Consciously start spending your time, and invest your efforts in meaningful projects.

Learning how to spend time – and avoid wasting it

This was my first job as a storyboard artist. I loved this series, it was fun and the director had high standards but let us take initiative. It was very creative. Each episode ran for seven minutes and we had two weeks per storyboard. And that is exactly how long it took me every time. Two Weeks. Ten to twelve hours per day. Straight.

I had no time for myself.

I ate on the fly, barely showered. Slept poorly. Had numerous anxiety attacks. Writer’s block. Pressure to deliver on time. That is no way to live! I loved the gig but it’d be nice to not pass out the minute my work was delivered.

I paused and took a look from a different perspective. I sought ways to improve my speed, ‘’Manage’’ my time better.

  • I drafted a bigger volume of work and avoided going into details too soon.
  • I moved on to the next thing as soon as I felt stuck on something…
  • …by reminding myself things did not have to be perfect on the first pass, I can always go back to it later.
  • I worked on a fixed schedule – starting at 9 finishing at 5…
  • …but, allowed me to work late when feeling inspired…
  • …and to stop when I was stuck…
  • …by tacking time for myself when feeling overwhelmed – to take some air/take a break/a bath/ go to the movies.

And it worked! Or so I thought…

Then, life kicked in. Promotions at work. More responsibilities. Manage a bigger team and more clients. Relationship grows. Buy a condo. Get a dog. Kids! My so-called ‘’to-do’’ list expands exponentially:

Don’t forget about that thing.

Buy milk.

Answer that email.

Brief this person.

Manage that prickly situation.

Call this client to have that uncomfortable conversation.

You need to take to car to the vet and the dog to the garage.

Do I need help? No, I’m fine! I am really good at managing my time.

I’ll do it myself, it’ll be faster

me and every other person who poorly prioritize and do not delegate

So, under the weight of feeling overwhelmed, ‘’tired of being tired’’ of waking in the wee hours of the nights thinking about that ‘’thing’’ you did not do for ‘’this’’ person who could not care less about you at 3 AM while they are sound asleep, I started realizing that my time management skills sucked!

Time to take a step back

I am fascinated by quantum physics and time travel. It blows my mind! Have you seen Interstellar and The Arrival? Oh, My. Lord! The idea of time is not linear and, under the right condition, like jumping into a black hole or learning an alien language (I’ll add this to my to-do list), time can be happening all at once. Well, I have not found a way to do this yet, so just like the rest of you, humans, I live in a reality where time is linear and perishable.

My approach was wrong all along. I could never manage my time. How can we ‘’manage’’ a resource that we cannot get back, accumulate, or change. Time. Just. Goes on.

You can only manage what you can measure.

Peter Drucker

That second that just passed. Gone. No way of getting it back. Time can only be spent.

Ok, that is depressing… but there is always a way to look at things from another perspective.

Philosophically and contrary to the expression, time can not be invested, it can only be spent. However, you can invest your effort! When you do a smart effort investment, it rewards you with motivation. Think about that time you worked until the late hours of the night, immersed in a project, fuelled by the urge of inspiration. Every second of effort you spent was brought back to you tenfold! 

And, I am sure you can think of several activities that do the complete opposite, they drain the life out of you. Most of them involve waiting in line with a government agency.

How do you choose what to invest your efforts on?

Well, first of all, just like I did so many times when the feeling of being overwhelmed surfaced, you need to take a step back and look at the whole picture. 

But wait? Since time is linear, isn’t it a waste to stop to think? Have you ever thought to yourself, ‘’I don’t have time to stop and plan’’? How did this turn out for you?

We need to step out from the momentum of life to appreciate the beauty of the movement as an ensemble

My anti-F.O.M.O. moto

Create meaning

There are a plethora of great self-development books out there. Most of them will rightfully encourage you to find your big WHY. Your great meaning and purpose in life.

Truthfully, I have made a list! I have written all the things, small and big, meaningful and desirable to me. However, the trash will not take itself out all because I figured out the meaning of my existence.

We all have obligations. So how do we navigate what we have to do and what we want to do?

Organize tasks by put yourself first

Realistically, you will not find meaning in every task and bits of energy invested or time spent. Not all projects assigned to me, by me or others (mostly others) are fulfilling. But, if the first thing you do once you jump out of bed is something that adds meaning to your life, wouldn’t that make a huge difference for you?
Try it out, spend time for the things that matter for you first; work on that art piece you feel passionate about, this great book you are writing, this class you are attending, a walk in the park with a friend, meditate, sleep, share intimacy, the motivation boost will generously help you pay for the mundane and boring and frustrating tasks on the ever so growing to-do list of life. Writer-entrepreneur-podcaster and human-guineapig Tim Ferris wrote a great blog about this here.

Make before you manage

Tim Ferris

The simple truth is, your time is your most precious resource! But we have to admit to ourselves time cannot be managed. We can manage our priorities and invest our efforts! Stop saying you don’t have time to do this that and the other thing. Make room. Ask yourself now:’’ How can you spend a little bit of today on something that will benefit you the most?’ 

Do it. There is no time to waste! But, take your time… You can always take out the trash later.