Every moment we spend with someone or on something is part of our life that we’ll never get back. Our time is limited. No amount of power, force, pleading, intellect or effort can bring back even a single moment of our life. Time is like a river, you can never wet your toes twice with the same water. Lost money one can re-earn but lost time is lost forever.
“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” -Bruce Lee
How much time do we really have?
Global average life expectancy at birth is about 71 years. In other words you get about 25915 days, 621,960 hours, 2,239,056,000 or about 2 billion seconds to live. This is average, you may live more or may be unfortunately you may live even less. Of these 2 billion moments we spend about one-third (33%) in sleeping and about 6.25% in eating. That’s 40% non-negotiable, essential investment of time. If we consider 1 hour everyday for bathing, peeing, pooping and getting ready, that makes up about 4% of our life. Since we aren’t 100% efficient that we leave the lunch plate and a second later we start working i.e. context switching is costly. So our total reaches to about 45% of our life spent on eating, sleeping and bathing. That leaves about 55% of our time to us or 39 years. At least the first 10 years are spent in speaking, walking, eating properly, elementary education & so on. And hardly anyone realizes what they want to do in life or develops concrete action plans or goals in order to achieve them. Thus we can subtract at least 10 more years from our total to arrive at final time in our hands: 29 years.
Think about it. That’s 29 years you have. So even if you live for 71 years, you actually have 29 years to do whatever you want to do in life: to fulfill your dreams, to stand up for a cause, to realize your destiny, to reach your goal. Though the question is how much of it we actually utilize for our goals?
Do we even have this much time?
My most favorite essay of all time is “On the Shortness of Life” by Roman stoic philosopher Seneca, written about 2000 years ago and still as relevant. I used to read it every week at least once in the past. Now I read parts of it every day and carry it around with me everywhere. It’s a life changing, soul-shaking piece of marvelous writing that really makes you realize the shortness -or length of- life and how to make the best of it. In the essay Seneca asks a 100 year old man the following:
“I see that you have reached the farthest limit of human life, you are pressing hard upon your hundredth year, or are even beyond it; come now, recall your life and make a reckoning. Consider how much of your time was taken up with a moneylender, with a mistress, with a patron, with a client, how much in wrangling with your wife, how much in punishing your slaves, how much in rushing about the city on social duties. Add the diseases which we have caused by our own acts, add, too, the time that has lain idle and unused; you will see that you have fewer years to your credit than you count. Look back in memory and consider what work you have achieved in so long a life, how many have robbed you of life when you were not aware of what you were losing, how much was taken up in useless sorrow, in foolish joy, in greedy desire, in the allurements of society, how little of yourself was left to you; you will perceive that you are dying before your season!”
None of the things he’s mentioned are from the essential activities I’d counted. And they didn’t even have internet back then! If we consider these, we have even far less time to live, not even 39 years. Life is really, really short.
So is life really *that* short?
Seneca answers that too:
“It is not that we have short time to live but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough and it’s been given to us in generous measure to accomplish the greatest of things if whole of it is well invested. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so life is amply long for him who orders it properly. ” -Seneca
How to live and not merely exist?
Each point here deserves its own post but for now, in brief, here are 10 ways to help you live for most of your life:
1. Before doing any task, ask “Is it worth exchanging my life for?”
Everything we do, we exchange a part of our life that we will never get back. Ask yourself, is it worth it? The mindless gossiping, the useless chit chatting, the passive entertainment, that task you’ve to attend to be formal? If you had only one day/one week/one month to live, would you do it? No? Then don’t.
2. Delay Gratification
The ability to delay gratification is one of the most important predictors for success. So much of our life is spent on just instant gratification of our senses or desires that are harmful to our health, our time and thus our lives. Sometimes the inability to avoid or delay gratification is also responsible for degrading morals, weakening of character, destroyed relationships and wrecked reputation.
