Focus your time-usage with three questions

Here are three questions that will help you make the most of your time.

Focus time usage

The three questions

(i) How should I use my time if today was my last day? (ii) How should I use my time if I have another (say) 20 years to live? (iii) How should I use my time given my beliefs about what happens after death? Essentially, the answers to these three questions need to be kept in balance with each other. Clearly, we cannot live assuming we only have one day to live, and it would be naïve to expect with any certainly that we have another (say) 20 years to live. Let’s look at them one at a time.

1. How should I use my time if today was my last day?

While none of us know our last day, this question helps us guard against ‘unfinished business’. As Jim Elliot (missionary who was killed in Ecuador) said “When it comes time to die, make sure all you got to do is die”. This question reminds us to – show appreciation, repay debts, apologize and forgive (before it is too late).

2. How should I use my time if I have another (say) 20 years to live?

If we live a few more decades then that clearly should have implications on how we live now. For example –
  • Health: After my father had a heart operation, he use to say ‘in the second half of life we pay for the first half of life’. In order words, (all things being equal) if you look after your life now (e.g. eat well, exercise, etc) then you should be in better health in (say) 20 years time.
  • Career: If you want a better or more rewarding job in the future, then you need to put in the time now to develop your career.
  • Relationships: If you want quality relationships in the future (e.g – with your children, spouse, etc) then put in the work now.
  • Security: If you reach retirement age, will you have enough money to do the things you want to do in retirement?
How I live today impacts the future (for better or worse)? A person’s time perspective will usually impact on how effective they are at addressing this question.

3. How should I use my time given my beliefs about what happens after death?

Clearly, what you believe about the afterlife should have an impact on your living today. Studies by Boyd and Zimbardo on ‘transcendental future’ time orientations has shown just that. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Hinduism, Buddhist, Jew, agnostic, atheist or something else, your beliefs impact your time-usage. What surprises me is how little most people know about the major religions and what they teach. For example, most people fail to understand that Christianity is based on what Jesus has done, and is not about doing more good than bad so that they can get into heaven. Some have argued that to really live you need to be at peace about dying. Perhaps we could say – to use your time really well you need to be at peace about dying. Are you at peace about what happens after death? How does your views impact on how you use your time now? Do you need to spend some time to establish or confirm your views?

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