Intentional Time

“You can go slow. Allow your dreams and goals to change, but live an intentional life.”

Kumail Nanjiani, Comedian, actor, screenwriter, co-writer of The Big Sick

My dad recently surprise gifted me Cal Newport’s Time-Block Planner. The book is a whole lot nicer than it appears on Amazon and features a soft cover with an embossed grid on a deep-blue background and nice thick paper (I shouldn’t be surprised by the quality—it’s printed by Penguin Business / Penguin Random House.)

The Time-Block system is built around ”managing time instead of tasks” and originates all the way back to Benjamin Franklin. The idea is to be more intentional about your time by assigning (and reassigning if things change) blocks of time each day. This helps us not only focus on the important things we want to focus on but also highlight what’s eating our time.

I’d like to get a better handle on where I spend my time—not just productively but meaningfully.

My daily habits system has been super impactful on my life, and in the long run, will pay off through compounded effort. But I’d like to get better at spending my time wisely and finishing larger goals.

This year has been a very reactionary year for me, with the company I was working for closing due to the pandemic, scrambling to get some freelance clients, cultivating new and relevant skills, and other personal problems going on in my life. Things feel busy and crammed and it’s no Bueno.

I’m hoping that this is a good start to a clean slate of living intentionally and crafting the kind of lifestyle I want to live.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress and what I think of the Time-Block Planner as I start using it consistently.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1289

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Waste of Time

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live a meaningful and intentional lifestyle. The details would look different for each of us (depending on what’s important to us) but there’s gotta be some overarching principles for a meaningful life.

Let’s look at the opposite of a meaningful life—wasted time.

If our life is made up of time (our most valuable resource) then wasting our time leads us down a path of regret and unhappiness.

But what does wasted time look like?

Again, not so easily answered universally. We all value certain things over others.

Here are some questions to reflect on whether or not you are using your time wisely:

Q: Am I spending my time or investing my time?

Entertainment is incredible. But it’s also about balance. Enjoy the things you love, but not let your love of short term pleasure and experience crowd out the long term benefits of investing your time more wisely. Ask yourself, “Am I enjoying this? Am I gaining some value from this experience?”

Q: Will I care about this a month from now? How about a year? 3 years?

If not, then it’s likely a waste of valuable resources. For example, if you’re angry about something critical or hateful someone said to you, are you really going to care about it a year from now? Not really—you likely won’t even remember the mean spirited comment. Then, it’s not worth the time to dwell on it! Easier said than done, of course. But even knowing that it’s a waste of time is a helpful way to reset yourself and give yourself the space to move on from it.

Q: Is this part of my current environment’s lifestyle? Or, put more generally, is this something in my immediate control or not?

If you live in New York, then taking the subway, walking long distances, paying for a taxi or a Lyft, and/or paying top dollar for parking is a way of life. In this case, commuting isn’t a waste of time, because it’s a necessity for living in the city. That’s not easily changeable. But the upsides of living in a thriving city might be worth it for you. Otherwise, why are you there?

If so, then I should either stop stressing or regretting the cost or change my environment that aligns better with what a meaningful life looks like for me.

Q: What can I learn from this experience?

There’s always going to be moments in our lives where we cave or unintentionally waste our time. We aren’t perfect. Mistakes will be made. But failure isn’t a waste of time unless we stubbornly refuse to learn from our mistakes and misfortunes.

Wasted time is only wasted time if we refuse to learn from it.

This requires our ego to take a knee and humble itself enough to be open to change, to moving forward, to emotion, to uncomfortable conversations and hope for a better version of ourselves going forward. But if we loop our wasted time over and over again in our heads, not only are we not learning from the past, we aren’t moving forward (aka we’re wasting even more precious time.)

Am I running on default or am I living intentionally?

Default is:

  • Doing things other people tell you without regard to why.
  • Not making decisions (allow other people to make them for you.

Living intentionally is having an active say in who you want to be and how you want to live.

