Fist-principles to make time more valuable

Six easy pieces for time quality management

October 26, 2020

This article uses an invitingly pragmatic title. However, what I am going to share is more philosophical than what the title suggests. It is not about tricks that you can use but about fundamental attitudes towards time, which can nonetheless inspire useful tricks. I also invite you to use caution with any advice, including this, and to make sure that they are fit for your context. Now, without further ado, here are the tips.

1 - Learn how to do nothing

This is the necessary ingredient for every advice that follows. To increase the value of your time, you need to first become able to endure idle time. Alternatively, you risk filling your time just to avoid it being empty, like horror vacui in visual art. Doing nothing does not mean relaxing or doing something easy, like browsing your phone or snacking. It literally means sitting or lying somewhere and not taking any action whatsoever. Also, its purpose is not to stop thinking nor to reach deep meditative states. Thus, thinking is encouraged. Jotting down precious thoughts that one has while doing nothing is usually okay, but the frequency must remain sporadic. While you may think that it sounds easy if you try, you will realise that it is actually much harder than you think.

2 - Love yourself unconditionally

Most of our efforts are directed to satisfy ourselves in one way or another. There is a lot that we need, lack and desire. However, while basic needs are essential much of the rest is psychological concerns about being liked and loved. Thus, if you can accept and love yourself without conditions, this in itself will take care of a big part of your needs. When you love yourself unconditionally, many tasks that previously seemed crucial to demonstrate x, y and z about yourself appear now vacuous. So you can dedicate the time saved from those to whatever else you value. In general, the return on investment in unconditionally loving yourself is pretty high.

3 - Embrace meaninglessness

Life does not have a meaning. This may annoy, disturb or hurt you, and I apologize if that is the case. However, from most of the scientific and philosophical knowledge we have is really, really likely that things do not have meanings of their own. If you can bear the annoyance of this bummer, it could help you a lot. Why? When you recognise that meaning is given and transitory, you become a pragmatist. Whatever meaning gives more value to something wins, and you can go with it. From the point of view of making time more valuable, that seems pretty important. If meaningless really disturbs you, but you can bear to read philosophy books, try reading The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus.

4 - Get to really know yourself

Can you tell me, with only 30 seconds of prep, your values, what you do well, what holds you back and what motivates you the most? If not, you may have some work to do. To use time effectively is beneficial to know whose time we are managing. We usually avoid getting to know ourselves because we do not want to. We get so focused on who we should or want to be and end up refusing to see who we really are in the first place. Don’t follow in the trap, chances are you are beautiful and lovable.

5 - Raise the bar to take action

Much of the guidance about success stresses the importance of taking action. So why do I argue for the opposite? Well, I am not: raising the bar to take action is compatible with taking action. The idea - which comes from Derek Sivers - is that we get too busy committing to things that we do not care about. If we don’t set a high bar for what makes us act, we end up drowning in too much stuff and lose focus. Note that raising the bar to take action depends on one’s ability to do nothing. And upping the bar only for difficult things and spending your whole day watching YouTube videos is cheating. You need to raise the bar for everything; so you will find yourself with times where nothing meets the bar, and you have to, concretely, do nothing.

6 - Once you start, power through

Here is how we balance doing nothing and raising the bar to take action: once you are doing something, power through it with your inner beast. Ideas are cool, but what really makes or breaks something is execution. Progressing on what you started is the cheapest way to find out where you can get. Reality is uncertain, and increasingly so in this century, so to find out where something can lead you, you ought to power through it. Also, passion and a ton of other great feelings come from having done something really well, and not the other way around.


And here they are, six easy pieces of quasi-philosophical advice to make your time more valuable. If you want to practice any of them, I suggest you start by internalising it. Re-read the specific tip, read more on the subject and put it in your own words. If you dig deeper and make progress in any of them, that’s already exciting in itself.