For the final topic this week, I want to discuss the protection of our most valuable resource. There are few things in this world that are truly finite, with time being the most significant among them.
Earlier this week, we explored the power of the small no, and then we discussed the importance of focusing on your path, and now, I want to delve into some thoughts about why the ability to say no might just be the most powerful tool you develop in your life.
When I was just starting out in my author career, I was writing books and publishing them, and I was constantly on the lookout for opportunities to advance my career. I was firmly in the mindset that each new opportunity that came along was a chance to advance myself, and so I said YES to everything that I could. In some ways, that’s the correct mindset to have. You want to seize the opportunities you’re given to create leverage for yourself to further whatever it is you’re doing. But the further along in my career I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized how important it is to judiciously choose the things that I do.
Fast forward five years and I’m busier than ever and I have multiple projects going on at once. I write, I have a game company, I have a YouTube channel, I co-host a podcast. I’m juggling all sorts of different projects and in one sense, I’m way busier than I was when I started. But this is where perspective matters, because for every opportunity that I’ve said yes to in the last year, I’ve had to say no to 10 others.
When I first started out in my career, I didn’t get a lot of opportunities and so I said yes to literally everything and I often found myself feeling overstretched. Though I’m objectively doing more now than I did then, because I’ve cultivated the habit of saying no, I don’t feel overstretched. I’m busy, certainly, but if I had maintained that tendency to say yes to each opportunity that came my way, you wouldn’t be watching a video right now because I just wouldn’t have had time to start my YouTube channel.
The key in all of this is time.
You have 24 hours in a day. If you spend 8 hours of that sleeping, that leaves you with 16. And then if you spend, let’s say, 4 to 6 hours on life stuff, that leaves you with 10 or 12 left. And if you were to work as hard as you possibly could for those 10 to 12 hours, you would get a lot done. But the reality is that no matter how efficient you are, you can’t cram 16 hours of stuff into a 10-hour window. It’s just not possible.
So I want to talk about two ways of thinking about time that I think will be a big help to you. They certainly have been to me. Time should be divided into two different categories.
Microtime is what you use when you are doing any sort of detailed time management. This is when you think of your time in units, whether that be minutes or hours or even days. Microtime is the focus on granular time management practices like lists, time blocking, all of that sort of stuff. And microtime is where most of us spend the majority of our time. And there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, microtime is a really important skill to develop because if you can master it, you can be incredibly productive. You can use all of that time that you have in the most efficient way.
However, there’s another way of thinking about time that is equally important and is often overlooked. Macrotime. Where microtime is about thinking in units, macrotime is about thinking in spans. What is a span? It’s many small units all put together. So a span could be a month, but it’s more likely to be three months, six months, a year, five years. Macrotime is incredibly important because it is impossible, no matter how disciplined you are, to perfectly use every unit of your time. If all you focus on is microtime, you’re going to find that you lose time as your life progresses. You’re going to be so in the weeds that one day you look up and you realize that you’re not even on the path anymore.
In a lot of ways, life is like cutting through thick grass. I grew up in West Africa and there they have something called elephant grass, a thick grass that can grow to over ten feet tall. When you’re in the middle of it, you can’t see more than a couple inches in front of you. Imagine you’re in a field of tall elephant grass and you’ve got your machete and you’re cutting your way through. Every moment you have to decide which stalks of grass to cut. This is a lot like microtime. You’re deciding which tasks to do, and the tasks you do, or the grass you cut, determines what direction the path proceeds. Macrotime, on the other hand, allows you to have a bird’s eye view of that same field that you’re cutting in. You can tell when the tasks you’re doing start leading you in a different direction.
Just as microtime is incredibly important for organizing your day, macrotime is important for organizing the direction of your life. Being able to think in terms of three months, six months, a year, five years, is going to help you stay on the path that you want to be on. When you wake up five years from now, the question is, are you going to be where you want to be? We don’t have the ability to see through time in order to know where we’ll end up, and all sorts of things could happen between now and then, but if we want to give ourselves the best chance of getting to our desired destination, then it’s imperative that we spend our time on the right tasks.
Maybe take a few minutes today and sit somewhere comfortable. Get out a piece of paper and start thinking about your time in terms of spans. Three months, six months, a year, five years. Where do you want to be? Then work backwards. Figure out what sort of actions you’re going to need to take today in order to arrive at that destination.
YouTube Video Link: https://youtu.be/urETAOrFtBo
Thanks for reading and watching.
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