The Bizarre Paradox of Time: When You Have Less Time, You Do More

Tim Denning

With more time, you do less.

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Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Speeding up and slowing down time isn’t solely the story of the Matrix Movie.

I am fascinated with time. It’s the one thing we give away and often forget is more valuable than money, Bitcoin, a useless car, or a huge house.

Having more time is a blessing. But it can also be a huge burden, as I learned the hard way while sitting at home unemployed after being fired by an Oompa Loompa and thrown to the sidewalk like a piece of trash. I found myself waking up late, angry, ineffective, and not wanting to do the difficult work of getting another job or writing inspirational blog posts when I felt like dirt and wanted to throw bricks at Lambos.

Entrepreneur Yannick Veys says “With less time, you do more. With more time, you do less.” I found myself nodding profusely in agreement.

Wasting time is your default programming.

Juggling a Job with a Side Gig

When you don’t have a job you can think life is going to be nothing more than a productivity fairytale.

You’ll wake up at 5 am. Clean your shoes. Go for a run. Take the dog for a walk afterwards. Spend time with your family. Smile as your partner leaves for work. Grin at your neighbor because life is so free and wonderful. Then you’ll sit down and do deep work. You’ll build that business you’ve always dreamt of. You’ll have coffee meetings with people you actually want to be in meetings with, rather than the painful corporate slave masters who love the sound of their own voice and the font of their Powerpoint decks. Then you’ll finish work early to have dinner and watch a movie. Life will be amazing.

That’s not how it was for me. To make things worse, I had savings and investments to put food in my mouth. This meant I had zero urgency or motivation to fix my career situation, or dare I say it, fix myself.

When I got a job again, I found my productivity actually increased. I had to earn every one of my side hustle hours. I had to be smart with time to ensure I could be in the office before 9 am. I had to cut meetings short and not take calls from telemarketers because time was scarce.

A scarce resource has enormous value.
Scarce time feels more valuable than ‘unlimited time.’

Scarce Time Destroys Procrastination

You can’t procrastinate as much when you’ve got scheduled events on either side of your side passion. Urgency speeds up your brain. Urgency says “This first, low-quality version of work is good enough. I can always refine this work later and shape it into the statue of David.”

What motivates you isn’t the thing you’re passionate about and want to work on. What motivates you is the regret that you put time aside to do a task you love and didn’t do it.

The regret of doing nothing is deeply painful. We humans do anything we can to avoid pain and gain pleasure. So, you work your butt off to use the time you have and avoid the feeling of regret. Once you learn what motivates you, the insights can be applied to the way you use your time.

Willpower dies quickly. Regret motivation helps you get started and unlock a flow state, so you can produce work faster.

How *Not* to Waste Your Precious Time

I am heading into a phase of life where I will have more time because I’m nuking the parts of my life that destroy my natural energy. Avoiding the paradox of “With more time, you do less” is going to be key to not lighting my creative dreams on fire and then pissing all over them. Here are a few techniques you can steal.

Set a deadline.

You can add fake deadlines. You can use timers to create urgency that defeats the desire to endlessly watch Youtube or scroll Twitter. Deadlines set by loved ones are the best. When my fiancé sets a deadline, I can’t bring myself to break it. Being on time for love is stronger than procrastination. Who knew!

Set up your ideal day in advance.

Having more time scares me. I am scared I will waste it like I did last time. That’s why my friend Michael Lane taught me to set up an ideal day. I’ve been writing down all the things I want to do with the extra time.

One task that has disappeared from my life is public speaking. The petrified feeling I get before giving a speech I’ve attempted to memorize, has disappeared. I’ve allowed the word “busy” to become an excuse for facing my continued fear of public speaking.

I’ve listed down other activities I am going to add back to my schedule so that my time is utilized towards things that make me fulfilled, not things that help me cover up my sense of insecurity or uneasiness.

Your ideal day is your back-of-the-envelope life plan.

Track where you invest your time.

Zule Rane tracks her time. This is brilliant. You’d be surprised where you spend your time. And if you don’t track your time, you’ll conveniently lie to yourself about how you spent it.

The biggest liar in your life is yourself.

Treat free time like your work calendar.

Even if you decide to work for yourself and quit a 9-5 job, you can still pretend you’re at work with a pain in the ass boss.

I plan on setting up my day like my current 9-5 calendar. There will be the normal workday. There will be lots of meetings, except the meetings will be with people I choose to work with, not people who accidentally work for the same logo as me through coincidence. There will be real-world coffee catch-ups with friends and former colleagues. There will be periods I sit down and do scheduled work. And there will be times that are off-limits, like after dinner, where no work is to be done.

Your calendar can be a reminder of what you’ve committed to with yourself. Add other people to your calendar invites to keep you accountable, even if they won’t be joining you for the scheduled block of time.

Treat your life like a 9-5 job. Even if you don’t have one anymore.

Final Thought

More time to do what you want can be a blessing. More time can also prevent you from doing more of what you love. I am about to experiment with the idea. I’ll report back with my findings.

The productivity paradox of having more time can work for you or against you. You can set up your productivity goals, so you win by expecting the challenges in advance, and deciding how you’ll spend your time and what brings you fulfillment.

The time it takes to do anything worthwhile will fill the space you give it.

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Aussie Blogger with 100M+ views — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship www.timdenning.com

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