Are you wasting your time?

Steve Jobs once noted, “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” The older I get, the more wisdom I see in this statement, and the more it reminds me to fill my hours and my days with things that matter to me.

As a coach, I constantly experiment with time saving habits and techniques for my own business and life and in order to be a better resource for my clients. In doing so, I’ve discovered that one habit vastly improves the quality of my time: self-care.

Before you write this off as another article extolling the virtues of getting a massage, or a manicure or sneaking out early on a Friday for a round of golf, please know that is not the kind of self-care I am talking about.

Self-care isn’t an event. It is a lifestyle. 

To maximize your time, both in what you accomplish and the happiness you feel, your psychology, biology and environment must align. Addressing self-care as a series of one-off events is like trying to lower your utility bill with a new furnace but leaving your windows open; efficiency in one area, cancelled by negligence in another.

Thriving requires energy, purpose and attention, and exactly what it takes to thrive is different for everyone. The best quality of time – and life – is achieved by making yourself a priority and building habits that automatically power your life. 

In general, a self-care lifestyle is built on managing several types of energy: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, mental, physical and financial. Massages, pedicures and rounds of golf have their place, but play only a small part in a life made powerful by good overall habits.

At first glance, managing all those kinds of energy may feel overwhelming, and not doable, especially if you are feeling exhausted or unsettled by your current situation. However, the point of creating a lifestyle designed around managing your vitality is that once you develop the habits, you don’t even have to think about them. The routine you develop creates positive momentum in your life. And it feels like magic when it does. The trick is in doing the work to figure out the best plan for you.

As with any challenge, the way to start is to break it down into manageable chunks. For a plan that maximizes your energy, and therefore your time, start by identifying where your resources are leaking the most. Take some quiet, uninterrupted time to write down your answers to the following questions: 

  1. What is my major complaint at the moment?
  2. Why am I feeling this way? (Make a list of the components that contribute to the major complaint).
  3. Which one of these, if addressed, would most positively impact my life?
  4. What are possible solutions? (Make a list of 20 to 25 ideas, even if they seem crazy or unfeasible.)
  5. What are some resources to explore?

It is important not to judge any of the feelings or ideas that come up. The point isn’t to do anything just yet. It is to get you thinking about exactly where you are and how you could address your major complaint in an effective way.

Here is what the process looked like for me, in the beginning:

  1. What’s my major complaint? Exhaustion.
  2. Why am I feeling that way? Job stress, too many commitments, out of shape physically, poor eating habits.
  3. Which one would have the biggest impact? Job stress
  4. What are some possible solutions? Addressing my mindset. (For brevity’s sake, I won’t include the whole list!)
  5. What are some resources to explore? Meditation. A class? An app? A retreat?

I signed up for a class in Transcendental Meditation, which gave me the mental and emotional stamina to handle job stress more effectively, trim my commitments, and rework my exercise and eating habits. Fixing a major energy leak in order to relieve job stress ended up giving me energy to address other areas in my life, too. That one decision gave me back a huge amount of quality time, that I have used in all kinds of satisfying ways, from spending more time with family and friends, to taking classes to further my business skills. 

Time is the most precious resource we have. How will you use yours?