You’re always doing something at every moment.
The question is this: is the something you’re doing right now leading you toward something you really want in the future?
Because if not, you’re not making a smart investment of your time … which is your most precious and scarce resource.
I was just listening to a podcast while walking my dog. It’s called Brand New Father. I just found it. So far, I really like it.
Why was listening to an episode of Brand New Father in the middle of the day a worthwhile investment of my time?
Because I am about to be a father. I am excited to learn tips and insight about being a good father from as many good resources as I can.
Listening to an episode of this podcast will help me get there. Therefore, it was a worthwhile speculative investment of my time — and I say “speculative” because there was no guarantee the episode would be good. But this one was.
Either way, my decision to listen made sense. There was no glaring opportunity cost I was passing up.
Consider what happened as soon as I got back from my walk …
I saw an email come in. It was from a sports email newsletter I subscribe to. I saw a headline about LeBron James’ 3-point shooting. LeBron James generally interests me. Normally I’d stop, click, and read — but out of habit more than any genuine desire or need to see what was on the other side of this particular headline.
But in that moment I stopped.
The words of Brendan Hufford, the guest on the episode of Brand New Father I had listened to, echoed in my ears.
He mentioned a Post-it note he has on his computer. This note reminds him that every moment he wastes doing something unnecessary online is a moment he’s not spending with his wife and kids.
In other words, the opportunity cost of watching that two-minute cat video is two minutes he won’t be spending with his sons.
What would be the opportunity cost be for me of reading this email about LeBron James?
Writing this post. Getting work done. Exercising. Reading a book. I could go on. All activities that would push me closer to more important goals than reading about LeBron James, which would have done nothing but add to my general sports knowledge.
And it’s not like I was feeling overwhelmed and in need of something mindless to read for a quick diversion — which does happen. And when it does, consuming something that might otherwise be meaningless can have value, because the opportunity cost might be 10-15 more minutes of overwhelm, as opposed to a five-minute mental diversion that frees your mind and helps you snap back into it. In such a case, you’d be making a time profit.
But in this moment, I was feeling excited about a new idea I’d heard on the episode.
So the decision was easy. I archived the email. And I sat down to write this blog post.
Why was this blog post a better use of my time?
- I knew the act of typing out this blog post would solidify this idea in my mind.
- I want to grow Primility in the future, and I need content to do that. (Pride.)
- The only way Primility grows is to impact more people like you with ideas that will help you be better now. This idea certainly qualifies. (Humility.)
I made a better decision in the moment because I allowed a balance of pride and humility to guide me.
Doing so allowed me to see myself, in the moment, about take a habitual action. But instead of mindlessly droning on, I stopped and made a better decision that led to a better action.
The only way to be better in the future — whether with time management or anything else — is to be better in the moment.
Because the moment is all we control.
Be better now.
Flickr Creative Commons Image via stefanos papchristou