Investing your Time
Friday, 09:45. It's my day off. As I wake up, a million thoughts come to my mind:
Oh! A new open source project that I would like to contribute to... What about the new framework that I wanted to try? I could also work on that idea for a new project I had one month ago. But the day is so beautiful, maybe I could get my bike and ride in the park to exercise a little. Actually, it would be really nice to have a new article at dev-human, maybe I could bring my laptop and do something in the park. I need a big cup of coffee first.
Friday, 15:00. I'm reading feeds from social networks, checking emails and trying to come up with an idea for writing, but all I can think about is what I'll have for dinner. Before going to Pinterest and flushing all the time I still have, I realize that except from the big cup of coffee, I didn't do anything that I thought about doing when I woke up. There is plenty of things to do and I am procrastinating.
Time is a very precious resource - very ephemeral and limited, and yet sometimes we struggle to direct it into something useful.
Procrastination is deeply related with the incorrect assumption that your future you will have the same mindset you have now, or that you will be in a better situation to do whatever you are postponing now. You think you'll have more time and you will then be able to dedicate yourself to that project, or that you'll have more energy to go to the gym - cause today you deserve to relax, don't you?
It's easy to project delusional situations for your future you. You submit a talk to a conference that will be held 6 months from now; you feel confident enough to propose a talk on a hard subject that you don't know much about it yet. But you have plenty of time!
Except that you don't. Time will be the same. You'll keep pushing it to the last moment. One month before the conference, you'll probably be freaking out.
Choosing is Hard
My head is full of ideas, but I am not able to turn all of them into concrete things. Choosing is always hard - and while you can't decide, while this internal dialogue runs in your mind trying to figure out what would be the best thing to do right now, you just end up doing nothing, cause... choosing is hard.
So, I believe procrastination also comes from uncertainty and lack of purpose. If you don't have clear ideas, clear objectives, you won't go far. I know this from a fact; having worked with independent projects for a while, I realize that I could have accomplished way more, in financial terms, if I had more focus.
The thing is that today, with the enormous amount of data we have access to, focus is even more precious than time. It's a luxury item, more precisely. Because focus requires conscious choices.
From my experience working independently and also as an employee, I believe that defining goals and having some deadlines can help a lot - not only for work projects, but also for anything you want to accomplish in your life. It will transform an abstract idea into a concrete plan, a clear objective.
Write down the things you would like to accomplish. Define small scopes and dates to accomplish them. Try to keep track of your progress.
The tracking part is the secret behind many weight-loss programs and health devices. Metrics can show us a clear picture of what is being measured - with FitBit, for instance, I finally accepted that I tend to be a very lazy person. A time-tracking application showed that I was spending too much time in irrelevant things. It doesn't mean that I completely changed my behavior after looking at this data, but at least I see what I am doing and I can make conscious choices based on it.
It's all about priorities
At the end of the day, life is all about priorities. Everyone has a different set of priorities, and they can fluctuate depending on other factors - when we feel sick, for instance, we tend to concentrate much more in our health, even making plans that reflect this sudden concern. Sometimes, a new opportunity comes up and you have to focus, while putting aside other things.
Just be conscious on what you are choosing as priority, considering not only the present moment, but how this will influence your life as a whole. Is this something that matters? Will this make even a very small improvement in my life or in the lives of others? If your answer is YES, than it probably worth a try.
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