How do you spend your time? Action vs. Priorities

Action expresses priorities – Ghandi

Do you have any regrets on how you spend your time? Are you doing the things that matter the most to you in life? If so, this article is NOT for you:) You fall into the category of the few that live life I accordance with their priorities. For the rest of us, the ones who strive to get to the things we want to do by often doing things that we do not enjoy — this article is for you:) In my opinion life is pretty simple…

You either do the things you want to do and feel great (unless you are into punishing yourself :), or you do the things that you do not want to do — while using excuses that “I can’t do what I really want to do because <insert awesome justification here>” — and keep justifying by saying that: “Awesome, once I achieve XYZ <insert awesome goal here> – THEN I will start <Exercise, spending time with family/friends, find the love of my life, follow my dreams — insert any other amazing worth-living-for reason here>”.

The problem with this is that this could potentially create strong imbalance with ones priorities and with that stress.

Lets dive into some specifics:
Most people in 1st world countries when asked to rate the importance of health, family/friends and financial success, on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest 10 being the highest) — rate things pretty similarly.

Usually Health and Family are pretty high up there between 8-10, with financial success either as important or usually slightly below the other two.
In my case it looks something like this: Health (Physical, Spiritual, Mental): 10, Family/Friends: 10, Financial Success: 8
Here Family/Friends or Spiritual Health of course can also include helping other people, pursuing a bigger purpose in life and so on. Plus of course there is a good amount of overlap that one can create.

Yet for the sake of this article lets keep things simple and just focus on these 3 key buckets and priorities amongst them.

So now lets take 24hrs. that we all have in a day. To start we will need to chop off about 9-10 hours for sleep, personal grooming, eating and commuting. Lets be optimistic and take only 9hrs off for that.

This leaves 15 hours in a day for other things. Lets assume all 3 buckets are equally important to you — this would mean in my humble opinion that in order to be in sync with ones goals and priorities one should spend no more then 5 hours per day (7 days a week) on work! For a grand total of 35hrs of work per week. It would also mean to spend 5 hours each and every day on something related to physical, spiritual or and/or mental health. And it would also mean spending 5 hours each and every day on your relationships with family, friends , etc. How many folks do you know that spend 35 hours or less per week working? I know only very few, especially amongst Entrepreneurs:)

I know a lot of people that have their priorities “in order” — yet do not have that at all reflected in how they spend their time. So when chatting about how things are going, its often a similar conversation, something along the lines of Me: “How are you doing?” “PersonX: ‘Working really hard! About to turn the corner with XYZ”, Me: “How is your health/family/personal passions etc?”, PersonX: “Oh, really no time for that unfortunately, would love to do ABC, but will definitely do it once I finish XYZ”.

What if awesome work goal does not get achieved? What if after awesome work goal#1 one immediately picks work goal #2 since now that we are getting ahead we are identifying so deeply with our work that we are afraid to loose our identity and now have to stay in “the game”?

What would we think about all these choices and decisions when we look back at our life when we are getting ready to kick the bucket?
I am not sure, but I sure as hell do not want to get to that point having any regrets.

Lets look at some interesting regrets people have before dying. Some of the most common regrets at the deathbed are “unfulfilled dreams” and DRUMROLL: “Having worked TOO HARD”:)  And guess what, none of the regrets included not having made enough money or not having bought enough things:)

This was noticed by an Australian nurse who for several years cared for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives and recorded her findings on a blog as well as subsequently publishing a book.

Here are excerpts of the 2 top regrets people had on their deathbed (See her blog & book for a complete list):

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

WOW! Mind-blowing!

How are you spending your time? Are you spending time on the things you say matter to you? If you do not see any progress in the areas that you say matter the most to you — are you putting in the time needed to have progress in those areas?

What if you could work just 4 hours or some other low number per day? How would you spend the rest of your time? How much does one really need to be happy and healthy?

What if society made celebrities out of people that have the biggest impact on their family, friends and community , etc., as opposed to people that are wealthy?

Of course to “balance” the views in this article I will add that there are of course people that have complete balance in that their prioritize financial or entrepreneurial achievements above anything else and are thus in congruency with their priorities (even though statistically they are pretty likely to have regrets at their deathbed:), or folks that are just starting out and need to establish themselves initially or people that follow a higher calling prioritizing that above anything else, or people that simply fell on hard times and do whatever they need to do to get back on their feet. One could of course also fall into another extreme of not paying any attention at all to the financial part of ones life which is also not healthy in my opinion.

So I would say that in order for a person to feel no/less stress in life and more happiness one needs to either adjust ones priorities or adjust how one spends time to bring these two aspects into balance and live in congruency with ones priorities.

How you spend your time is always a choice that you make many times per day! And it is a CHOICE:)

6 thoughts on “How do you spend your time? Action vs. Priorities

  1. Theo,

    That was a very mind opening article! My favorite part is… “What if society made celebrities out of people that have the biggest impact on their family, friends and community , etc., as opposed to people that are wealthy?”

    I would love to see a top 10 list and I would hope I would be on that list somewhere:>

    Keep these “from the heart” articles coming!



  2. Good thoughts. Not sure about the mix between quantity and quality. I wish there was a measure of “Happiness” and instead of saying “xxx hours for work and xxx for family” if you could say “yyy units of happiness each”.

    Personally I feel out of balance if I work less than 40-45 hours a week for more than a week or two in a row. I get bored and start new projects… but I’m also in a lucky situation where I LOVE what I do and I LOVE the people I get to work with.

    Not every day at work is perfect, but same can be said for home.

    I’ve also combined my exercise with my commute (bike to work year round) and I usually read the news and words with friends on the way too… which turns something you list as a negative into a positive.

    I also haven’t ever really regretted not being true to myself, and it’s surprising to see that so many people feel that way. That feels like an outdated sentiment to me, but maybe I’m lucky to know many people who make choices about what they want in life and follow through…

  3. I agree with the sentiments of the article, but was put off by the comment “Lets be optimistic and take only 9hrs off for that. ” as if sleeping and eating are a waste of time. While there are unique individuals whose bodies geniunely do not need 8-9 hour sleep, research (and history) show that most humans do require that amount of sleep to achieve optimal physical and mental health. While I generally tend to gulp my food down without any thought when working, I know from experience that life is more enjoyable when I “dine” with friends/coworkers/family rather than just hurridly “eat” at my desk. Most coworkers also miss the “old days” when we used to go out to lunch as a group. So I consider 9 hours a pessimistic view of the ideal amount of time I would like to spend on these endeavors.

Leave a Reply