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It’s about time

July 24, 2018

Jeff Hough

As humans, we seem to care a lot about efficiency. In almost every aspect of our lives, we are constantly pushing to do things better and faster. Yet, even with the push toward greater productivity and efficiency we still feel like there is never enough time. It is common to hear people complain about not having enough time to do this or that.

Charles Darwin said, “A man who dares to waste an hour of time has not discovered the value of his life.” If we see someone being wasteful with food we get upset. If we see someone throwing away money we scoff at them. Yet when we see someone wasting time we give it little thought.

Each day we have periods of peak productivity. These golden periods of time appear at roughly the same time each day. For many, the best time for creativity is in the morning. For others, it occurs at night. Each person has their perfect schedule to maximize their time. The trick is understanding your schedule and fitting your life around it.

As we begin to examine our time and seek out the blocks of time when we can do our deepest work, patterns will emerge. Triggers will appear, eliciting responses which distract us or enhance our focus. A prime example of this is an alert on a phone set to go off when it receives a text or email. When we are in the middle of a project and the alert goes off, our attention diverts and we lose focus. However brief the loss of focus, we have to spend extra mental energy to get it back.

Many people wish for more time, thinking if they had more of it they could get more done. In reality, that is a myth. Generally speaking, if you had more time you wouldn’t do more. Doing more with your time requires discipline and good habits. Often, when granted more time we add more stuff to the pile and point to how busy we are. Thus the fallacy of wanting more time.

The key to having more time is developing the habits to make the time you have more productive. Author Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work” states, “Interruption, even in short, delays the total time required to complete a task by a significant faction.”

This principle illustrates the first step in making your time more meaningful. Mr. Newport defines Deep Work as an activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration pushing your cognitive capabilities to their limit.

Everyone has experienced that moment when so completely lost in a project/activity that time seems to stop. That is the very definition of Deep Work. We may set a goal of reaching that state of effort, but often fail for a variety of reasons. We fail because our habits don’t allow us to succeed.

Habits create the actions leading to the accomplishment of goals. Unless we take the time to establish the right habits, we will continue to fall short of our goals and dreams. The right habits propel you beyond your dreams and make the impossible possible.

Blogger Shane Parrish of the Farnam Street Blog shares this valuable insight: “Time is invisible, so it’s easy to spend. It’s only near the end of our life that most of us will realize the value of time.”

Our challenge is to examine the habits of our lives and see if they are helping us or hindering us. If time is your greatest commodity, how do you want to invest it?

Jeff Hough is a business author, blogger and speaker in Pocatello.

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