Reclaim Your Life
“… everyone wants you to forget you’re gonna die. Because if they convince you you’re not going to die you waste your time doing what they want you to do… - Mike Posner
Let’s start with two facts that should be easy to agree on:
- Your time here on earth is limited.
- The world is filled with unlimited opportunities and things to do.
And that causes a conflict we experience all the time:
There are more things to do than what we have time for.
This is a problem. It means you have to choose what to spend your time on. You have to say yes to a subset of the endless opportunities.
Deciding where to dedicate your time is difficult. So to make this easier we all have a default setting. What is your first instinct when presented with an opportunity?
- Say yes to most things and attempt to do it all.
- Say no to most things and carefully evaluate what you spend your time on.
In Essentialism, Greg McKeown makes a compelling argument as to why we should always choose the second option. Why we should train ourselves to operate from a “default no”.
The claim goes something like this: if you do not decide what to spend your time on, someone else will. Other people will hijack your time or you will default to what society has decided is important.
It is not hard to argue this is true. If you are operating from option one you are an easy target for anyone to exploit. I can convince you to join me if I just present it as an opportunity. And whatever society needs you to do, you will most likely do it—even if it does not align with your own values.
You’ll quickly end up doing what other people and society wants you to do. And as time is limited this leaves little or no time to do what you want.
The exploitation of option one doesn’t have to be born out of evil. It can just as easily be caused by good intentions. It almost always is. You are invited to a birthday party. A corporate retreat. An opportunity too good to pass. Well-intentioned opportunities are much more likely to take up your time.
So if your goal is to spend time on things you value, “Say yes to most things and attempt to do it all” is clearly flawed and does not work. Yet this is what most of us do all the time. Myself included.