“Time is what we want most, but what we spend worst.”

William Penn said that. It’s profound and very true.

Time is more valuable than money.

You can always get more money, but you can never get more time.

But surprisingly we spend our precious time doing everything that add little or no value to our lives.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have both said, that, to get your best work done, you have to say no to almost everything.

In his essay, ‘On the Shortness of Life’, the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca reminds us that if we waste our life, nature will not give us any warnings or signals. Instead, life will “silently glide away”:

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.

There are lots of ways to slice your working hours every day.

8 hours is a lot of time you may be spending on too many things that have little or no value to your long-term goal.

2 hours in a meeting you didn’t even need in the first place, 30 minutes on your favourite social network site just scrolling without end, reacting or responding to urgent emails that have no impact on the bigger picture, and the constant notification that distracts you from getting real work done.

This is how you end up thinking “What did I actually do today?” when the clock turns to five and you supposedly spent eight hours at the office.

You know you were there, but the hours had no weight, so they slipped away with nothing to show for it.

A fractured 8 hours isn’t really how you should spend your time– don’t make your work day a mess of minutes.

Look at your hours. If they’re a bunch of fractions, who or what is doing the division? Are others distracting you or are you distracting yourself?

What can you change?

How many things are you working on in a given hour?

One thing at a time doesn’t mean one thing, then another thing, then another thing in quick succession.

It means an insane focus on the one thing you have to do to advance your work and career goals.

When was the last time you had three or even four completely uninterrupted hours to yourself and your work?”

8 hours a day is plenty of time to do great work, plenty of time to focus on important tasks, plenty of time to get real work done.

Most of what we think we have to do, we don’t have to do at all.

It’s a choice, and often it’s a poor one.

When you cut out what’s unnecessary, you’re left with what you need.

And all you need is 8 hours a day for about 5 days a week.

Almost everything can wait if you can commit to it or defend your time like your future depends on it.

Have you looked at your own calendar lately?

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”— Warren Buffet

How many things did you put there?

How many things did other people put there?

When someone takes your time, it doesn’t cost them anything, but it costs you everything.

Practice the right to decline.

Before you say yes and commit to everything you don’t have to do, remember you have the right to say no and defend your schedule.

“Choice” is a privilege and to harness choice empowers you.

You have the freedom to choose and the freedom to change your mind.

In terms of productivity, how you deal with this choice dictates whether or not you waste your time and the time of another person or people.

Saying no means you have time to focus on your own creation, tasks and projects, rather than responding and reacting to requests.

In the words of Paulo Coelho, “When you say YES to others, make sure you are not saying NO to yourself.”

How is how Charles Dickens rejected an invitation from a friend:

“‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.”

It pays to take control of your time and distribute it right.

And don’t give too many damns about what people will think when you start saying no to their demands on your time.

Once you learn how to say no, you will pay attention to what’s important and not necessarily urgent.

Are you wasting, spending, or investing your time?

Start by reviewing your daily routine today.

It’s important to look at everything you do on a regular basis and ask yourself if that really makes your life better?

Track your daily activities for some time to clearly see where your time is being spent. Meetings, phone calls, emails, notifications, small chats, and many other distractions are constantly splitting your attention.

Record ALL your appointments, deadlines, and everything in-between. Analyse the actual time you spend on each activity with what you think is the best amount for each.

Schedule the heck out of your days. Schedule everything in advance.

Make a plan and know what’s going on each day.

This helps you figure out how you’re spending your time

Notice where time leaks, then declutter your routine.

Revisit your schedule regularly. Check in with yourself weekly to see if your schedule reflects what you want it to.

You can only do great work if you have adequate quality time to do it.

If you don’t own the vast majority of your own time, it’s impossible to achieve your goals.

Cut back on everything that brings little or no value to your life.

The easiest way to get back huge chunks of time is to eliminate pointless activities from your life.

Limit the time you spend on the internet and smartphones.

Review and reduce your commitments.

Question all your obligations.

Start owning your time and create room in your life.

Some breathing space. Some time for what’s most important — your important work, and the things that you love.

Your time is your most valuable resource, even more so than money.

You cannot get more time. Don’t let others waste or steal it.

Start defending it today.

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Originally published on Medium.com.