As a new year unfolds, here’s an idea that I think it’s worth reflecting on: your time is not a democracy.
A few weeks ago, I listened to a podcast episode on The Chase Jarvis Live Show entitled “Your Life is Not a Democracy“. I thought about the same idea, but applied to time and how it’s our responsibility to make the most of it to live a fulfilling life.
Time can be tricky. Time can be a blur. There isn’t enough time for everything at once.
Some days, you wish you had more hours to work on as many projects as possible; however, other days, everything just seems to be moving slowly, and momentum fades away. Regardless of what any given day brings, it’s you the one deciding where your focus is.
Then again, your time is not a democracy.
At first glance, there can be a series of activities that are part of you: social commitments, working extra hours when there’s a big project going on, family time, the side hustle you’ve been trying to run, and the list goes on and on.
It can be a struggle to find a way to be involved in all of them. When you say ‘yes’ to all of them, you might end up with a bad aftertaste: there was little or no time left for the things you really wanted to do.
Kenneth Koch’s poem comes to mind when thinking about priorities. At the end of the day, time is not enough.
That’s why protecting your time is mandatory. You need time to do you. Remember, once time is gone, it’s gone forever.
Consider the following approaches:
The power of no
Saying ‘no’ can be really difficult, especially to a loved one. Still, ‘no’ is always a valid answer. You don’t have to be everywhere or please everyone. Next time you’re tempted to say ‘yes’ without actually being sure, think if you’re denying yourself the opportunity to do meaningful work.
If you can’t give a straight ‘no’, phrase it softly. Go for things like: “At the moment, I can’t make it.” Or “I can’t join you this time.”
Advocate for yourself
It all starts as an introspective exercise. Ask yourself: “what are my non-negotiable priorities right now?” As you define them, decide the best ways to protect your time around them.
For this approach, it’ll be essential to stand your ground when trying to deal with competing activities. Prioritizing everything that’s meaningful to you will always give you clarity on when to decline invitations that are not related to your main goals.
Forget about perfection. Focus on consistency.
Imperfect starts are great. You don’t have to learn all that there is to know about your craft in order to take initiative. Begin with small steps. Begin by assigning a few minutes of your day to work on your passion project and protect it consistently.
The quality of your work will improve little by little as you keep showing up.
It’s always up to you to prioritize according to what matters to you most. You’re the architect of your life. You design it. You build it according to your goals. Therefore, your time is not a democracy.