Our time on this planet is limited. Most of us realize that sooner or later. And yet, we keep on squandering our time and running around in circles.
Why is it that we waste so much of our time? Most people think that we, humans, don’t understand the value of time.
I don’t think that’s the problem. You and I both know the value of time. It’s a depletable resource. By that definition, the value of time is high.
So if the problem is not our appreciation of time, what’s the cause of a waste of time and potential?
The answer is obvious: We simply don’t know what to do with our time. The stoic philosopher Seneca famously said in On The Shortness Of Life:
Improving productivity has been a pursuit of the modern human being from the start of civilization.
Somehow, we believe that productivity is something that became important after the industrial revolution. We assume that, because we live busy lives, we need to optimize our time—especially in the 21st century.
That’s not true. Productivity has been a topic of discussion ever since ancient eastern and western philosophy started. It’s a universal theme. I believe it’s in our nature to make better use of our time.
Because that’s what productivity means. On a deeper level, we all realize we have limited time. You and I both know that we’re not getting younger.
Time is ticking. It stops for no one. We need to use it. Etcetera, etcetera—we get the idea. And yet, without a clear productivity strategy, we squander our time like we have a limitless supply.
The reason I study productivity is because I’m an unproductive person. I truly am.
I sleep too much. I talk too much. I read too much. I listen to music all day. I watch movies. I buy gadgets that turn me into a zombie.
If it wasn’t for my productivity system, I wouldn’t get anything done. I wouldn’t even write this article. But if you browse social media, all you see is super productive, healthy, and wealthy people. Is that really the case?
I don’t know. I just know this: You can’t be productive 24/7. And a big part of being productive is about getting rid of unproductive habits we all have.
What follows is a list of eleven unproductive habits that I learned to do less, or eliminate. Do you have a few of these habits? Don’t worry, we’re all unproductive at times. But if you have five or more, it might be time to change.
One of the most popular ideas in personal development is that all successful people have achieved mastery. Many of us believe in this false notion that you have to master a skill to achieve career success.
That’s because we, as a society, admire and glorify winners. We look at billionaires, champions, gold medalists, and other outliers. I must admit, there are many lessons we can learn from people who are masters at one particular skill.
But at the same time, it’s very daunting. Let’s be real, not everyone wants to spend 10 or 20 thousand hours to master a skill. We all have other things we value in life: Our family, friends, hobbies, health, you name it.
So when people write books and articles about outliers, we might get inspired, but from a practical point of view, the advice is useless. Not because we can’t apply the advice—most of the time, we don’t WANT to.
Do you ever feel like you’re completely lost in a world that keeps on racing? The world moves fast. One moment you’re excited about a new opportunity, and the other moment you feel totally hopeless for no particular reason.
And if that’s not bad enough, there’s so much noise in the world that we lose sight of what we’re doing. It’s not uncommon to think, “Wait, what was I supposed to do on this planet?”
Look, we all get distracted. The world’s a weird place. And people ask me about how we can get clarity all the time. One reader recently sent me this email:
“Love to hear you talk about how to get clarity and minimize distractions and noise around us. What techniques do you employ to find that focus?”
It’s a good question that got me thinking. And if I look at how I get clarity in my life, there’s only one technique I use.
About four years ago I decided to read 100 new books a year. I’ve kept up that habit until recently.
I stopped reading two new books a week because I forgot almost everything I learned more than a year earlier. And there’s no way you can remember even a quarter of a book you read three years ago.
I made this discovery this year when I started worrying about random things in my life. I thought, “Didn’t I deal with this issue years ago?”
And I was right, I’ve read a lot about worrying, I’ve coached people, and I even wrote a book about it. But I’m not a machine—I’m not immune to the challenges that we all face. No one is.
In a perfect world, everything is steady. You can make plans that actually come true 100% of the time. You can anticipate things in advance.
But as you and I both know, that’s not how life works.
In real life, a single random (and unexpected) event can suddenly screw up all your plans, goals, and good intentions to make a change. Think of…
- A family member who passes away.
- Getting pregnant.
- Getting into a car accident.
- A calamity at work that causes bankruptcy.
- Falling in love.
Unplanned events can disrupt everything. I’ve experienced that several times in my life. And there’s nothing you can do to prevent unexpected events.