A lot of people try to become more productive because they think they’ll gain time by saving time. Unfortunately, it’s rare that “gaining time” provides the benefit people think it does.
What many people don’t think about before they begin is what they’ll actually do with their time once they gain more of it. Once they have reclaimed some of their time, the usual response is to fill that time up with more things to do – so, they’ve gained time, but they still don’t have more time. (I’m aware of how contradictory that sounds.) Saving time in your daily tasks requires some self-work and discipline, and if you’re going to do all the work just to do more work, what’s the point?
Granted, there may be some value in increasing the amount of work you can get done in a day, but the idea that having more time is an answer to some problem needs some serious examination. If you were to work at becoming more efficient or productive to shave a respectable 45 minutes a day from the tasks you’re already doing, what, really, are you going to do in that amount of time that is going to make a big impact in your effectiveness?
In reality, it’s rather unusual for most people to free up a block of 45 minutes; it’s more common to shave minutes off the things you’re doing each hour. And this makes the “why” question even more pressing: what can you do in the 5 minutes you save every hour that’s worth the focus spent to save those 5 minutes?
The counter-intuitive truth about gaining more time is that gaining it doesn’t necessarily add value, and, in fact, there are plenty of cases when having more time causes more problems than does having less time. When we have too much time on our hands, we get bored. To keep from being bored, we fill up that time with more busyness. Once we get busy, we get overwhelmed and start looking for ways to save more time. And the cycle begins anew.
The way out of this cycle is to switch from just thinking about saving time to thinking in terms of saving time in order to do some specific thing. To return to my previous examples, saving 45 minutes so you can do more work really isn’t worth it, but it becomes immensely valuable when you use those minutes helping your children with their homework, exercising, or spending quality time with your friends. Those 5 minutes an hour become meaningful when they’re spent connecting (via correspondence) with friends and loved ones or practicing on your guitar.
Gaining time becomes worthwhile only when we use that time to do the things that we find meaningful and that help us become the type of person we want to be. Otherwise, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.
So, why are you trying to save time?
(I’m aware that this post falls within the category of completely obvious stuff that we shouldn’t need to hear. It’s funny how easy it is to forget the completely obvious stuff.)