A meaningful life is a well-invested life.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1117

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Make It Count

“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” Elbert Hubbard

I read a great quote recently by Alexis Ohanian, entrepreneur, investor, co-founder of Reddit—

“Lives Remaining: Zero”

On any given normal day, life feels infinite. It feels like we have all the time in the world to do and be who we want. And so we often push off the important things (things that usually require hard work and discomfort) in favor of entertainment and nothing burgers.

The significance of our time really only shows up in moments of difficult or life and death situations. If you’ve survived 2020, then you know the feeling of how quickly time passes. Getting older does it too. Time seems to speed up in our brains.

Have you ever heard given the response, “Just killing time until…such and such.”

But do we really have time to waste or kill time?

Whether or not you believe in live after this one—this is the only life you’ve got right now.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes by the poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

This is it. Better make the most of it.

Better make it count.

“You’ve got zero lives remaining, don’t squander this one.”

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1111

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You Need A Practice

It took me a long time to realize how very little of life is in our control. We go through life feeling like we are in control—until we aren’t. Something happens that shakes us. A broken arm or health issue that shows us we are not invincible. A random circumstance that knocks the wind out of us. A realization that changes how we think about the world. These are turning points that can either keep us scared or lift us to a new level of understanding.

At its fundamental level, control means having power or influence over something. With just one hand, I could count how many things I have controller over:

  1. My thoughts.
  2. My actions and reactions.
  3. What I prioritize, focus on and/or value.
  4. Where I spend my time (and other resources).

In a way, what’s in our control are all related to one another. Thoughts lead to actions, and actions show what we prioritize our time on. These give us a credible amount of agency over our lives, but at the same time we are are in the midst of things outside of our control—an island in the middle of an untamable sea. But chaos doesn’t mean we are powerless. By focusing and honing what we do control, we can handle any life circumstances that come our way.

One great way to channel what’s in our control is to start a practice. Having a practice grounds you when everything else is up in the air.

Having a practice grounds you when everything else is up in the air.

What practice(s) you do is up to you. It could be something creative, like writing, dance, pottery, painting, drawing, making youtube videos, calligraphy, guitar, etc. It could be something nourishing, like yoga, mediation, cooking, running, swimming, etc.

What matters is making it intentional. And, ideally, it’s something you put into practice daily. But I’m not yo mama. I’m not going to tell you how you should live your life. We each have our own choice here. We could go about life rocking with the ship and whatever wave hits us. Or we could learn how to sail.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #876

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Having A Practice – Steven Pressfield

The Currency of Knowledge

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”

John Adams

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

Peter Drucker

Money isn’t the only thing that gets you far in life. Although an important component of any entrepreneurial or creative endeavor, you could argue money is the least important resource. (Blasphemy!)

Not to say that money is easier to come by — it takes a lot of work and skill to create money. But there’s no limit to how much you can make (There might be false limits or mental limits that cap you, but technically, if you think about it, you can make as little or as much as you want.)

Time, energy and knowledge, however, are more finite. There’s only so much time and energy we have to give. By the time you’re old enough to read and understand this, you’ve already given decades of your time and energy.

Knowledge has limits as well. There’s only so much we can fit in our brains at once, and the amount of knowledge we can obtain is in sync with our time, energy and finances. Knowledge also ‘has a half-life’. Some things are tried-and-true, but most of what we know will likely be irrelevant a decade or so from now. Real knowledge is the principles and patterns beneath a skill that allow you to learn and relearn to your curious heart’s content.

If you are in school or have a full-time job like me, there are only a precious few hours we have to give.

But here’s the things: knowledge is a powerful currency that we (who are lucky enough) have access too. Knowledge is free. Yes, there’s paywalls and cliques and a dozen other obstacles and distractions (which I’ll get to in a second), but our interconnected lives have leveled the playing field. There are truck-loads of knowledge out there online. A few ads later and you can watch how to build a business on YouTube. Through podcasting and TED talks, you can listen to conversations with the smartest people on the planet. We are all a few clicks away from learning anything we ever wanted to learn.

Knowledge is a powerful currency that levels the playing field.

