Don’t Waste Your Life

Hanoi, 2016
Hanoi, 2016

Economy: the art of avoiding unnecessary expenditure.

I see economy as the art of using your income wisely, and with moderation (credit to Seneca for the idea).

Economy can be applied to many different ways in our life:

  1. To use our time economically
  2. To use our money economically
  3. To use our energy economically

1. How to use our time more economically

I feel of these three, the first is the most difficult.

How can we best use our time economically?

To me, using our time economically means to not waste our time. It doesn’t mean to “optimize” or “maximize” our time, or learning how to be more “efficient”. Because what is “efficient” is often not the best use of our time. We can be very efficient with answering emails, buying groceries, or doing things on our to-do list — but what if answering emails, buying groceries, or doing things on our to-do list weren’t important, or urgent?

We don’t know what a good use of our time is, but we certainly know what wastes our time.

We waste our time with negative thoughts, re-living the past, fearing for the future, through gossiping about others, watching passive entertainment, by worrying about our finances, and being envious or jealous of others.

What if we spent all of our time on ourselves, and our own needs? What if we didn’t worry about the lives of others, and focused on maximizing our personal creativity? What if we used all our time to improve ourselves, and our minds, in order to better help others and society?

2. How to use our money more economically

A lot of us see money as the secret to happiness. And I think it is because we confuse money and freedom.

Money is a means to an end, not the end itself. By having more money we think we have more freedom of our time. More money is less stress and more choices what to do with our lives.

However the problem is that there are a lot of billionaires out there who have a ton of money, but no freedom. Imagine all the billionaires out there who can’t even take a nap when they want to.

Is it more money you want in life, or more freedom?

Often we make the mistake of changing our freedom for more time. What we should be doing is exchanging our money for more freedom.

Yet the problem is most of us don’t know what we want to do with our lives. My simple suggestion: what feels like “playing” to you? Often that is the best way to use your time.

For me, I have the most fun when coming up with ideas, writing, photographing, being creative, and being with my friends and family. To me, that is just “playing.” And that is how I create the most value for others, and it is how I am the most useful to others.

Of course, you need to search deep within — and figure out what is the best use of your time, energy, effort, and personal freedom. I don’t have the answer— only you do.

3. How to use our energy more economically

To me, I think that “time management” is overrated. What we should be seeking is “energy management.”

We can have 8 hours of leisure time in a day, but if we are exhausted, apathetic, and tired — we cannot use that time effectively.

What do you do with your energy, that drains you in a negative way? For me, that is negative people, negative thoughts, fear, regret, and dwelling in the past (as well as fearing the future).

If you want to have more positive energy, just seek to avoid the vampires. The vampires are people in your life who suck out your blood and energy, and make you feel drained and shitty afterwards.

Be economical with your energy. For me, I am always the most fresh (energy-wise) in the mornings. So no matter what, I always focus on doing creative work first thing in the morning, and avoid all other unnecessary tasks.

The best tip I got: never check your email first thing in the morning. Because this will mean you will prioritize other people’s work, over your own personal work. If you are addicted to checking email (as I once was) perhaps sleep with your phone charging in your living room. Or uninstall email from your phone. Or turn off your phone when you go to bed, and use an old-school alarm clock. Or disabling wifi in your home. Whatever it takes.

Guard your creative energy fiercely. Because once it is gone, it is gone for the day.

Fail forward

The art of living is one of the most difficult arts to master. We can practice trying to not waste our life to the best of our ability — but we will always fail.

The secret is to fail forward. I am not perfect with my time, energy, effort, money, or life. I always waste a lot more of my life than I would like.

But what I try to do is trying to be a little less wasteful of my life everyday. That means to have more gratitude everyday. To have fewer fears everyday. To spend more time doing creative work, and less time regretting the past.

What is your life worth to you? Don’t sell your life, or yourself for cheap.


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