Here’s some delightful news: you’re going to die one day – and maybe sooner than you’d like.
And when that day arrives and you’re laying in hospital attached to a machine that goes ‘bip, bip, bip’, all the nonsense you worried about and the crap you accumulated in your feckless pursuit of happiness will mean exactly nought.
Instead, you’ll wonder what all the busy-ness was for; why you rushed from one deadline to the next; why you failed to live before you died.
In the back of your mind – possibly for decades – you thought, “I’ll get my finances sorted; I’ll find some time to appreciate life and smell the roses a bit more.” But, like many of us, you’ll have retreated to old habits because it was just too hard to change, and there was always so much to do.
In this moment, you’ll become living (dying) proof that your time was limited, and that one day the music would stop.
I’m 51 years old, and like most people my age, I’ve done too much of the wrong work and wasted too much money on the wrong things. It’s taken me years to learn that all the ‘busy work’ I courted didn’t make me more important, and the crap I bought didn’t bring lasting pleasure.
Maybe you’re waking up to this, too. You’re realising that while a lot of things you do seem important, they just aren’t.
Here’s how I see it today. If the work I’m doing each day doesn’t resonate with who I truly am (or who I wish to be), I’m squandering time. And if it pulls me away from the things I value most (my family, my freedom, peace of mind, my health or my natural talents and passions), it borders on theft.
On the subject of ‘important’ work, though – don’t confuse ‘unimportant’ with ‘necessary’ work. There will always be plenty of tasks that don’t feel important but remain necessary to achieve the impact we seek. Even doing something you love for long enough becomes a job. The fact is, if the ‘necessary’ work you do is an essential part of your ‘important’ work, it matters just as much. You shouldn’t resent it – you should embrace it.
Crap is Crap (Only the Shades Vary)
Finding your purpose and the work to go along with it can take years, or just a moment. Sometimes it appears when our guard is down, like after our third espresso martini on a tropical island, or following a life-changing crisis. The trouble is, these events are rare and fleeting, and the daily crap we deal with blinds us most of the time.
It’s this crap I want to help you hose away, because underneath it all, the path you seek awaits. So let me share some of the common culprits that consume our time and therefore, our lives – plus some practical tips to wash them away (or at least, minimise the stench).
- Never leave email running in the background. Switch off the alerts and if possible, remove it from your phone. How productive can you be when someone taps you on the shoulder every few minutes and goes “bing!” in your ear? Turn it off. The world won’t end. You’ll get a lot more done, you’ll do it faster and it’ll be of a higher quality, too.
- Never check your email first thing in the morning. Instead, decide the afternoon before what your three most important tasks are tomorrow, and spend at least 2-3 hours on the first one before you check your mail.
- Never check your mail just before you finish work for the day. The tension and nervous back-of-mind distraction it creates impacts your evening, and possibly, the quality of your sleep.
- Limit yourself to between two and four checks a day. That’s it. I check my email mid-morning, mid-afternoon and no less than an hour before finishing for the day. The only exception is when I have a time-sensitive project underway that day.
- Stay away from email on the weekends unless absolutely necessary.
Twenty percent of your clients probably deliver eighty percent of your income. Focus on them. Delight them at every turn and show them how important they are. Sometimes the best thing you can say to someone (clients especially) is ‘no’. We spend so much of our time at work, the least we can do is use that time efficiently, effectively and with people who actually make our work enjoyable.
Focus on the 20% (or 10 or 30) – the ones who respect your work and who are happy to pay for your talents. Then, recommend an alternative person or business to serve the remainder. You’ll sleep better; you’ll enjoy your work more and you’ll deliver better results for those you serve. In all likelihood, you’ll end up earning more too, because those 20-percenters will refer others to you who are just like them.
Television and iDevices
I shouldn’t need to explain this one. The average Australian watches over three hours of TV a day. Americans watch over five hours a day. That’s nine years of TV in their lifetime. Pay TV has seen rapid growth in recent years, too, and iDevice content consumption has outgrown pay TV by a significant margin. Here are some sobering stats from YouTube:
- YouTube has over 1.3 billion users — about a third of all people on the Internet.
- YouTube overall and even YouTube on mobile alone reaches more 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.
- Growth in watch time on YouTube is up at least 60% year over year.
- Almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day.
We’re passive, lazy, content consumers and the cost is far greater than a streaming service or Internet plan. It’s time. Don’t waste it consuming. DO something.
If you had to leave your city or town tonight and never return, what would you take with you? I’m betting only a handful of items would make the cut. I sometimes fantasise about coming home to find it burned to the ground. It would be inconvenient, yes. But it would also be liberating. All those things I’ve struggled to let go of would be taken away from me. How wonderful.
Starting with a clean slate; devoid of the crap I’ve accumulated would be incredible. Sure, I’d miss a few irreplaceable objects, but so long as my family was safe, the other things could live in my memories, and that’s enough.
The things we don’t actively use and the things that don’t deliver true pleasure eventually own us. They become a subtle intrusion into our subconscious. That’s why spring cleaning and purging unwanted goods are such satisfying exercises. They lighten our psychological load.
Habitual consumption of consumer products is never a road to happiness or financial success. To purge and simplify is the high road to wealth and enlightenment.
Listen to Roger Waters’ song, Amused to Death. Indulgences like fashion, fancy toys, expensive dinners and ‘new-shiny’ syndrome all conspire to keep you on the endless treadmill of working to consume.
The Wrong People
This is a touchy one because we usually don’t choose our friends. They’re friends of circumstance; people we meet through common interests, activities or third-parties.
But if you understand that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, then it’s incumbent on you to be vigilant about who is setting your life’s agenda.
The same goes for family members, well intentioned as they might be. If you want to spring clean your life, you need to examine your influencers because they have a huge impact on the expectations you set for yourself, the beliefs you hold and the decisions you make.
Less Crap Pays you Twice
Eliminating the crap in your life – the things that rob you of your time and your hard-earned money – rewards you on two fronts.
First, you’ll have more time to enjoy your life and all the things that truly matter, and second, you’ll have more money to put into things that enrich your life.
I’m an advocate for learning how to invest wisely. Invest your time in your family and your heartfelt passions, and invest your money in growth assets that can deliver peace of mind now and freedom into the future.
It isn’t rocket science, but the second part does require education. It’s not something you should leave solely to others because no one cares more about your financial future than you do. So get educated.
I highly recommend Michael Yardney and Tony Robbins. Both have made a significant contribution to my financial wellbeing. Take the time to learn what you need to know. Step forward methodically as a student of the subject and reap the benefits for yourself.
How long do you really have?
Your life is happening right now; it won’t begin at some mile marker in the future. You’ve heard it before: “The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The second best time is today.” Resolve to cut all the crap from your life and set out on a new path towards the life you seek. I can promise you the mountaintop is far less crowded than the valley below and the view is much better too.
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