We Have All The Time In The World

pen-and-pad.jpg

There are only so many hours in the day, and they go, fast. It’s easy to find yourself on a treadmill that repeats, morning to night, day in, day out. Before you know it another week has gone by. Another month. Another year. Is it Christmas already?

When you’ve got plans for the future, goals, it’s easy to get frustrated when time flies and you’re no closer to where you want to be. When you aren’t making progress it’s easy to say “I just haven’t had the time.” But we’ve all got the same amount of time. The same number of hours in the day. And we’ve got to make them work for us.

For over a year I worked as a delivery driver. Some days I would work the early shift, getting up at 3.30am to make sure people got their groceries before they went to work. On the late shift I would travel all over the south of England, delivering well into the night. And I got an amazing insight into the lives of ordinary people. People like you and me.

On the night shift I would knock on a customer’s door and I’d often find them in their pyjamas, waiting for their delivery so they could go to bed. Sometimes I’d find them watching television. Who doesn’t like to unwind in front of the telly after a hard day at work? Downtime exercised with intent is a valuable, restorative activity.

But other times I’d knock on the door towards the end of my route, not far from midnight, and the scene would be different. I’d be met by a group of people sat round the kitchen table, still in their work clothes. The table would be strewn with documents, a fresh pot of coffee steaming next to their laptops. Clearly, these were people with a plan. They were building something, creating something. Working towards a goal.

Sometimes I’d walk up to the door in the middle of the night and I’d find a house full of art, the customer greeting me with brush in hand, their fingers covered in paint and a unfinished canvas behind. Creating. Making something.

Sometimes they’d be writing. Other times they’d be working out on their exercise bike in the living room, and they’d mop their brow as thy took receipt of their delivery. They had a goal.

All these people, who left the TV switched off in the corner of the room, had the same number of hours in the day as you and I. They weren’t looking up from the television, complaining that they just didn’t have the time. They were using their time. Filling it with things that would grow into something, take them somewhere, compound into something bigger and better. They weren't put off by fear. They weren't bothered that I saw them sweating, or covered in paint, or still in their work clothes. They weren't asking themselves "what's the point?"

Those people inspired me. On my break I would park the van by the side of the road and I would try to build something in the few minutes I had to spare. In the darkness I’d write my book on my iPhone, taking a moment or two to draft a paragraph on its tiny screen. Or I would read a blog that motivated me, or send an email that might lead to a new opportunity. Or I would work on mental exercises to boost my self esteem. I would try to make the most of those few spare minutes – the same minutes that we all have.

Today as I travel by train each morning and each evening I see people on their laptops. I wonder if they’re working on a report for work, or if they're drafting a few pages of their novel, or their business plan. When I grab a coffee on my lunch break, I see people in the corner of the coffee shop typing away, building something. On my lunch break I see people using their time to go for a jog around the block. All these people have busy lives, but they’re making the most of their minutes to propel themselves into a better future.

How do you spend your minutes and hours? Those moments on your commute when you’re staring at the world out of the window wishing you had more time, how could you be using them to build something new? To move you towards a goal?

I wrote a book on my iPhone in fifteen minute chunks parked by the side of the road. That artist spent her evenings creating a body of work. Those guys hunched around the table in the middle of the night used the hours after work to create a business. Those joggers used their lunch break to get fitter, stronger. Yes, it took effort. Yes, it made them tired the next morning. Yes, they missed House of Cards. But it was a trade off that they thought was worth it.

When you spend your time making excuses about not having enough, think about whether you could spend it building something instead. Ten minutes each night is more than an hour a week. An hour a day turns into a day in less than a month. Small things repeated over time turn into big things before you know it.

There are only so many hours in the day. But they’re the same hours that J.K. Rowling had to write Harry Potter. They’re the same hours that Elon Musk had to build PayPal.

How are you using your time?