There’s a great article written by Anne-Laure where she dives into the fear of wasting time or running out of it. It's an uncomfortable topic which inevitably leads to acute introspection - am I creating the most value from the time that is given to me? What do I even consider to be time well spent? And, towards the end, would I look back with a sense of fulfilment?
Taking an honest examination of your own actions and habits can be a sobering experience.
How was I spending my time, and more importantly how do I derive the most value from it?
Consumption is the easiest way to whittle away the hours. It rarely requires effort or even thought. Modern humans are terrified of idle moments and insidious behavioural algorithms are fine-tuned to feed on this phobia. The net result is a pandemic social media and streaming addiction.
It’s difficult to escape. The more we indulge the more effective behavioural tracking becomes at serving up content we’re likely to enjoy. Never before in history have there been so many options to entertain ourselves.
Not all consumption is bad, however. We aren’t robots (yet), pleasure and relaxation are critical for our physical and mental health.
Just like switching out shitty food for healthier alternatives, changing up your entertainment choices can have a massive impact. The most effective change I’m making is substituting passive for active relaxation. It’s well known that active relaxation is more beneficial than being fed sedentary entertainment. Learning an instrument, playing team sports or participating in a board game with others are healthier options than resigning yourself to the couch.
One of my favourite quotes is from the American comedian Groucho Marx:
“I find TV quite educational, whenever someone turns it on I go into another room to read a book” - Groucho Marx.
Instead of winding up the day with an hour or more of Netflix, I’ve started reading again. I’m no speed-reader, but even 30 minutes a day quickly churns through the pages.
I’ve found a significant difference between reading and watching television; finishing a book is nourishing. There’s a certain satisfaction and sense of achievement or even sadness when reading the final page, whereas a TV binge often ends with guilt and what I can only describe as mental bloat.
I haven’t given Netflix the flick entirely. There’s some incredible drama and documentaries I look forward to watching.
My job is to create. I'm a digital product designer at Rounded - a company I founded to serve creatives. As challenging as it can be, I’ve always loved the creative process.
I still, however, want to spend more time creating, but thinking creatively and producing outside of work hours can be difficult - we all get tired. This blog is a conscious decision to put something out into the world rather than receive. Initially I’m not concerned about the topics, or even the quality of my writing. Forming the habit is more important.
Funnily enough, consumption still plays a large part in creation, just under the guise of inspiration. I shudder to think of the hours I’ve spent gawking at the photography, design or filmmaking of others. Even in the context of work, excessive inspiration is unproductive at best and destructive at worst.
To build the writing muscle I’ve started what I’m calling a gratitude diary. The idea is to write 100 words or so about the things you’ve done that day and what you’re grateful for. It’s a very small commitment, it won’t produce anything profound, and I’m likely the only one that’ll ever read it. It’s another tool to help shape more positive thoughts and habits over time.
What do you enjoy creating, or what do you want to create? There’s no right or wrong answer here, that’s the beauty of creation. The fruits of your labour don’t even need to be permanent. Whatever it is, adding some creation into your life is extremely rewarding.
I realised very little of my time was given towards things that didn’t have myself or those closest to me as the beneficiary. I don’t believe I’ve added enough value to the community I live in, work in or the communities that orbit around the ideas and things I’m passionate about.
I try to surround myself with the people I admire in some way. I follow them on Twitter, watch documentaries on their lives and read their books, but I’ve never considered why I’ve placed them on a pedestal. Most have achieved amazing feats in the arts, technology, science, or sport, but above all, it’s usually their contributions to outside their field that stand out.
Bill Gates is a shining example. Even though he’s one of the wealthiest people on Earth, his eminence is not a product of his personal fortune. Bill’s relentless dedication to the betterment of humanity is matched by few, from ending Malaria in Africa to solving the global energy crisis. If your only knowledge of Gates is the man behind Microsoft, I highly recommend you watch Inside Bill’s Brain to get to learn what really drives him.
But we’re not all Bill Gates, and contribution can be hard to define. There are many forms which mean different things to different people. And measuring the results is even more subjective, if results are even important at all.
Outside of my business and hobbies like photography, I have a deep interest in environmentally sustainable transport and designing healthier, more liveable cities. I’ve devoted countless hours to educating myself, and yet, I've been unable to contribute in any meaningful way, even on a local level here in Melbourne. These are the communities that are important to me and where I want to actively participate. Finding ways to do that is the next step. I’m not content with being a keyboard warrior. These are issues that require people on the ground, making noise. Even writing this is a little outside my comfort zone, but time spent in comfort is usually time forgotten.
Time moves forward and that can’t be changed, we must accept that. I’m now just trying to make better decisions. There are many things that eat into our day and impact us in ways that we have little control over. It’s also easy to become overwhelmed when trying to grasp time in the context of things that are important to you. For myself, finding a healthy balance between consumption, creation and contribution is the key.