I’ve heard 3 variations of the same thing in the last week
You’re incredibly busy how do you get so much done?
That’s not some egotistical acknowledgement of the volume things I do, it’s a sincere surprise that it’s something other people believe to be true. I don’t get any more done than the average person in the street — I am afflicted by the same limitations of time that affect everyone.
But first, let me start by saying this blog post is going to be unlike my others. I’ve avoided including links to my personal life wherever possible because I feel that it detracts from the overall narrative. I have been encouraged time and time again to allow more of my personality to flow through — provide links to your personal situation as it will help people understand you better — and to open the curtains to the window to my life occasionally to provide context.
So if you wish to stop reading now on that basis I understand
Honestly, the reason I never shared more is that I felt it was weak. I thought others would encounter that opinion or they would feel something even worse — pity. I refuse to allow anyone to see a vulnerable side to me and I avoided it all costs.
But I feel it’s prevented me from being entirely sincere with my audience. My backstory isn’t just who I am, it’s contributed to every opinion and belief I hold dear. It’s not just the reason why I pursue the things I do, it’s why I am the way I am. My life experiences, circumstances and conditions are what mould my view of the world and provide the context for the basis of my thoughts and feelings. Life directly manifests from the accumulation of all the knowledge you have accrued — a more diverse experience ensures a richer tapestry of expertise to refer to.
I am what I’ve been but that doesn’t define me
I am a single Dad, I have two children under 5 who I care for 50% of the time. I am a semi-professional athlete playing football/soccer in the 4th tier of Scottish football. I am a startup founder, having received investment recently from the CEO/Founder of a British Unicorn. I am an adviser and mentor to several startups and have helped grow a few nationally. I am a member of the board of directors for a social enterprise which manages $110m of housing stock home to over 3,000 people. I am a writer, focusing on my visions of the future and the direction I believe a number of current and future innovations will head. Each of those things forms part of who I am and influences everything I do. Who we are is a direct consequence of the how we spend our time.
Time is an intellectual construct designed to challenge us
We love to boast about how busy we are. ‘Fine’ or ‘good’ are no longer acceptable responses to the question of ‘how are you?’. If you don’t answer ‘really busy’ you aren’t doing enough. Even if it’s not true we must maintain a façade that portrays that we are, so we work longer hours to outwardly depict busyness to our colleagues, bosses, and subordinates. The ridiculousness of this is that we work longer hours while completing the same amount of work which in actually makes us less productive.
Working smarter not harder is what we must do. That is the bedrock which enables me to do the things that matter to me. I ruthlessly prioritise the things that I must get done, and cut everything else away. Casting aside things that prevent your progress, steal your time or prevent you from achieving your goals is critical. If you can’t eliminate waste the time you do have will disappear.
My experience of real busyness is simple — you cant do everything
Pick one and you have no diversity.
Pick two and you have no joy.
Pick three and you have no free time.
You can’t pick four.
Life is about sacrificing certain things to focus on what matters. We allow our choices to be affected by instantaneous gratification. Television, smartphones and social networks are indicative of this new world. I need it now and I have no impulse control. If you allow one of those technologies to take over your life you lose the ability to choose things in the above list.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t just work linearly. Technology can be choice one, two and three and for a lot of us, it already occupies two of those spots. Perhaps my most efficient method of eliminating this opportunity was to turn my smartphone into a dumb phone. My iPhone features no Internet, the ability to download apps has been removed. It works as its original purpose intended and nothing else. If I want to consume content on the internet I must make the conscious decision to open a laptop. That might seem like an insignificant, arbitrary hurdle but it insert an additional choice which isn’t simply feeding my thirst for my attention to be captivated.
If we can control human nature by rejecting those temptations we can become inconceivable productive. I don’t watch TV. I have no social networks. I have removed the things I know could detrimentally affect my time. Instead of enabling yourself, disable the possibility that you are seduced.
The last thing you must sacrifice is boredom. So many people today choose to be bored. They allow it to insidiously entwine itself within the fabric of their lives and it destroys almost all the joy in the world. If you are constantly searching for bright lights and explosions the time between those things will become increasingly difficult to endure.
You need to slow the world down and experience it. Let life come to you instead of chasing it. That is simple advice which is frustratingly difficult to cultivate.
And pick up a book. Read every single day. Even with everything I do, reading is the most important task I do. I read for at least 30 minutes every morning. Non-fiction on a subject which broadens my horizon and expands my mind. Everybody can learn something new and grow, and having the mindset that you can is essential in cultivating the condition so you do. I read more in a week than that average person does in 4 years. Everything I have achieved in the last 4 years has been as a direct consequence of knowledge I have acquired in that time. Reading is humanities superpower. The ability to acquire knowledge that has taken a lifetime for other people to realise in the time it takes to read a sentence multiplies what you can achieve exponentially.
But reading is something that you have to commit the time to. That means you have to make a sacrifice to find it. If you do, I promise you will benefit for the rest of your life.