If you think you do, you’re wrong.
Back in college, when I was a Division I athlete and studying Computer Science, time became the most precious thing in the world to me. Not for the need of rest, but for the deep-seated desire to do more of what I like.
Water polo being the world’s most physically demanding sport, the extent of conditioning that was required was painfully dreadful. Every single day during the week I would clock roughly 5–6 hours a day dedicated solely to practice. First thing in the morning, I’d go to weight training immediately followed by an hour of pure conditioning in the pool (swimming close to 3 miles in a given hour). In the afternoon, we’d come back to the pool to have a lengthy training session dedicated entirely to practicing the sport itself.
It’s not to be forgotten that I was a student-athlete and studying computer science was no piece of cake — it was among the most challenging fields of study at my university. Education, after all, came first among my priorities and thus only made sense that I had the need to invest a heavy amount of time into my studies. Each semester, I juggled between 5–6 classes all of which coming with their own sets of challenges, projects, and exams to study for.
It wasn’t unnatural for me to show up on campus at 6:00 AM and not return back home until 9:00 PM.
One might imagine that my life would be consumed by such a large workload. Completely stripped of my free time. Impossible to get 8 hours of sleep without risking my own interests and personal life.
Quite the contrary. Yes, a vast chunk of my time was consumed through my priorities in school and sport, but it by no means grasped a hold over the entirety of my life.
To give up those things that shall make me thrive in the long term is to do myself an injustice! The investment and care of my present and future self will never be ignored so long as I could find tiny nuggets of time in the day. Those nuggets put together amounts to more than one might think!
- I still got 8–9 hours of sleep a night.
- I built a long-term daily reading habit that led me to average reading more than 50 books a year outside of my curriculum.
- I meditated near every single day
- I took additional online courses in topics of personal interest that led me to learn a vast array of things such as game development, machine learning, and business strategy.
- I was still able to squeeze in time for my friends and enjoy the college experience to its fullest — “work hard, play harder” right?
These days, with an 8-hour workday as my only daily requirement, I feel like I have more time than I could ever ask for. And damn does it feel good. Staying fit, prioritizing my relationships, working towards my goals, and exploring the world in my own way has never been easier. As a profound Shakespeare once said:
“Why then the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.”
You have every advantage in the world to achieve what you wish to achieve. You have every opportunity every single day to live life on your own terms. You have more time than you can possibly imagine. Yet, it mystifies me that many people say they lack time. Maybe that’s only because they are blissfully unaware of how they actually use their time.
You never have “too little time” and my example is simply the introduction as to why that is. Your life isn’t too different. Your life isn’t a special case. A day can be a lifetime if you make it so!
Oh, Where’d the Time Go?
It’s important for me to clarify that I’m not as perfect as I made myself out to be. I have hiccups more often than I like. The modern world is filled with distraction and so long as you have a phone with notifications and a favorite tv show calling your name, there is no escaping that reality. For that, I feel empathy for you.
The best you can do is to try and identify where lost time is allocated. More often than not, it creeps into our lives unknowingly through impulsive checking of emails, texts, and social media paired with the default relaxation attraction to the couch and Netflix at the least stimulating parts of the day. Once you identify those distracting moments mindfully, you can then take intentional action to divert the attention to something you deem far more important.
If you think you’re undistracted but still have “too little time” then you’re either perceiving it all wrong or you’re in denial.
On one hand, you have hustle culture telling you that you have to work 16 hours a day to achieve your greatest dreams only taking breaks to eat and sleep. For instance, consider Elon Musk advising people to, “work every waking hour.” If you do a ton but never feel like it’s enough, maybe you need to simply change your focus. Focus on what you’ve gotten done and be proud of that.
On the other hand, statistics say the average American spends a little more than 2 hours a day consuming just social media. Now that’s a ton. Yet, I find myself as part of this statistic ramping up a similar amount of screen time daily — often reaching those numbers and beyond with ghastly surprise. Despite that being so, I still thrive at work, exercise for an hour, track my calories, read, write, meditate, cook every meal, get 8 hours of sleep, enjoy social media and unwind with my girlfriend to either a movie or an episode or two of our favorite tv show nearly every single day without fail.
After all, the Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musks of this world all share the same amount of time in the day as you do. Therefore this raises the question, how can you too capitalize on your time with the same efficiency.?
It Doesn’t Matter How Long You Do Something, So Long as You Do It
The management of time is known to be of vast importance, but for me, it’s not mere management but capitalization of the tiny gaps that I do find. Making a simple barter between what I know is best for me and what relaxes me. In truth, I do not need 4 hours of relaxation and distraction a day, but that being as hard as it is to escape, it’s a mere win to know that I’ve at least achieved something — no matter how tiny that achievement is.
I’m able to do all of these things because I do not allow myself to be tethered to large commitment or broad action. Rather I aim for a more practical and easy approach. Something James Clear preaches to be Atomic Habits.
For instance, what sounds easier to you? Setting a goal to read 4 books a month or merely sitting down to read 5 pages a day? 5 pages is a ridiculously small amount, but you’d look at such a goal and think to yourself that its ridiculously small capacity merits no reason for an excuse as to why you should not do it — it requires hardly any commitment. Whereas a larger and broader goal may allow anxiety to creep in response to not achieving what you set out to achieve. That large goal makes you think in terms of large commitments which in turn makes you cyclically feel like you have hardly any time.
More often than not, when I pursue those smaller goals, I end up doing more than what I promised myself to do. What matters is that I meet that baseline expectation of myself. To meet that baseline goal is to have a “win” to celebrate at the end of the day.
My ability to accomplish a ton, therefore, is not a matter of extensive discipline and focus, but rather of habit.
You don’t need to suffocate yourself with the necessity to accomplish a thousand things in one sitting. Instead, as I follow, set goals so tiny that you wouldn’t think twice about not taking action towards them. Every long term goal can be broken down into singular steps and actions.
That’s why I tell myself that all I’ll do is read 5 pages, meditate for 5 minutes, write for 10 minutes, watch one educational youtube video, and complete one module of an online course a day. Each thing, though small, will compound over time to something large enough that you’ll be able to reap the benefits on at a later time.
Simply see every action and minute you spend doing something you want to do as a singular step towards where you want to be. All it is an investment, slowly accruing value over time.
Remember That Time Can Always Be Made
There’s this one story I heard about this woman. She owns a business, has a family, and operates at a very high level. One would take no second glance at her if she ever stated that she had no time.
But what if she has a flood in her house due to a bursting of a pipe? Would she then have no time to fix it? Of course, she found the hours to fix that pipe. But if she had no time, then where did such time come from? Out of thin air?
That time has always been there. She made time to get her pipes fixed whilst still maintaining her productivity — doing nothing differently. She simply identified those gaps and made it work with the utmost urgency. As if she was racing towards a deadline.
It all comes down to priorities and how you decide to allocate your time. What will your priority be today? This hour? This minute? Find ways to make time appear where it otherwise didn’t seem to be present.
Time is of the essence and is what I see as one of the most valued resources in our life. Time is fleeting and it is finite. What matters is what you decide to do with your time. Always be asking yourself what is the most important thing to you and execute on that even if it means allocating only minutes of your precious time to fulfill a portion of that action.
Want to build an app? Start by writing one line of code a day.
Want to build an online store? Start by piecing together the business, one thing at a time.
Want to build a reading habit? Start by picking up a book and committing yourself to read only one page a day.
Every big goal that was achieved has all started from the tiniest of actions.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step — Lau Tzu, Tau Te Ching