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Short post, but it’s important.
TIME is a resource. When you use this resource intentionally, you see a “return” on your investment. When you use this resource passively, or unconsciously, there is no return. You’ve wasted it.
So, what’s the difference between someone who successfully uses their time, versus someone who wastes it?
It all comes down to saying no to these 4 types of poor investments.
1. Time suggested by credible people.
One of the biggest traps people (from aspiring entrepreneurs to everyday workers) fall into is spending time based on how someone else tells them to spend it — especially when that “someone” has achieved some massive level of success.
The reason is because we view successful, accomplished, or decorated individuals as people who “have something we don’t have yet.”
So, in theory, following their advice would mean guaranteeing those same rewards.
This is false.
Advice is only meaningful when it’s applicable to wherever it is you, yourself, want to move in life.
2. Time that glimmers with the false promise of “guaranteed success.”
This is the age-old trap of following the path of least resistance: school, higher education, entry-level job, corporate ladder, ceiling.
Society tells us that time spent in this direction will lead to the satisfaction of a few basic needs: shelter, food, a higher likelihood of finding a life partner, etc.
Unfortunately, this path can also be extremely deceiving.
Even the safest of paths involve some element of risk (technological disruption has proven this over and over again). But more than that, anything in life that promises “easy returns” or “guaranteed success” is, in some way, flawed.
And you’re either going to pay that price right away (realizing you’ve started chasing the wrong carrot), or you’re going to learn it later down the road (after you’ve pushed too many of your chips into the center of the table).
3. Time that everyone else says you’ll regret not spending.
The list of activities suggested by your friends, family, peers, co-workers, etc., is literally neverending.
There will always be someone in your life saying the words, “Trust me, you’re not going to want to miss this.” When you hear those words, you’ll feel a wide range of emotions ranging from: fear of missing out, to feeling compelled to take their recommendation, to fantasizing about what it’ll be like. And all these emotions are what makes saying “No” so difficult.
What you have to realize, though, is the opinion of, “You’re not going to want to miss this,” is coming from the other person — not you. THEY’RE not going to want to miss it.
You very well could miss it and not think twice about it.
And understanding that difference is a huge reason some people get sucked into unproductive social circles, and other people move right along working toward wherever it is they want to go in life.
4. Time spent doing something comfortable v.s time spent doing something uncomfortable.
As human beings, we love doing things we’re good at.
The better we get at something, the more we enjoy doing it. The more we enjoy doing it, the better we get — and so on, and so forth. On a very fundamental level, this is why you see people who start in one industry and then never leave. It’s all they know, and the fear of “starting over” is greater than whatever obstacle is in front of them on their current, trusted path.
Another way of looking at this is: time spent doing something new and uncomfortable v.s. doing what you know you can do well. To be perfectly honest, I’m doing that right here, right now. I can write Medium answers and online articles way easier than I can sit myself down and work on the next chapter of a much longer piece of writing — simply because I’ve practiced it for so many hours.
However, when you make this choice, what you’re doing is saying, “I’m going to keep doing the thing I know how to do, instead of doing the thing I don’t know how to quite do yet.”
Sometimes, this is smart (from an efficiency standpoint). But from a growth mindset, this is bad. And to continue making this decision means you’re remaining at your current plateau.
So, on that note, I should probably say “No” to this time investment right now, and invest my time working on my next book instead.
This article first appeared on Medium.