It’s not about time

(This is a revision of a “note” I wrote on Facebook in 2015.  I am re-posting it to my blog because I still like this model and want to refer to it here and there.)

People sometimes ask me how I manage to work, and have 3 kids, and play hockey, and help organize hockey stuff, and organize high school computer science stuff, write a book, etc.  How do I have the time?  But I strongly believe it is not about time.  Don’t get me wrong, time is a precious resource.  But when people say they don’t have time to do something, they are actually saying they don’t have the ENERGY to do it.  You see, when you love something, you have time for it.  When you choose what to do with your time, you are actually making a value statement that one thing is a bigger value to you than another.  When we are behaving logically and rationally, we spend our time on important things and cut out the unimportant things.  Of course, we all know this.  But what a lot of people don’t realize is, logic and rationality aren’t everything.  If we all *actually* did the most important things we could think of doing, in rank order from top to bottom, we’d be working on some pretty amazing stuff, but we’d be bored and tired and unhappy!

You have to stop thinking like a being of logic, and start thinking of yourself as a being of energy.  Some of the things you do give you energy, and some take energy away.  It doesn’t mean you can’t push through and finish tasks you dislike, but those tasks suck the life out of you, and you need to recharge before you can pick up the next important thing on your list.

Furthermore, we are all different people.  Each one of us has our own unique set of activites that give us energy or take it away.  That’s part of the “fingerprint” of what makes you uniquely yourself.  I like thinking about this in the context of work: populating a team with a diverse set of people, and letting them work on what they like, results in all the work getting done and all the people feeling happy.  Sure, they’ll have some tasks they don’t like, but they’re balanced enough to be happy.  Assemble the wrong population of people, and the exact same amount of work sucks the life out of them!  It applies at home, too: just because a husband and wife are equal partners doesn’t mean they need to split every task 50/50.  If I’m happier washing the dishes while my husband is happier mowing the lawn, then it doesn’t make sense to split each one 50/50.  It’s better for us each to do what we like.  If we took equality to an extreme, important things would never get done.  So instead we balance out bad with good, and there’s energy for everything.

The funny thing is, there is no law of conservation of human energy.  You can spontaneously generate it out of thin air!  How?  By doing activities that give you energy.  How do I have time for hockey?  Duh!  It is net positive on energy!  I go to a game and come home more energized than I left.  And that, dear friends, is the key to accomplishing much.  You have to make sure your balance-sheet is fairly even.  People tend to treat their “fun” activities as dispensable, illogical, irresponsible, unimportant.  But do too much of the “logical” thing, too much of what is “supposed” to be important, and you will burn out.  You’ll push yourself for a time, but your tank will be running on empty, and eventually you’ll waste more and more time procrastinating.  And therein lies the trap.  Things that are NOT logical (productive) but also NOT fun (energy-generators) will pull you in.  You’ll do them because they don’t suck the life out of you, and because they’re not fun enough to make you feel guilty for prioritizing “wrong.”  You have to identify these “faux fun” activities and limit them, because they don’t accomplish anything.  It’s much better to throw your guilt to the wind and do something truly fun.  Feel guilty for “wasting time” only if you don’t enjoy it!

So how do I find time for all the stuff I mentioned?  Well, the question implies the incorrect assumption that the sum-total drains out my energy, when the truth is I feel fairly balanced.  Sleepy sometimes, but happy.  Remember, I have my own unique set of things that give me energy and take it away, and just because it sounds draining to you, it’s not to me.

So in summary: it’s not about time, it’s about energy.  Now go invest in YOU — go generate yourself some energy!

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