And that’s me only thinking about individuals. When we create connections with likeminded people and/or build teams dedicated to building something purposeful, our knowledge currency multiples.

But. (And this is a doozie.)

In order to cultivate more knowledge, we have to stay focused and put away our distractions as much as we can. There’s a lot of people out there who are highly skilled at a lot of things that don’t add up too much. Not that being highly skilled is what life’s all about. (Some of the best things in life can’t be created by achieving.) But the question is, are your distractions owning your life?

You have the power to learn anything.

Now you just have to put in the time.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #863

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Solving Problems Fast

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Albert Einstein

Do you ever wonder why most exams, be it a high school math exam, college English final, or driver test are all timed?

I’m sure one reason is that time is money and not a lot of teachers want to spend three days waiting for students to finish their essays. An exam fits within our precisely timed lives.

But there’s another reason why exams are timed that we can take advantage of:

Tests are designed to ensure that the majority of students finish.

Or in other words, the exams are tested to be doable (Most of them anyway. I’ve experienced some tests that were diabolically designed to be anything but doable.) This isn’t something most of us think about, but it makes sense. What I find interesting is that last part: the majority of students finish. Put a random group of students in a room and most of them will finish within the time given.

Which got me thinking. What if most (or dare I say any) problem I have can be solved if I focus on answering it within a certain amount of time? Or at least come away with a possible solution I can experiment with?

The goal isn’t speed, I don’t care if I finish quickly. The goal is to give 100% of my energy and creativity towards coming up with ideas for a problem I’m facing while the clock counts down.

Just like how we want to fill a room with objects, or fill a closet with clothes (no matter how small or large it is), we also fill in time we have available.

So what would it look like if you only had an hour to think about a particular problem?

What about 30 minutes? Let’s go smaller. What ideas would you come up within 5 minutes?

What if you only gave yourself 90 seconds?

Think of a problem you want to tackle. It could be anything — work, health, productivity, creative — And then set a timer for 90 seconds.

Like:

  • What can I try to cultivate closer friendships?
  • Or if I only had a day to make $1000, what could I do or sell?
  • What bad habits are weighing me down and what good habits can I replace them with?
  • Or something more general, like what’s bothering me right now and why?

What ideas can you sketch out? Don’t leave anything out. Crazy ideas, boring ideas. Go weird.

The more ideas we have, the better chance we’ll come up with a great idea we can use.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #854

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Worth it

Essential should take priority over immediate. And yet, we often allow ourselves and feel driven to do the opposite. There’s many reasons we could point to — we didn’t sleep well last night, we are distracted by pain or distracted by shiny things, etc.

What’s easier: answering a few emails and clearing out your inbox or working on your app?

What’s more appealing: watching Netflix or sweating at the gym?

What’s more exciting: going out for drinks or putting butt in seat and writing?

Essential over immediate.

The essential takes more time, energy and intention. No wonder we struggle to get anything important done! We trade short-term pleasures for long-term success and happiness. Not that we have to give up happiness in the present in order to have it in the future. Rather, happiness comes from the process of spending our time and energy in ways that we love and find meaningful. Even an ounce of effort spent on what we love creates massive returns on the rest of our effort (which we might have to give to our other responsibilities, such as working to afford food for our family).

There’s another big reason that the important things tend to get benched:

The important things become too important. Or in other words, the essential things we want to do are so important that we end up not doing them. We idealize and fantasize them into a undefeatable monster in our minds. We (consciously or subconsciously) delay, avoid, distract, procrastinate and psych ourselves out from doing them. And eventually we end up filling our time and energy with everything BUT the things we want to do.

I’m making it seem clear and cut-and-dry, but it’s usually anything but. In reality the tradeoffs are so subtle. We hardly even notice we are selling ourselves short and are feeding the wrong things. We trade what we really want to do, for second or third-best options because we think that’s all we desire or are capable of doing.

Because what if we fail?
What if we waste all this time and energy for nothing?
What if we succeed and are still unhappy?

Ultimately it comes down to giving yourself some space and asking yourself is it worth it or not.

