Many of you might not know, but I’m a bookkeeper full-time; yup, I blog on the side and have a photography side biz as well…. Not very minimal, you might say, but it is, actually. If minimalism is getting rid of life’s excess to pursue what’s important, then I’m doing just that, because I realized I didn’t have time, I made time.
These past 7 years I have been exposed to what the accounting industry would call billable time. You might have had to track your time at one point or another for a project, a task, or if you were just facing a crazy deadline and you needed to get something done by a certain date/time.
I welcome you to my world. I track my time 8 hours a day, about 40 hours a week, 1,920 hours a year not including holidays or vacation time. That’s a lot of hours to keep track of, sometimes stressful to be honest (hello, tax season – starting in 33 days! Sorry, I don’t want to forget that we’re still counting down to Christmas).
“If minimalism is getting rid of life’s excess to pursue what’s important, then I’m doing just that, because I realized I didn’t have time, I made time.”
But as we’re approaching a new year, I was pondering about the benefits of keeping time for those 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. It’s actually helped me with my personal development, productivity, time management, focus, and passions. In these past 14,560 hours, I’ve learned a few things that I wanted to share with y’all today, but will list 7 for the sake of time:
- Identifying time wasters. This is something we do at work from time to time, but I figured I could also do this outside of the office. I feel like I’ve become more sensitive in determining what I’m spending (or wasting) my time on and it’s easier to get back on track when I know what’s in my way. Knowing is half the battle after all, isn’t it?
- Time is not waiting on us. When you’re used to looking at the clock every few minutes, you get a sense that time is valuable, because you’re running out of it. We just don’t know when ours will run out, and at this very moment, while you’re reading or scanning through this post, time is slipping away, whether you like it or not. So I’ve decided to plan my time instead of letting it slip away without a purpose. I take advantage of time slots throughout the day to study, read a book, write a blog post, talk on the phone, listen to a podcast, go to the gym and do things in small chunks. Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day and let me tell you, those stones were in place eventually, so capitalize on the same amount of time we are all granted (24 hours a day, 168 hours a week…) and do what matters to you (more on this for the New Year post, stay tuned!).
- There’s a difference in being busy and being productive. Productive people generate results that will have an effect on their lives and/or the lives of others. Busy people have many things to do but nothing gets done, or worse, the one thing they have on their plate might not get done because of distractions (more on item #5). At the office, the numbers show who was productive and who wasn’t, and you can tell this in your personal life, too. Busyness won’t get you anywhere, productivity will. So work smarter, not harder.
- Focus. What a rare word these days. This generation values multitasking and open spaces, which to me translates into fragmented attention and loss of value. Here’s the thing: when you can’t focus, you can’t produce; if you can’t produce, you’re wasting time, ultimately, your employer’s money that is going to you to waste time and not produce; hence, no results, no growth, no value. This most certainly includes your personal projects and your passions and dreams as well, and you know this because you might not have gotten anything meaningful accomplished that you’ve been talking about for a long time. Try de-cluttering other people’s MITs so you can focus on yours.
- The power of distractions. Two words for you: blue screen. As the age of technology advances, so does our lack of self-control. We’re too easily lured by our electronics and it’s just so hard breaking that vicious cycle after a while, as your brain is totally addicted to that seeking behavior dopamine creates (waiting on any texts or push notifications, anyone?). I’ve recently gotten the Forest app on my phone and now I plant trees instead of getting sucked into the vortex of social media or what have you.
- Increased Time Management. After reading all 5 items above and doing something about it, you should begin to see your time being managed better. You’ll be able to prioritize things that matter, while minimizing or ignoring the ones that don’t. You’ll give yourself margin so you won’t be late to events. You’ll actually be able to track some of your duties, so you know exactly how long you need to get ready before going to work or doing whatever else you do on a daily basis. Your to-do lists will finally be crossed off, because you won’t have as much on them; you’ll finally get to finish your New Year’s Resolutions . . . Life will be simplified. Visualize it, it’s quite freeing.
- Time is not just money, time is also life. Ever heard of Carpe Diem? Or the more daring version of that, YOLO? Well, there’s definitely truth in it. We only live once, but it obviously does not mean we have to live irresponsibly or in a wasteful manner. We can work hard to accumulate wealth all our life (which is not the case for most, as 8 in 10 Americans are in debt), but we also might miss our life while chasing temporary pursuits we believe will give us this happiness we so desperately seek after (see also Lots of Time Wasted in a Line on Black Friday, 2016). Sometimes I just know when to drop something that I might lose money on, but will give me more time to just enjoy life, family, friends, pets, solitude, etc…. There’s beauty in balance and this is more of a request for us to be more mindful since we’re not promised tomorrow. As Bruce Lee put it, “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”
If you’re in for a end-of-the-year mini challenge, try to track your activities for this week, come back to this post and let me know which of the 7 items rang true the most, I’d love to see what you’ve learned about your time tracking as well!