I thought I felt strongly about the value of time and then I became a father. By definition, I’ll only ever get to experience each phase of my son growing up once. He changes so quickly that I have to savor every moment — every smile, crawl, word. If I don’t, I’ll never get to again. Subjectively, it feels like no time is more rare.
And so fatherhood introduces another extremely valuable and enjoyable way for me to spend my time. Time that, like all of us, I have only in finite supply. What to do?
I address this by living based on two principles: balance and focus. I am happiest when I get to experience different aspects life every week: balance. I grow the most when I come back to the same areas over and over again: focus. Balance in the short-term, focus over the long-term.
Balance in the short-term
Every week, I try to do partake in activities that fall under each of the following categories:
- Partner (e.g., date night with my wife)
- Family (e.g., playtime with my son, teaching him French)
- Relationships (e.g., connecting with a friend, organizing a LAN party)
- Health (e.g., running, meditating)
- Grow (e.g., reading, attending a lecture, community involvement)
- Create (e.g., working on a side project, writing)
- Produce (e.g., Plaid, investing, mentoring)
The lynchpins of this approach are relax and review.
Relax is a reminder to be whimsical and spontaneous. Not everything needs to be tracked and scientific. It’s ok to spend time on things that don’t grow me, that don’t result in meaningful interactions, that don’t impact the world. It’s ok to throw the plan away and to just live. Relaxing is time well spent.
Review means spending a few minutes every week thinking about how I spent my time last week and asking whether I am happy and fulfilled. Did I entirely miss a category? Is that ok? If so should it even be a category? Do I want to spend more time in a certain way? If so why am I not and what’s getting in the way? Am I doing too many things or too few? Etc. This lightweight retrospective sets the stage for organizing how I’d like to spend the coming week — and maybe even making a plan. (And yes I do review how I relax.)
Review is how I am purposeful about balancing my time.
Focus over the long-term
Achieving balance makes me happy, but I am a pretty excitable person and the downside of giving myself room to go wide is that I’ll often go way too wide: reading too many different things, having too many side projects, and so on. That’s where focus comes in. Focus is what pushes me to grow as a human being.
Focus is coming back to the same very few things week after week. For Grow, it might result in narrowing my reading to one subject for a couple of months before tackling something new. For Create working on just one side project or set of posts over a few weeks. For Relationships, spending more 1:1 time but with fewer friends in order to build closer bonds.
For each focus, I set goals. And then as part of each review, I make sure that every week I have taken a few tangible steps towards these goals.
Focus is how I grow over time.
In the end, balance and focus do not create time, nor do they drive me to be more efficient and ruthless with how I live life. They’re simply reminders that help me be deliberate about how I use the most finite resource in my life — time — with the people and on the activities that I find most meaningful.