Make priorities, not time

Posted by in Productivity

It’s been a few years since I last wore a wristwatch on a regular basis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me you no longer wear yours, either.

For the most part, people no longer wear watches because of mobile phones; though less accessible, they offer a plethora of features (and distractions) that make watches seem obsolete and boring in comparison.

This was my reason, too, for not wearing a watch at first. But as time progressed, I acquired a new reason: my reliance on time as a yardstick came to be greatly diminished.

Turning point

Before, I used to measure the things I had done, or wanted to do, by how much of my time they would consume. I was always busy, and more so than most people I’ve come to know both past and since.

Around the age of 30, however, something happened. Following an arduous and unrewarding bout of work abroad, my motivation to burn the candle at both ends vanished virtually overnight.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, I went from 12-hour to 8-hour workdays. I had already been researching ways to increase my productivity, and spent the transitional period implementing these.

Although the going was slow at first, I kept making adjustments and improvements, and soon saw benefits to myself, my family and even my employer from not being overworked for the first time in a decade.

‘How important’ beats ‘how fast’

After much improvement, I came to realize this: the world is better viewed from a perspective of priority rather than a perspective of time.

If you approach a list of possible actions without regard for priority, you will cherry pick the quick ones. Everyone likes feeling accomplished, and checking off boxes offers instant satisfaction – not unlike junk food.

And although checking off boxes is important for productivity, checking of the right boxes is what it’s really about.

Rather than be on time for kindergarten, we would stop to look at the pretty flowers. Rather than interrupt a meeting where the mood is electric, I would postpone another. Rather than staying up watching late night shows, I’d go to bed.

And so I try to do just that, to the greatest extent possible, and thrive doing it.

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” ― Bruce Lee