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5 Counterintuitive Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Time

Do you think you’ll accomplish everything you want to before you die? Do you sometimes worry you won’t reach your goals? Do you have a plan to get what you want? If you’re like most people, you often have trouble squeezing in everything you want to do during the day, week or month, let alone everything you might want to accomplish in a lifetime. Updates from friends on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat come in to your phone at all hours of the day and night. Invites to activities, events, festivals, etc. blow up your phone on a regular basis.

At the office, things aren’t much better. Your Outlook inbox explodes with messages from clients, colleagues, or your boss, and everyone wants something different. You use multiple tools for managing your tasks, and every month something new seems to come out which promises to save you time and reduce the number of distractions in your life. Let me break the bad news, it won’t.

The truth is, you have more time than you think to accomplish what you want out of life. As of 2016, men tend to live on average 69 years, versus 72 years for women. If most people start work at 18 and continue on until retirement around 65, this means you spend 47 years of your life working. You have, most likely, more time than you think to accomplish all that you want to do in this life. I urge you to slow down and take a few of these suggestions to heart as you think about how to get the most out of your days in the future.

Here are 5 ways to make the most out of your time here on earth:

1. Take personal days

The idea of taking a personal day has been around for a long time, but few people really consider the value of taking one on a regular basis. Whether this means leaving work early on the third Friday of every month to do some “life-admin” or taking an entire day off in the middle of the week once a month to rigorously outline your plans and objectives for the future, the value of a personal day dedicated to reflection and personal development is completely underrated in today’s go-go society. I would urge you to set aside an entire day (half-days won’t work, as they are likely to be encroached upon) and make a concerted effort to spend that time reflecting about what you want to accomplish and the steps you will take to get there.

 “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that other throw at him.” – David Brinkley

2. Structure in blank space for distraction free work

While taking time off to plan out your life and checking your personal progress is great, it is also important to structure small blocks of personal “switch off” time to let your mind wander during the typical work week. This may mean structuring in “strategic blocks” of one to two hours as suggested by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington in their book The 12 Week Year, or it may mean making a regular habit of doing “30 before 7:30” (30 minutes of concentrated work before 7:30am each morning) as suggested by Mel Robbins in her book The 5 Second Rule. Whatever you do, make sure you allow yourself some distraction free work time so that you can get into the flow.

3. Leave technology behind

We are tethered to our devices like never before, and we are rarely out of arm’s reach of something that can connect us to anyone (or any piece of information) in the world. I say this with some trepidation, because I am not entirely pleased about it. Sure, it is fantastic to have access to a device that can allow us to order food, call a car, create a professional looking video clip or photo, and post updates online all in the space of a few seconds, but it comes at a price.

Despite having the freedom to connect with anyone and do nearly anything from behind a touch screen device, we have effectively become servants for the same network of interconnected apps and platforms. So, at the risk of having you stop reading this article, I urge you to put down your device for at least 1 day a week and connect with people in more humanistic (face to face) ways.

4. Spend time with others not like you

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Think hard about that, because it will help define how you spend the rest of your life. If you believe that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with, you will need to be careful that you spend time with people that add to your life, rather than detract from it.

The more time you spend with people that come from similar backgrounds and share similar views as you, the more you will become closed off to the world around you. This is an easy habit to fall into, but it is one that can have dire consequences if you are serious about stretching yourself and reaching lofty goals. Go out and explore, and spend time with people that push you in new and exciting ways.

“I never dreamed about success, I worked for it.” – Estee Lauder

5. Have more fun

I have noticed more and more that people tend to take pride in how stressed out they are and how much they work when they’re in the office. They then swing to the opposite extreme during the weekends, getting belligerently drunk and partying or staying in and watching Netflix for 48 hours straight. This is no way to live. It’s easy for me to call out because, truth be told, I used to be this way.

Too often, people find themselves caught up in a world that promotes stress, anxiety and long-hours as a badge of honor. Rather than promote and support this type of behavior by falling into the trap of stress and anxiety caused by overwork, look for ways to have fun in the moment. Talk to colleagues, give compliments, make connections, learn new things, and just try to connect with others.

Remember, you’ve likely got around 65-80 years on this planet, you don’t want to spend the majority of that time stressed out, waiting for the weekend. Instead, take to heart a few of these counterintuitive tricks and embrace every day with newfound appreciation. You won’t regret it, I promise.

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