How Do You Feel About Your Time?

Warren Buf­fet and Bill Gates have more in com­mon than their wealth. Since their first con­tact in 1991, the two have cul­ti­vat­ed an intense friend­ship in which they learned a lot from each oth­er. Bill Gates for instance learned the art of time man­age­ment from War­ren Buf­fet. This does­n’t mean metic­u­lous­ly fill­ing the very last gaps in the cal­en­dar, but rather say­ing no and focus­ing on the impor­tant things. Both of them see great val­ue in reg­u­lar­ly using part of their time to sit around, read and reflect. An hour a day (five hours a week) is said to be worth it to the two (and to some oth­er very suc­cess­ful peo­ple). And now the cru­cial ques­tion at the start of a new year: How do you feel about your time?

In this clip of a longer inter­view at Char­lie Rose, Bill Gates is still impressed by how care­ful­ly War­ren Buf­fet han­dles his time and how emp­ty his cal­en­dar was and still is, which Char­lie Rose imme­di­ate­ly checks. Busy­ness isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and mere uti­liza­tion does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly gen­er­ate out­comes or impact. Idle­ness, sit­ting around, think­ing, read­ing, all this is far too often neglect­ed in the fran­tic hus­tle and bustle.

He who has not two thirds of his day for him­self is a slave.

Friedrich Niet­zsche

Some­times this insight requires small dis­rup­tions. In Feb­ru­ary last year the flu put me out of action for two weeks. Unlike the usu­al colds, I spent most of my time lying around and was real­ly unable to work. So I was forced to go through my cal­en­dar for the next two weeks and can­cel meet­ings. And you know what: it was easy for me. Much too easy! Some­times I was even glad to be able to can­cel unim­por­tant appoint­ments that I had accept­ed out of polite­ness or van­i­ty. Only a hand­ful of appoint­ments remained that deserved to be rescheduled.

If you don’t pri­or­i­tize your life, some­one else will.

Greg McK­e­own

In hind­sight, I would like to say that this was an instruc­tive expe­ri­ence. A look at my cal­en­dar of the past weeks and months unfor­tu­nate­ly tells a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. As if lined up on a string of pearls, one appoint­ment fol­lows the next. I don’t want to brag about it and I’m not proud of it either. In the rapid pas­sage through the dai­ly columns I rather feel remind­ed of the pan­ther in the famous Ger­man poem by Rain­er Maria Rilke: “His gaze against the sweep­ing of the bars has grown so weary, it can hold no more. To him, there seem to be a thou­sand bars and back behind those thou­sand bars no world.”

And then you have to have time to just sit there and look at yourself!

Astrid Lind­gren

In spite of this expe­ri­ence, and despite the fact that I had already set myself more focus, mind­ful­ness and leisure for 2018, I was still sit­ting in too many meet­ings to which I could con­tribute lit­tle to noth­ing or from which I could prof­it only lit­tle. Exact­ly at what Bill Gates and War­ren Buf­fet, who are pre­sum­ably more busy than me, suc­ceed, i.e. spend time sit­ting around and think­ing, I failed more often than not. 

If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.

Greg McK­e­own

It would now be easy to blame oth­ers or the cir­cum­stances, my chil­dren, the open-plan offices (and Christo­pher Avery describes a few more such excus­es in his book “The Respon­si­bil­i­ty Process”), but the respon­si­bil­i­ty for my time was and remains sole­ly with me. And I will take on this respon­si­bil­i­ty even more in 2019. My appoint­ments and engage­ments will be put to the test more often and I will repeat­ed­ly ask myself in advance which one I would can­cel with regret in case of ill­ness and which one I would can­cel with equa­nim­i­ty or even plea­sure. And how do you feel about your time in the new year?

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