Is this worth my finite amount of time and energy?
Is this going to add value to my life AND the lives around me?
Is this going to provide me meaning and happiness in the present, regardless if I fail or succeed in the end?

Failing at something you love is better than succeed at something you hate or find mediocre.

Because failure is recoverable. But we can’t get back wasted time on things that don’t matter.

The road to mediocrity is born from hesitation and feeding ‘what you are supposed to do’ instead of what you feel called to do.

What do you feel called to do in this life?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #734


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What Gets Rushed Gets Redone

I think it’s healthy to consider why you are trying to get something done as quickly as possible in the first place. If you have to rush through it, is it really that important to you?

Rushing usually doesn’t create the desired effect.

Not to say we should throw away all deadlines and constraints. Constraints used well are guardrails that keep us on track and set us up to finish what we start. However, repeatedly setting unrealistic deadlines and constant rushing through things not only stresses everyone involved out, it completely diminishes our ability to do great work.

Rushing usually comes into play when your desire to do more outpaces your time and resources available. A classic example is traveling to Europe for a weeks vacation and trying to fit 30 countries in. Instead of enjoying one city, such as London, and all the wonders and excitements that the city holds, you spend 90% of your time hopping from one place to the next, taking a flyby trip to London, Paris, Rome, Hamburg…. on and on. You leave with a few great memories and one universal sentiment: “I wish I hadn’t planned so many destinations to visit”.

Rushing happens in all types of day to day life as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself quickly reading a book just to get it over with so I can go to the next one. (And barely able to recall what I just read.)

What’s the point of reading a book if you aren’t learning anything or enjoying it?

And the biggest capital offender of rushing is work. We rush to get to work, we rush to meetings, we rush to eat, we rush projects, we rush leaving work, and we rush through conversations, answer a few quick emails and go to bed to start all over again.

Have you ever stopped to consider why we as a culture do it this way? Is this the most effect way to build a business or is this just the default?

What if we instead focused on quality versus quantity. What if we gave ourselves just enough time — not to little, and not to much — to create high quality projects and meaningful conversations and relationships.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #535

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Live a Little (For Josh’s Sake) — Life Principle #18

Lately, I’ve been bad about being spontaneous. 

I️ think it’s the fact that I’ve been working so much this past year that any time remaining is incredibly precious to me. It’s ironic that I️ had to give up the majority of my time to work, to understand how precious time really is.

When someone asks me if I️ want to go hiking, grab some sushi, or whatever on the spot, I️ stammer and mumble out a no and lame excuse more often than not. It’s not that I️ don’t want to go hiking, it’s just that I️ already have a mental checklist of things I️ want to do (or have to do). My expectations of what I️ could be doing get in the way of what I️ am doing. It’s kind of a lose lose. I️ could get sushi, but I️ would also like to write. Or the other way around! Okay, I’ll say yes to sushi, but then be thinking about all the great writing I️ could be doing!

I️ don’t want to let others define what I️ do with my time. 

But I️ also don’t want to be a tightwad.

There’s a fine balance between making time for priorities and actually living a little. 

Which bring me to the next Renaissance Life Principle:

Life Principle #18: Live a Little (For Josh’s Sake)

It’s good to be responsible and intentional about our goals and habits, but don’t let I­t­ sideline you from actually living. Focusing on today is how you make tomorrow brighter, but take yourself too seriously and you’ll create the opposite result.

Being responsible shouldn’t also mean ‘Up your own butt’.

Take your shoes off and stay awhile. Learn to live in the hectic moments, and learn to enjoy the silent moments too.

The key to a meaningful life is not cramming your calendar with so much stuff.
Minimalism can apply to not only things we own but things we do. (This is sometime I️ still need to learn and apply.) Trying to add 48 hours worth of work into 24 hours will leave you exhausted and not very excited about what you’re doing, even I­f it’s enjoyable to you.

