Do you find yourself distressed because you don’t seem to have time for things you consider important? It seems like such a backwards situation. After all, how can you lack time for something you hold in such high regard? The answer, oftentimes, involves a paradox. We hold these things in high regard, which means that they take up significant portions of our time. With the practicalities of work and family, along with other routine aspects of our lives, we have to make sacrifices. It is with these important and time-consuming activities that we can make the most impacting cuts. And so we end up removing the things we care about the most.
Obviously this is a backwards way of doing things, but it’s also a common way of doing things. But we don’t have to continue down this shallow path. As with all matters in our lives, we have a say in how we spend our time. That means we have two options when it comes to these important activities that we’ve neglected.
1) We can continue as-is and admit that what we thought was important to us really wasn’t.
2) We can make time for it.
To use a personal example: reading is an important aspect of my life. My father tried to instill a love of reading in me at a young age, but, being the rebellious type, I actively pushed reading, and him, away from me. Upon reflection, that might have been the most damaging choice I’ve ever made. It is through reading that we can learn about experiences outside of our own. The fewer things that are outside our experience, the more prepared we can be to act and react.
After college I made a commitment to read. But, like so many other life aspects, I made it a goal. I’ll read 50 books this year. No, that’s too unambitious. I’ll read 100 books! That’s not real motivation, though. That’s just an artificial goal, since it has no practical end. Why do I want to read? Once I answer that, I can proceed with a purpose.
For an example, I’ll turn to Ryan Holiday, a young man I admire greatly. He has written his own script in life, and judging by his accomplishments at such a young age things are working out. Throughout his life he has read extensively, and that has helped him stand out from the crowd. He’s no speed reader or anything. Rather, he reads a lot because he considers it his highest priority. Yet he doesn’t set some arbitrary number of books as a goal, nor does he schedule time every day to read. From a comment he left on his site:
I think if you get in the business of scheduling your reading time, you miss the point. If you make it a priority – one of your highest priorities – you will find the time to get enough of it done. You’ll pick up a book because you want to, rather than because from 9-10am, you HAVE to. It doesn’t matter how much time I commit to reading on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s a lot, sometimes only a little. What if I was stuck somewhere and didn’t have a book on me? It doesn’t mean I can’t be thinking of something I read recently (still part of the reading process). As Marcus writes, “with no books to read, I subsist on the logos.” What matters is that at the end of the day, I read enough to keep me challenged and introspective.
I’ve always said that reading is a high priority, but this has rarely manifested in my daily doings. That’s when I realized that I had no motivation to make reading my highest priority. And so I changed up the formula. Instead of reading because it’s what I’m supposed to do, or reading because I think it will make me smarter in an abstract term, I think about why I want to read a specific book. It has changed my motivation greatly.
Why did I read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals? Because I’d seen it referenced in Robert Greene’s The 33 Strategies of War and I thought that his Alinsky reference hit on something important. I wanted to learn about Alinsky’s strategies and tactics in greater detail, because I thought I could apply them to my own life. And so I attacked his book with fervor. Now I’m reading the book Never Lose Again, because I’m a poor negotiator and feel I can improve my skill by actively learning and thinking about it. There is no overarching “I must read because reading will make me smarter” thought behind it. Each book has a specific purpose. And it’s with that purpose in mind that I attack each book.
I hope this provides an analogy for the aspect of life you consider important. If it is truly important, you’ll understand at base level why it is important. Once you understand it at that base level, you can then act. In fact, if it is truly important to you, you’ll have no choice but to act. You’ll see so clearly why this is important to you that you’ll kick yourself for not realizing it previously. We always have the opportunity to take back what’s important to us.