Words of Wisdom 017: On focusing your time

How you steward your time determines the quality of your life.

Think carefully and regularly about how you use your time. Time is the one thing you can't catch up on, one of the most precious and scarce resources we have as finite humans. Life indeed is short, and if you take it for granted, it will be gone before you know it.

We all want something for nothing, and our character determines if we will seek those shortcuts or invest our time in a way worthy of the goal. The more valuable the vision, the more time it will take to get there. Part of seeking wisdom is to steward your time intentionally.

Saving money is done best a little at a time throughout your life. The same is true with investing your time in pursuing what is good, true, and beautiful.


Here are a few ideas on how to focus your time.

1. Focus your efforts on what matters most. Ask yourself: Will I care about this thing/hobby/meeting/decision in the future? We typically regret not doing meaningful things and overestimate the stress of unessential tasks.

Spend time on who matters most. If you are married, it's your spouse. If children, it's spending time with them. Keep asking yourself if what you are doing is the most valuable way to spend your time. It's not about what is important to someone else, but what applies to you, your current season, and what sparks joy. Spending intentional time encouraging or helping a friend may not be important to someone else, but it's unlikely you will regret it later.

Don't respond to online criticism. The best response to someone who criticizes you on social media is typically no response at all. Don't engage. Don't give your time to someone who isn't respecting you. If you are tempted to argue with someone online, you're merely opening yourself up to wasting your time, and you are highly unlikely to accomplish anything meaningful.

Teach others around you what is important to you.

Tell whoever you need to that you are not to be interrupted at certain times or that you won't be responding if they reach out. I work from home and tell my wife I'm going into my "concentration cave."

Minimize distractions. Turn off all notifications on your devices, or put your cell phone in another room. Whenever possible, permanently disable notifications for each app or software you have.

2. Pomodoro technique. Have a focused work block for 20-30 minutes and a focused rest block for 3-5 minutes. Rinse and repeat. I choose a single topic or task for the work block, the most important thing to focus on that day. During the focused rest block, I will go to the bathroom, heat my tea, and perhaps do a few minutes of stretching. Another favorite is to do a quick grease the groove movement, such as pushups, pullups, hanging from a bar or rings, or overhead press with a kettlebell.

3. Commit small amounts of time regularly to practice your priorities. Just show up. Whether it's a few minutes cleaning up, five minutes meditating, or 20 minutes writing, committing what feels like a small amount of time to something meaningful is an effective strategy to make sure you get past any internal or external resistance.

5. Give yourself permission to quit after you complete your initial commitment. Often you'll find that once you start, you actually want to keep going with what you were just resisting. Beginning your practice each day is what matters most.

4. Create a habit that starts your work or creative habit. Do a small routine every time before you begin your focused work. It could be organizing your desk, reading an inspiring quote, or playing a particular song. One of the great Russian composers, Igor Stravinsky, did the same thing every morning to start his workday: he played a Bach fugue, like Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.


"What I've learned since I was a kid is how to work toward goals that are neither clearly defined nor externally imposed. You'll probably have to learn both if you want to do really great things."

Paul Graham

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

J.R.R. Tolkein, The Fellowship of the Ring


Is this how I want to be spending my time?

What can I focus on right now?


You know the value of regularly focusing your efforts on exercising your body. Do the same with your mind, and grow your mental fitness.

Please pay it forward and pass on this newsletter to your friends and colleagues. You can send them here.

Live wisely with the time you have,


P.S. If you haven't done your annual reflection yet, you still have time! Read it here.

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