‘In the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you.’
— A Hindu Saying that Steve Jobs liked
Everything that we are doing at the moment right now or will do in the near future is for some or the other outcome. Without any having a prescience of the outcome, humans do not tend to engage in action and that is just human nature. Our present actions are a service to our future self.
But not every day happens to be as interesting as the day before and definetly not as productive. Sometimes to save ourselves from the inevitable burnout, our minds tend to distract us from our tasks and that is again alright… well, sometimes. It only becomes more dismaying when we postpone plans for the future and promise ourselves to catch up on it. This could be something like starting a creative endeavour such a YouTube channel, blog, podcasts, playing an instrument etc or maybe finalising details for an exciting project. We come up with excuses even to delay fun activities we are passionate about just by saying, “I don’t have time, at the moment!”.
Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard for most to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.
-The 4 Hour Work Week (Tim Ferris)
I observed that the whole “Not Enough Time” is just a story we like to narrate ourselves to prevent a burnout and go on to perform the mundane tasks that actually burn us out faster. Here’s where I derived this observation from:
Parkinson’s Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion
Explicit as it is, it explains how by giving ourselves more time to do a task only helps us delay the work. Imagine blocking your calendar for an hour in the morning (7 AM — 8 AM) for History revision. Though the revision task took you just 45minutes yesterday (7 AM — 7:45 AM), you decide to devote it an hour today just to reconsider for any other urgencies(This is actually known as the Time-Block Fallacy which I will talk about in a later post). Knowing that you have extra 15 minutes only helps your mind conjure excuses to either start late or procrastinate during the revision, as you believe you have extra time to exact it and still not disturb the other tasks on your calendar. In a nutshell, the work has expanded to fill the time available for its completion. Relatable, right?
These few minutes of delay and procrastination is what profligates your time throughout the day and leaves you with less time for things you love thus postponing them indefinitely. I don’t think anyone better than Tim Ferris, again, can explain the whole point of starting your favourite endeavour right now and not “someday”, in better words:
The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up all the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.
So next time, you find yourself saying “Got No Time” for things you love, just ask yourself if it was the narrative that has driven you to this point and how you would like to change it. Something that helps me is asking myself the question: “What have I planned to start 6 months from now? Why can’t I start today?”
Some more references to articles related to focus and preventing distractions: