Some people are excellent at time management.
They get a whole mass of things done.
Yet, at the end of each day and each week, they feel uneasy with what they have accomplished.
They have worked hard, got lots done, but it is not enough.
They never feel that their busyness is paying off.
These people are ‘work smart’:
they spend their time effectively and work efficiently.
Wisdom, however, lies not just in spending your time; but in investing it, to reap valuable long-term rewards. As in everything, success comes to those who can balance current expenditure with investments for the future.
When you invest your time, you become ‘time wise’.
There is no more-profound investment that you can make in yourself than learning. For wisdom, balance depth with breadth. If you become a deep expert in one thing only, you will rarely be perceived as wise, and your judgements will often be flawed. Likewise if you have too much breadth, but no depth. You need both.
Knowledge is important; so are the skills to apply it. Invest time to develop and hone your skills, once again balancing advanced levels of mastery in some areas, with basic competence across a broad range of skills. And don’t forget that you will find acquiring and practicing some skills pleasurable. Time wise means forsaking task smart sometimes, to enjoy yourself.
Reflection and stillness become, if anything, more important as you get busier. They are a chance to understand and consolidate knowledge and skills, to learn from experience, to calm your mind, and to deepen your self awareness and mastery of your emotions and response. ‘Mindfulness’ is fast becoming one of the big business buzz-words of the teens years.
It ought to go without saying that your health and well-being are a vital part of your investment portfolio. Yet often these are the first to go. When you get the sniffles or a bit of a headache, it may not slow you down physically; you’re tough. But it will slow you down mentally, diminish your resilience to setbacks, and set you up for worse health to come. (For more, see Brilliant Stress Management).
Think about your long term finances and your material assets. This is not about obsessing with wealth – quite the opposite. It is about creating the level of security that is right for you, so you can focus on everything else that matters. A few wise cash spend and saving decisions today will give you freedom tomorrow.
For most of us, our career is not about earning money, nor even about long-term financial security. Done well, it is a source of fulfillment and pleasure. So figure out what aspects of your career give you more than just a wage, and figure out how to develop those into a career that adds more to your life than pounds, dollars, euros or any other tradeable commodity.
… And your home-life needs to balance your career-life. Whatever family means to you, investing in it is both rewarding in itself and defensive: your family and your home are your protectors and your shelter when times get tough. In times of stress, it is your family who will want to help.
My major gripe with social media (apologies to all my social media friends who are reading this) is that it can sometimes get in the way of the deep relationships, the close friendships and the trusting collegiality that really nourish our social lives. Place your relationship-building investments wisely and check-up on past investments (old, dear friends) from time to time.
The gopher mentality (see The Yes/No Book) drives us to help lots of people with lots of things, leaving little time for what matters most. This is not wise: instead, look for opportunities for ‘deep help’ – offering profound assistance that can transform someone’s life; assistance they cannot easily get elsewhere, on things they really cannot do for themselves. This way, you focus your helping where it really matters. This is a good opportunity to give a shout-out to volunteering as a source of personal growth, fulfillment and relationship-building.
A ‘just do it’ attitude is task smart. Thinking ahead, planning, preparing and then reflecting after you have finished is time wise. The perfect way to plan a day or a week ahead is the OATS process (see Brilliant Time Management). If you have a big project to plan, the project management tools are your way forward (see Brilliant Project Leader).
Doing something creative is an investment that pays well beyond the outcomes of your creative endeavour: it sharpens your thinking, hones your skills and absorbs your attention leading to a deep sense of pleasure in the moment. Creativity is the master skill that allows you to plan, help, develop relationships, support your family, enhance your career, grow your asset base, manage your health, reflect constructively, enhance your skills and capitalise upon your learning.
Above all else, prioritise your passion. Whatever it is for you, this is what makes your life worth living.
Wisdom is not just about investing:
it is about balance too
In The Yes/No Book, I talk about goal-directed activities as the things to primarily say ‘Yes’ to. All of the above are ‘goal-directed’. Lets look at the non-investment tasks that you need to say ‘Yes’ to as well, to maintain balance.
Some goal-directed activities are the ‘musts’ in your life; your responsibilities. They may not feel like investments, but if you don’t attend to them, it is neither smart nor wise. Failure to attend to your responsibilities can leave you unable to make the investments you need to: either through a sense of outstanding obligation clouding your mind, or through physical barriers arising as a consequence of your failure to do what you are responsible for doing.
In addition to goal-directed activities and their opposite, guilt-directed activities, The Yes/No Book also describes ‘desire-directed’ activities: those we do for love, or purely for ourselves. Fulfillment is the combination of success and happiness. And what happiness can there be if you do not allow yourself a little bit (or a lot) of pleasure?