you collapse.
Good things tend to happen when you’re using your capabilities to push one thing forward in your life. The fewer things you spend your energy pushing, the further you’re able to take them.
The longer you go, the more you realize that you’ll have to leave things behind that aren’t headed in the same route you are:
Many of the people I talk to get intimidated by all the extreme things they think they need to be focused. From what I’ve done, though, I’m confident you don’t need anything at all. If focus is all we’re taking about, then you’d be surprised at how far you can get — just by taking away what’s unnecessary.
If you really want to turn your life around, find everything that takes you off the track you want to follow and get rid of as many of them as you can.That way, you’ll leave some room for what really matters.
What you can do about it: Next time you do something, think about why you’re doing it, and who you’re doing it for. If you’re not happy with the answer, cut it out and use that time for something better. Don’t make your life any harder than it needs to be.
Don’t click away — it’s an analogy.
One of the many ways you can imagine your time is by seeing it as clay, and thinking of yourself as an artist that’s trying to make something meaningful out of a nonsensical lump of it.
What this is trying to get at is that time alone is worthless if you don’t use it. Just like money or health, it’s a tool you can use to open new doors that you wouldn’t be able to without them. Time gives you the power of potential.
I don’t care if you’re broke, lazy, and have no idea of purpose. If you’re anywhere near your twenties or thirties, you have so much potential that you can make a masterpiece out of yourself by the time you’re done — even if you haven’t even started yet. I mean that more than anything.
There’s people in their sixties and seventies that people would kill to switch their lives with. Where’s their potential? That’s right. It’s gone.
As you begin creating your pot with a tiny piece of clay, there’s full possibility for you to redirect your clay and keep transforming what you make. After all, you still have so much clay you can use to work your creation into anything you want:
As you keep going, you get a clearer idea of what your pot’s going to look like — but at the expense of the freedom you had earlier. All you can really do near the end is add a few details with the leftovers.
Life’s your journey of focusing and converting your raw potential into something real. It’s your life, and it’s your choice what that “something” is, how much clay you use, or if you even use it.
Of course, you can make a larger pot with more clay, but it makes no difference if you don’t know how to handle making an average pot with an average amount of clay. Doing that’s a big achievement on its own.
It’s why people like Alexander the Great shook humanity before dying in their thirties, while there’s some 100-year-olds that are mostly just known for how old they are. No offense to the elderly.
Trust me, you don’t want to be known just for how much clay you have. You want to be known for what you turned it into. The point is that you have to start somewhere if you want to shape your potential better. You do that by taking a small amount of your time and working with it:
A good first step is to spend time working on managing your time. It counts as an upfront investment to make the rest of your life a whole lot easier. I’m not talking about watching a productivity video on YouTube, or reading books to gain knowledge. Those resources are made for everyone in general, but for no one in particular.
The only way you can really learn any of this is by trying. Spending your time wisely is a muscle you can train, and no amount of videos is going to train it for you. The only real way is to fail, grow, and learn to create your own style of doing things.
What you can do about it: Give something you find interesting a shot today by spending some of your time on it. If it’s not for you, switch until there’s a “zing”. Try out if a new time management method makes you more productive or makes you want to hide in a hole and cry. Any improvement equals success.
There’s some things in life we tend to seriously overcomplicate. I’d argue that life itself is one of those things. With all the meanings we’ve tried giving it, the real deal comes down to what you make of yourself with the time you have. Unsurprisingly, we’ve complicated that, too.
If you have any sizeable amount of time left, you should be the happiest person alive. Watch where you spend it, and don’t let it go to waste. Time’s happens to be one of those things you’ll always want more of in the future.
That’s why you shouldn’t be using to do things you don’t want to do and spending it on people you don’t care about. Life really is too short for that.
Other than, the only real piece of advice I can give you is to keep doing and evolving. No matter what you do, you’ll end up closer to where you want to be — even if you don’t know what it is yet. With that, I wish you the best.