Time must be your primary unit

Most, if not all of us, measure success, and what we strive for in the unit of money. Even if we tell ourselves we don’t think it’s the most important thing, we subconsciously do, as we think about what money allows us to do.

The primary unit of measurement defines how you think about your priorities.

While we all believe to think about money as a proxy, and means for experiences, it becomes our master when we treat it as the primary unit. There can never be enough of it – it’s the thing that supposedly enables everything.

As I was just reminded by reading ‘Digital minimalism’ by Cal Newport yesterday, we need to think about time as our primary unit. Time is the thing that doesn’t scale. Time is limited. Time is what we cannot get back. Time is when experiences happen and where they live.

Following ideas that are as old as society, we should start from time. Figure out how much money we need to optimize our time, and limit our money-creating to that. The more material stuff we have, the more money we need to keep it up. When we focus on getting a lot of money to support amazing experiences, we might end up not having enough time left to actually live those experiences.

Here is what Thoreau tells us:

“If I should sell my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure that for me there would be nothing left worth living for…. I wish to suggest that a man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.” – Thoreau in ‘Walden’

And as always, the Chinese knew it a long time ago already:

“Those who know they have enough are rich.” – Lao Tzu

Get your primary unit straight and optimize for it!

Mental Minimalism – Free up Your Mind

There is much talk about Minimalism these days. Tidying up your closets, room, houses,… That is all good and I fully subscribe to it. There is another, even more important area though that is much less talked about: Mental Minimalism.

Mental Minimalism – declutter your thoughts.

Our minds are always busy with seemingly important decisions or worrying about things in the past that we cannot change anymore or possibilities in the future that haven’t happened yet – and might never happen at all. We keep ourselves worrying and spending time and energy over decisions that don’t matter, don’t matter yet, or have already been made and are past.

Fretting about the past and future is a topic in itself. It is said that meditation helps to identify those thoughts and then gently letting them go, once spotted.

Simplify decision making

I want to focus more on decision making and which of those are useful. The short story is, if something is repetitive (what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, whether to go to the gym, when to leave for work,…) you should decide once and then just do it the same time every time.

Reduce decisions wherever you can. Create free space for your mind to focus on the important and unique things you really need to decide.

I reduce decisions wherever I can. I wear the same shirt and jeans (ok, not really the same one, the same style), take the same parking level and spot (even if I have to walk further), and follow the same routine and timing every morning. The idea of a work ‘uniform’ was famously introduced and evangelized by Steve Jobs.

Your personal Go bag

To further that thought, assemble you ‘Go bag’ and stick to it.

Get your base set of things you need, always have them, don’t change them. Refill immediately when you have used up a supply. You might carry a little more than what you need on a given day, but you save yourself the mental energy to decide what’s necessary and what’s not (and the frustration if your decision was wrong).

Don’t make it all the things you could possibly need. Identify the few things you truely need to cover the situations you most likely run into. And then stick to that.

A Go bag works for your day job, for your weekend pack, or even the set of things you need for a multi-week camping vacation in your trailer – which is where we are right now.

Know what you need. Refine that list, remove things if you didn’t actually use them for a while.

With my work Go bag, I can go on a moment’s notice anywhere and have everthing I need to be productive. To simplify further for my daily routing, I pack all the clothes I need for the coming week within 5mins on Sunday evening. And I if need I can go on a weeklong business trip without changing anything.

Building repeatable routines is cheap, making decisions is exepensive on your brain, mental power and ultimately your time. Be frugal with your brain power!