The quality of your time means everything, but spend too much time focused on yourself and your own goals and aspirations and you’ll end up doing a lot but not really living

How to Live a Little

Create room each day for negative space — time in which you do nothing. No podcasts, no music, just enjoy the silence and reflect on the moment. I­t­ could be 20 minutes, I­t­ could be 1 minute — whatever you have to give.

Practice intentionality. The more intentional we are about how we live, the more we can squeeze out happiness in every moment (even the sucky ones).
Go for a walk weekly or daily, with the mindset of practicing being intentional. From the small blades of grass to the buildings around you — focus on the world around you. Look at the sky, feel the wind, see and smile at the people you come across.

Plan Spontaneity. If you’re sometimes a tightwad (like me), plan to be spontaneous at least once a week. I️ know, planning spontaneity is not very spontaneous… but it’s a step in the right direction. When someone asks if you want to do something, be open to I­t­ if I­t­ sounds enjoyable to you. Get yourself ready for someone to ask you to be spontaneous. Steel yourself up. Make time to live a little.

Prioritize. Ask yourself, “Am I️ trying to fit a week’s worth of work into one day?” If you are, take a step back and reprioritize. We create the life we live with the decisions we make with what we have to go on. Reinvention is just one action away from reality.

Go on that hike, grab that sushi. 
Whatever you need to do, I­t­ can probably wait. But if I­t­ can’t, don’t fret about I­t­. Do what you have to do and grab sushi next time.

Live a little.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

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Related Insights

“Youth is something I never wanna take for granted. I just want to smile and live life.” — Tyler, The Creator

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” — Steve Jobs

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” — Dale Carnegie

Are You Phoning It In?

Plot Twist: There is an actual limit to how much we can do at one time. 

I️’ve always been late to this party. (Mostly because I️’m in permanent denial) ‘Wait, you mean I️ can’t do everything all at once?!’

Right now, Somewhere in time and space, an economics class is talking about opportunity costs. (Pour one out for all the economic homies) The term describes the idea that choosing one opportunity prevents you from choosing others. And it’s true, there’s only so much time, energy and work you can give in a day. If you want to master basketball, you’re not going to have the necessary time you need to master guitar too. (Well.. you can try but you’ll be a jack of all trades master of nada)

I’ve been experimenting with where my line in the sand is when it comes to how much and how many pursuits I️ can have at once. (Because I’m crazy) What I’ve learned is I️ can be quite resilient with the amount and variety of things I️ can hold in my head.. however (like everyone and their mamma) I am limited by the 24-hour cycle. But more importantly, doing too much at once gives me the opposite of want.
More more more doesn’t give you peace of mind, happiness, creative space — it sandblasts away all of those and leaves you as a shell of a human. (aka about as interesting as a broomstick in a vacuum cleaner world) And it’s just not a great way to live. On the worst days you feel rushed, overwhelmed and like you’re making zero progress in a million things.

Whenever I️ fall into the fallacy of  ‘I can do everything all at once’ my life becomes a nightmare and I️ need to re-evaluate. (before I implode) Life isn’t about how much you do, it’s about how much you give to what matters to you.

 

How do we know what matters most to us?

Look at everything in your life and ask yourself, ‘Am I️ phoning this in?’
‘Is this important to me or just distracting me from what’s important?’

If it’s not important — if it’s a distraction from what you really want — why are you doing it? Because it’s easier to do more than do less.

Choosing less is HARD (Believe me I️ know more than anyone)
It’s something I️ need to work on. It’s just hard for me to say no to opportunities when my previous year was so difficult and rot with no’s. 

But more won’t bring me a meaning life filled with Renaissance, friendships and purpose.

Action Step: Choose What’s Important to You; Learn to say no to everything else.

Action Question: Am I phoning this in? 

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

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Related Wisdom:

“Most people don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. They imitate others, go with the flow, and follow paths without making their own.”

“Don’t be on your deathbed someday, having squandered your one chance at life, full of regret because you pursed little distractions instead of big dreams.”

“Just pay close attention to what excites you and what drains you. Pay close attention to when you’re begin the real you and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury.”

“If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” About something, say “no”.

Derek Sivers, Anything You Want