One realization that has been critical in my journey of personal development is the idea of ‘opportunity cost’. I first viewed time in this way due to a little nugget that I picked up from the wise but always modest Pat Flynn. I am paraphrasing a little but his simple presentation of this idea really resonated with me. In one of his podcasts he stated simply “every minute that we spend on something, is a minute that we are not spending on something else”.
This really got me thinking on the range of things that I allow to take my time. If I feel that something might not be the best way to spend my time, I now ask myself “What are you not spending time on?”
This simple idea really resonated with me. I now regularly ask myself this to help prioritize everything in my personal and professional life. I feel this helps deal with issues of procrastination, aimless wandering… and most of my Facebook feed.
I realize better that wasted time spent staring at a screen is the same time not being spent on something else. This could be a phone call to a good friend or spent with a loved one.
Coming from me, this is a view that some of even the closest people to me may struggle to understand. This is because it is such a hugely different perspective to the one that I have had in recent years. Previously I was constantly picking up new hobbies and interests simply for the process of learning something new. I was even known as ‘the hobby guy’ to some. My wife was constantly rolling her eyes and waiting for the next thing to come along.
I would still prefer this sort of constructive activity to one where I was just ‘wasting’ time though. I am sure that there are far less productive things than time spent in learning and self-improvement.
In the interest of becoming ultimately accountable for my life I previously set myself a goal to be a more engaged and involved member of my own family. After seeing that goal written down I realized that it should have been obvious. The process of establishing and committing to this personal goal though made me think about what I was actually spending my time on.
Although strange, it took this realignment of perspective to realize that my addiction to hobbies was probably coming at the sacrifice of much more important things. After careful personal reflection I found that I was spending time on relatively unimportant things. I found that time the spent on gardening or trying to be handy with DIY home improvements came at a sacrifice.
Something that I am also now particularly conscious of is that just because something seems urgent, does not mean that it is important.
More closely reviewing what gets my precious time also helps to focus more on the present. I feel no inclination to play video games when there is an opportunity to play with my daughter instead. I am comfortable that the things that I am doing are the things that I should be. I know that there is nothing more important to me that that time.
It is strange how a simple statement made in passing can make such a massive difference in perspective. To ensure that I remain aware of this ongoing choice, I reflect on this whenever I am stuck in trying to perfect something that I really know probably doesn’t matter. I now regularly ask myself “while I am doing this, what am I not spending my time on?”
Photo by liquidnight