Time Management: Part 1 – The Why

In my continuing quest to become a more productive and motivated person, I’m writing a series related to time management. First, I’m covering why it’s important. Then I’ll start focusing on techniques, beliefs, resources, and so on.

I’m very protective about my time. Over the past years, I’ve continually been stripping away time wasting activities and trying to maximize my free time to do worthwhile activities.

One example: I choose to continue to work 34 hours/week I value my time over money. In my opinion, after an expected standard of living cost is reached, I prefer having free time over more money. I also believed that I could learn more in my free time that would help my long term career and business plans rather than work more hours doing the same thing.

But some of my friends don’t understand my negative attitude against watching movies and playing video games. After all, I spent my entire childhood in front of a television or computer screen. Back in my Newark house, we would watch television and a new movie almost every day. We dedicated Sunday evenings to Entourage, Boardwalk Empire, and Living Dead. Andrew and I mastered the Zombie mode in Black Ops after weeks of playing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the communal bonding over the television screen, and I was the instigator at times. But, a part of me was also self-loathing. This isn’t living life, this isn’t going to make me any happier or better.

Childhood story time right now.

My father came to America back in the 1980s like so many Asian Americans with the hope of starting his own business and providing for his family*. So, my father came to America, worked in a dry cleaners for a few years, and purchased his first store after I was born. American dream come true.

By the time I was a teenager, we owned three stores. My father continued working at our first one, my mother worked at the second one, and then we had a hired worker at the third one. A typical dry cleaners is often around 10-12 hours/day from 8 AM to 7 PM.

The problem is it’s difficult finding anyone willing to work 11 hours for five days straight. It’s equally difficult to have one regular person working the usual 8 hours and then another person to finish the remaining 2-3 hours in the day as a part time employee. In my early years, my brother took the brunt of the extra work load, but he moved away for two years for college while I was in high school.

So, I worked a lot of days after school at our third dry cleaning store. Most times, I didn’t get paid much or anything at all since we didn’t make a lot of money. Additionally, we only had two cars so someone would have to pick me up after school. This meant I often got home around 8pm.

This experience left a deep, deep impression on me. Adolescence was a time of helplessness, depression, and apathy. My parents worked the even more difficult 12 hour/days which lead to feelings of neglect and a generally over stressed and frustrated family. More than anything, I never ever wanted to be in a position where I would have to work like a slave ever again.  But, this is pretty common I’m sure across most poor, immigrant, entrepreneur families.

To be fair, this didn’t last throughout my entire adolescence. Mostly just during times when we needed someone to fill in for a day, a week, or a month.

I tell this story to illustrate why I’m so anal about time management. I don’t enjoy visiting friends to just play video games or watch a movie. I wouldn’t play a video game by myself for hours anymore so I definitely don’t want to do that with others.

A part of me feels like I have to make up for lost time.  Now that I’m also living with my parents and seeing them to continue working 10-12/hr days does make me feel a little guilty for any wasted time periods. Guilt isn’t a long term useful emotion to me, but it’s there nevertheless for now.

Everyone equally gets 24 hours/day. That’s a great equalizer. The question is how do we spend those 24 hours?

I’ve always been a pretty lazy person. I’ve accomplished a fair amount because I felt pressured to do so. Because education and a good job seemed like the only avenue out of poverty. Sure enough, I got a great education and a well paying job by working hard enough. Probably harder than a lot of other people. But my output still was not that high. In fact, I have a general low opinion that most people including myself don’t perform anywhere close to their potential abilities.

But I’m trying to do better. Ways I’ve cut out waste:

I’ve cut out video games completely out of my life. The last gaming console I owned was a Gamecube. The last PC game I purchased was Starcraft 2 which I no longer play.

I limit my Facebook time to less than 10 minutes/day.

I only watch 2-5 hours of television/week. My shows include 30 Rock, The Office, Community, Californication, Daily Show, and Colbert Report. Daily Show and Colbert weren’t on this week so that makes 2 hours. I eagerly await the series finale of all the shows so that I can end my television watching altogether.

These days, I don’t call any friends to make plans, but I do accept social invites. I still want to maintain my relationships after all. But, in the past, I used to call friends whenever I got bored and wanted to avoid any work. That needed to end.

I keep a monthly, weekly, and daily journal of goals, to do lists, social events, and activity log of what I do every day.

Let’s make it clear though. I’m not trying to be a 24/7 workaholic that never has any fun. I think leisure time is a sacred part of life that is to be safeguarded and enjoyed by everyone. However, doing activities just to escape boredom, to just be stimulated isn’t appealing to me.

I’ve cleared my calendar as much as possible from any distractions or time consuming, unproductive activities. So, my next problem is how to maintain a consistent level of energy, motivation, and effort over time.

I’ve come up with some solutions. But I think the most important point is to just keep trying. Falling off the wagon initially is expected. The real question is how quickly I can get back on.

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Notes:

*Mind you, the United States for a long time had a quota set against incoming Asian immigrants which was lifted allowing an influx of Asians to reach America. Korea, at the time, was still in horrible shape with a corrupt government and lack of opportunities for young men like my father.

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