10 ways to get the most out of your time on this planet
Published: 2 years ago
|Updated: 2 years ago
This post is part of TED’s “How to Be a Better Human” series, each of which contains a piece of helpful advice from people in the TED community; browse through all the posts here.
When we recognize the shortness of life — and accept the fact that some things have to be left unaccomplished, whether we like it or not — we are freer to focus on what matters.
1. Adopt a “fixed volume” approach to productivity -
A related strategy is to set a pre-established time boundary for certain types of daily work — for example, to resolve to write from 8AM to 11AM — and to make sure you stop when time’s up.
Focus only on one big project at a time. Multitasking rarely works well — and you’ll soon find that serializing helps you to complete more projects anyway, thereby helping relieve your anxiety.
3. Decide in advance what to fail at-
You’ll inevitably underachieve at something, simply because your time and energy are finite. Nominating in advance the areas of your life in which you won’t expect excellence — helps you focus your time and energy more effectively.
4. Focus on what you’ve already completed, not just what’s left to do-
Keep a “done list”It’s a cheering reminder that you could have spent the day doing nothing remotely constructive … yet you didn’t.
5. Consolidate your caring-
Social media is a giant machine for getting you to spend your time caring about the wrong things — Once you grasp that fact fully, it’s good to consciously pick your battles in charity, activism, and politics — and devote your spare time only to those specific causes.
6. Embrace boring and single-purpose technology-
Scrolling idly around online, you need never feel bored or constrained in your freedom of action. You can combat this by making your devices as boring as possible, removing social media apps and, if you dare, email. It’s also helpful to choose devices with only one purpose, such as the Kindle reader.
7. Seek out novelty in the mundane-
Pay more attention to every moment, however mundane — to find novelty by plunging more deeply into your present life. Try going on unplanned walks to see where they lead you, taking up drawing or birdwatching or playing “I Spy” with a child — whatever draws your attention into the moment more fully.
8. Be a researcher in relationships-
Try being curious about the person you’re with, rather than controlling. Curiosity is a stance well-suited to the inherent unpredictability of life with others, because it can be satisfied by their behaving in ways you like or dislike — whereas if you demand a certain result instead, you’ll often be frustrated.
9. Cultivate instantaneous generosity-
Whenever a generous impulse arises in your mind, give in to it right away rather than putting it off. Don’t wait to figure out if the recipient deserves your generosity or if you really have the time to be generous right now. Because generous action reliably makes you feel much happier.
10. Practice doing nothing-
Doing nothing means resisting the urge to manipulate your experience or the people and things in the world around you, and to let things be as they are. You can try the “do-nothing” meditation, where you set a timer for 5-10 minutes and then try doing nothing. If you catch yourself doing something — thinking, say, or even just focusing on your breath — gently let go of doing it.