Having enough time


I am a big fan of Marcus Aurelius and the Stoics but to be honest I find sitting down and reading their works quite a heavy task. To help get over this, I found a Google Chrome add-on called "Just Stoic" which shows a new quote every day. I love this widget because it gives me bite-size chunks of wisdom from Marcus, Seneca, and Epictecus while I am working, and I do not get overwhelmed by everything they have to say (their works are a bit heavy). Six months ago, this quote popped up and it resonated with me.

"It is not that we have little time but more that we waste a good deal of it” Seneca

Around the same time, I finished listening to Arnie's autobiography (if you have not heard/ read it, I strongly suggest you do it is a game-changing book in my opinion). Arnie talks about having enough time and questions if we really are "too busy". He expands on that question with examples of all the stuff he managed to get done in a day (workout, run a few different businesses, study a range of disciplines, meditate, etc). Without a doubt, he is one of my heroes who inspires me to action.

I pondered both of these nuggets of truth over a week of commutes to and from the daily grind. I like to use my commute time to listen to podcasts, audiobooks or nothing at all and just think. Even though I make use of what to most people is “dead time” I still felt like "I haven't got enough time" "work takes up all my day". Paradoxically, when I did get free time, I found myself sat on my arse doing nothing. Or worse than nothing, zoning out on Facebook, Netflix, Xbox, etc. 

Upon reflection, I realised I did have enough time but I was wasting it with needless distraction.

I concluded that the way I was using my commute time was good, but I could use my time a lot more effectively. I needed to change and evolve. The question now was “how to change?” and “what to do?”

“What” to do?

I had a list of goals and things to learn as long as my arm, my aspirations and vision of what I wanted to do were clear. I was pretty good where “what” was concerned (for more on goals please see my article “habit + goals = super charged success”).

“How” I changed

I have heard from various sources over the years (books, podcasts, interviews, etc) that highly successful people get up early and adhere to some sort of daily ritual (exercise, affirmations, meditation, etc). I have never been great at getting up early in the morning, I used to prefer staying up really late often past midnight. I realised that my problem was that I needed to go to bed earlier if I was to get up earlier. This was my first step, getting to bed by 9.30pm (which often ends up being 10pm).

Cool, I had my first “how” I just needed to choose a “what”. One of my goals was to improve my Yoga practice and do more mobility work another was to learn something new that contributes to becoming an entrepreneur. I settled on a new conditional habit before I can leave the house in the morning I must have done at least 10 minutes yoga and read something for me (for more on habits see my earlier article "ritual de lo habitual").

How else could I change? What other time opportunities were out there? Simple, Netflix, Xbox and Facebook all had to be replaced with value-added time. I am not super strict with this if I feel I want a break and to zone out I do. My reasoning is that having downtime is important for my mind to get a break, to switch off and take a back seat for a while. The difference now was that I started challenging myself each time I thought I "needed" to zone out. I replaced the negative zone out activities with positive activities.

For example, instead, I play with my son, read a book, train the dogs, study a BJJ technique or concept, do some housework, talk to my wife about our business dreams, lie on my yoga mat and meditate, go to the beach and swim in the sea, etc.

Replacing the negative zone out activities has had an interesting spin-off effect on me. I decided to remove the X-Box from our TV stand and put it into storage (my wife asked if I was feeling ok). Perhaps I am finally growing up and maturing (not likely) although I feel like it is more than that. I realized that that particular zone out activity along with alcohol and Netflix was a negative distraction my mind used to avoid fear or stress. Every time I think about alcohol, gaming, Netflix, etc I ask myself the question “what am I afraid to look at?” usually my subconscious pings back “going back to work” or some other fear leading to stress.

The last “how”, was at work. This is a fine line to walk, I am at work to work and do the job I am paid to do. The "but" in this is my lunch hour. In the past, I would often eat at my desk, skip lunch and work through to stay ahead of the game. This negative habit did nothing for my stress levels. I changed this bad habit a few years ago, it sometimes tries to creep back but on the whole, I don’t do it. Instead, I use my lunch hour to go to the gym or meditate. I can always eat at my desk while I am working later on. My employer supports physical and mental health which is great, as long as the work is getting done, there isn’t a problem.

The cool thing I have found about habits is that once you have established a consistent pattern of behavior, your mind will not let you break it (it becomes “ritualised” see my earlier article “ritual de lo habitual”). I mentioned earlier about the early morning yoga habit I introduced. I cannot ignore it, even though a part of me is saying "you are late, get going" another stronger part says "this is important, just do ten minutes, ten minutes is nothing" It is automatic, I pick up the mat, roll it out on the floor, set my timer and do my daily yoga sequence. This makes me feel so much better, especially if the day before I was sitting for long periods or had a hard training session on the mats.

The method:

Here is the method I applied in three simple steps:

  1. Ask yourself: What do you do all day? Where do you waste your time? (be honest) 
  2. Now you have found time, ask yourself: how do you want to use it? 
  3. Create new habits to achieve what you want to do
    1. Make your habits conditional to hold yourself accountable
    2. Monitor your zone-out time, replace negative zone out activities with positive activities

Wrapping up

Finding time for me each day has really helped me recover from burning out at work over 2018 and 2019. The feeling of achievement I get from these daily habits is a great start to my day. For me it goes beyond achieving goals, the way it rewires my internal dialog from negative to positive has been so uplifting.  I think of this as reframing my perspective.

Reframing is aligned with and best summed up by one of my favourite quotes (thank you Nic Gregoriades for introducing me to it - see endnote):


“When you change the way you look at things, 
the things you look at change” Wayne Dyer




Now, my mindset each morning is, “I have to go and do this to provide for my family, whatever happens there, I have worked towards my yoga and learning goals”. Instead of stressing and running around thinking “I fucking hate my job, I am so tired, I don’t want to do this, I hate driving, I am so late, visualizing my inbox, etc”.

When I get home in the evening, I might have had a tough day but I still see that tick next to “yoga” on my daily to-do list. It makes me think “ok I'm not ‘there’ yet but I did stuff for me today and I enjoyed the process”.

Instead of ranting at my lovely, patient wife about how much I hate what I do, how tired I am, opening a bottle of wine to “de-stress”, talking about boring as fuck work problems that don’t matter, etc. I spend time with my family, hear about my wife and son’s day, talk about her start-up, talk about different business ideas, go for family walks by the sea, learn something new, work in the garden.  



I spend my time living.

I love that I found this, I hope that you try this and it works for you.  Let me know in the comments what you think, if it helped and if you have any questions. 


Endnote

I have written about my influences before on this blog but you may not read every article. Therefore, it is important to me that I acknowledge them when I write an article that is influenced by them. I first heard the Wayne Dyer quote on Nicolas Gregoriades Liberation mentor podcast. It really resonated with me and slotted another piece of my evolutionary puzzle into place.

If you like my articles I suggest that you check out Nic's website and his podcast, you will not be disappointed. His podcast was (and still is) a guiding light for me during my darkest times, he gives so much valuable knowledge away for free. I have never met Nic but hopefully will one day. Thank you once again.

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