Oi me! Stop wasting my time

11 am 11 Nov 1936, Remembrance Day on the GPO clock, Sydney / photograph by Sam Hood

Plinky.com asked me what tips I had for saving time, so that it might feel like there were more hours in the day.

OK, aside from a time machine, let's just get under the surface of the question. This seems to me to be about the post-modern state of being too busy to think, butterflying from one fancy to the next with the crippling sense of dread that you might MISS SOMETHING.

All connected to the perfection myth that suggests other people are able to cope easily with what's already crushing you.

Tip 1 – beware mythologies.

Too often, I have seen the story of "I would… if only…" played out by people who are avoiding, or worse denying, the reality they face.

[including myself sub-consciously for years]

For example, when some people hear that I've published four books, I'll know immediately when they're about to say "Oh, I would write a book if only I had the time…"

Or in my corporate life, when I'd be doing some career counselling, "I know I hate my job; I would do something I loved doing if only I didn't have to pay the mortgage and put the kids through school…"

Or the would-be innovative entrepreneur, "I would start my company if only I had one idea in the bank already."

These are the stories we tell ourselves. But they are myths designed to perpetuate the status quo. Want more time? Stop wasting time fantasizing about what you would do if you had more time.

Tip 2) Just do it.

This ties in with a recent post about procrastination: https://vincet.net/2011/01/07/how-do-i-stay-focused-by-getting-what-im-doing-done/ which I'm not going to re-tread here. Over the years of learning to successfully juggle family, work, writing, music and other stuff, this is perhaps my singlemost important piece of wisdom

[wisdom as defined in Stephen Fry's "Moab is my washpot" – as simply being the ability to cope]

stop thinking about what you want to, or should, be doing and get on with it. Anyone who writes for more than passing interest knows that feeling of staring out of the window, just waiting for ideas to collide or inspiration to strike. I hold with Julia Cameron's "The Right to Write" – writing births inspiration, not the other way around.

Tip 3) Turn off the television

Seriously. Turn off the television. Or any other aspect of your life that you assess as being a waste of time. I can't count the number of times I've had the conversation with people that starts with them asking me "How do you find the time to…" – inevitably I end up saying at some point "I just don't sit and stare at the television when I've got something else to do that's important to me."

On this one, I'll confess to actually having an itch that develops when I do catch myself watching mind-numbing television – once again, a learned reaction from years of juggling. When the itch starts, I just have to go and get things done.

Tip 4) Experiment

In many ways, this is the combination of all the above tips. If you are hostage to the mythologies that control you, try something different. See if the world comes to an end if you switch your email/blackberry off for an hour. See if your friends love you any less if you decide not to return a call immediately you receive their voicemail. See if your head explodes because you're not getting your dose of the "Real Housewives of…"

[ugh… I mean really… UGH!]

Long post, written at speed, without much fore- or after-thought. Another example, I guess, of just doing it. It's taken me about 10 minutes to write, proof and post – which is a lot shorter than putting it off for an hour while I churn over what I may write. Is it perfect? Far from it. Is it enough? For me, yes – and I'll let you judge whether it is for you.

Tip 5) Learn your own standards of what's "Good enough".

Done for today – see you tomorrow.

PS: Tip 6) Read Tim Ferris' "The 4-hour work week" and try some of the exercises in there

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