24/7

Every second of every day of every week of your life, you make a decision on how to spend your time. You choose to do one thing, and as a consequence you choose not to do approximately a bajillion other things that you could have done with that time.

The point is, you don’t need “more time.” You have exactly as much as everyone else, and exactly as much as you’ll ever get. You don’t need more time; you need fewer things. Or, more likely, different things.

That’s a mindset shift – people want “more time” because they don’t want to stop doing anything, but they want to do more stuff, and they’re upset that they can’t. Me too!

Some people look at time like they look at houses. You may have a small house, but when you fill it with too much stuff and people to fit comfortably, you put in the effort and get a bigger house to expand into. They think time works that way – if I just put in the effort, I can expand my available time. I just have to work harder or find a different organizational system or become a less distractible person.

No. You need to stop doing stuff. And people want to believe that there’s this hidden reserve of 20 hours a week of useless, hated activity that they can uncover and eliminate, and then suddenly they’ll have time to do all the things they want to. But that’s not the case – pretty much everything you’re doing right now is stuff you want to do.

It may not be stuff you should do, if the opinions of “future you” are taken into account. But “present you” wants to sit on the couch and watch TV for an hour a night, because “present you” is tired from a long day. And “present you” wants to commute 45 minutes each way from work (even though “present you” denies this) because “present you” enjoys the benefits of that job and equivalent benefits aren’t immediately available anywhere else.

The point here is that if you want to do something you’re not currently doing, you’re probably going to have to stop doing something else that you also want to do. Sure, your schedule probably isn’t Pareto optimal now, but it also probably isn’t hiding a hidden reserve of 20 hours that you can get as a free lunch because it turns out you’ve been accidentally standing in line for 3 hours a day to get into your own house or something.

Take a step back and reframe. Yes, you want to take that painting class. But you also enjoy the phone chats with your sister. If you weren’t already doing either of those things, and you had a two-hour hole in your schedule to fill, which would you choose? Remove the status quo bias, pick the thing you’d rather do, and accept that you simply cannot do everything.

Of all the things you can waste time on, the very worst is worrying about wasted time.

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