Learn to delay gratification by rewarding yourself, keeping in mind your goals, by staying focused in the present moment and on your goal.
3. Stop Passive Entertainment
This is closely related to gratification. One of the most common form of avoiding pain that people indulge in is passive entertainment. There’s a deadline, there’s a higher priority task, nothing in your to-do list has been finished and instead of attending to any of these, you binge watch a bad tv series that you may have already watched, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Twitter feed, idly checking emails or refreshing it. This is passive entertainment.
You don’t mindlessly enter a mall and give away your money to buy things you don’t need, right? So don’t mindlessly squander away your time in things you actually need to avoid.
4. Build Daily Rituals Instead of Habits
We have limited will power and a lot of it is consumed in starting something as we try to get out of our comfort zone. The key is to build systems or rituals, doing similar things same time everyday without distractions or any noise. Overtime it takes no or very less will power to get started and get things done.
5. Manage Your Thoughts
“You are today where your thoughts have brought you, you will be tomorrow where your thoughts will take you. -James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
Focus on thought management instead of time management. Because your actions originate in your head. You are nothing but what you think. If you can steer your thinking towards the things you need to accomplish, towards utilizing your time well and not merely planning; you can accomplish anything with un-parallel focus. I firmly believe that a better life begins with better thoughts. We can change our lives by changing what and how we think.
6. Find Time for Health
“Those who don’t find time for health will sooner or later have to find time for illness”
While we are striving to make the most of our time and our life, it also makes sense to prolong it and preserve it. Else we spend our lives indulged in habits we know are harmful such as smoking, drinking, not exercising, sleeping too much or too less, overeating or eating unhealthy food and then in old age with weak bodies we fight the diseases caused by our own actions. Healthy eating, sleeping, working out and meditation should be a part of your daily life style. Consider this time as an investment – a retirement plan – which would increase the time you have on earth and keep you healthy in old age.
“There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.” ― Peter F. Drucker
So much of our time is spent in doing things that we must avoid. For deciding life priorities, Warren Buffet suggests to write 20 things you really want to do in your life, from most important to least important then draw a line after the first five goals and never even touch the next 15.
For everyday activities, maintain a not-to-do list. List out all the things you do not want to do, so you can focus on things you want to do. Life is too short to do unimportant things.
8. Learn to Say “No”
Every time you say “yes” to someone or to things you do not really want to do, you say “no” to things really-really want in your life. How many people take away our life because we are too nice to say no. Because we think we may be hurting them. How many social outings you went to where you enjoy neither the conversation nor the company? It’s great to be selfless and help people, but not at the cost of your own happiness.
9. Instead of Past, Focus on the Present-
Regretting wasted time is even more wasted time!
A lot of our time is spent on thinking about past, regretting, reminiscing it, ruminating on it. May be your past was really great or it was really bad. May be you made some decisions you shouldn’t have had or mistakes you could have avoided. That’s all okay. It’s a part of being human. We’re work in progress and we continue to improve. That’s really the key. Learn from the past, live in the present while regularly checking your course towards your destined future.
10. Keep a Track of Your Time
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us” -J.R.R. tokien
Lastly, keep a track of your time: Which activities take up most of your daily time? Can you reinvest your time in something more important?
To keep track of my time I use the app aTimeLogger where you can create activities and measure the time spent. To keep a track of daily habits, I use the app Loop -Habit Tracker. Here are screenshots of my usage:
Bonus: Visualize Your Life with a Life Calendar
On the blog Wait But Why, the author Tim Urban compiled a whole human lifespan in one page, each box represents a week, each row a year. Being able to look at whole life at one glance can have a profound impact. You begin to look at life with a different perspective: Your life in weeks.
We have one life and many goals, time is fleeting, distractions are too many; so learn to make the most of your life.
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Till the next time, keep smiling, keep manifesting the best of humanity, keep spreading positivity. Keep Trailing on Your Untrailed Path. Take care.