Efficiency Is Overrated. What Matters Is the Way You Look at Time.

One of the most impactful, qualitative changes I’ve made to my life in the last five years has been how I look at time.

We already know time is valuable — from the moment we wake up to when we sleep, we’re taught to count the minutes in everything we do.

At home before school, my mom would yell, “5 minutes to finish breakfast or you’re going to be late!”

At school while taking a test, my teacher would yell, “2 minutes until all pencils down!”

At work, my boss would yell, “You’re late!”

The scarcity of time is something we all know well, which is why years ago, I knew to do everything I could to create more time by being more efficient.

I started listening to audiobooks instead of music at the gym. At mealtimes, I opted for microwavables. And when even that wasn’t enough, I made a commitment to sleep less and socialize less.

There was even a time when I had been so angry at being sleep-deprived I punched a hole in my wall. It was later covered with a poster of Schwarzenegger in his terminator sunglasses and the words “SLEEP FASTER” on it. I think the hole is still there.

The ironic thing is, despite having done all of that, I never felt like I was actually more efficient.

There were plenty of times when I’d suddenly get engrossed in a certain part of the audiobook I was listening to and forget what rep I was on, and by the time I started working out again, I’d then forget everything I had heard.

The lack of sleep was an issue too; despite getting a few extra hours per day, I felt like I spent most days in a half-awake stupor-like state, always tired and mentally unfocused.

The worst part about it though was, because how everything now felt like a chore, that time seemed to slow to a crawl. I probably spent five minutes of every hour checking the clock to see when the day would end.

It didn’t help either that I had planned my vacations so meticulously that they felt like chores too.

Example itinerary:

7:55AM | Meet at lobby of hotel

8:05AM | Arrive at train station B. Take train 7B at 8:09

8:24AM | Explore art museum

9:24AM | Walk to breakfast point

9:32AM | Eat breakfast

With all that said, what really matters isn’t how efficient you are with your time but rather the way you look at it.

We all have the same amount of time in a day; yet why do most of us feel as if our days are already too long while some of us wish we had even longer days?

For most of us, it’s because we measure our time based on activities we don’t like doing. We countdown as a way to make our situation more bearable: four more hours until I can go home, three more days until the weekend, or two more days until I get my paycheck. All of which is a countdown to something better.

Even when we’re counting down to New years, most people will have made some kind of resolution to change because the previous year wasn’t great.

When we correlate our problems with the time we have, our days will seem long because we’ll have forgotten why the concept of time exists in the first place.

The concept of time wasn’t created to keep track of how much longer we had to do something, but rather as a guideline to proactively enhance our lives.

It’s far more precise to tell a friend you’re meeting them at 8PM than to say, “Meet at dusk”, but for thousands of years up until late 19th century, that’s exactly what our ancestors did.

They did what they wanted for however long they wanted, ate when they were hungry, rested when they were tired and followed the rise and setting of the sun to determine when to sleep. Humans have been this way for as far as time can tell — even today, we still have the very same biological clock (circadian rhythm) as our ancestors did that causes us to be awake or drowsy depending on the amount of amount of light available.

The way I like to look at time is as a guideline rather than a metric. I judge activities I do by whether or not it’s worth doing rather than how much time it takes. If some activities are not worth spending time on but necessary to preserve quality of life, I compromise however I can.

Take for example laundry in Southeast Asia. It’s necessary to do, but rather than do it myself because I’m unwilling to fight for one of the only few communal washers available to the hundreds of residents that live in my building, I’d rather pay the $5 to get it done. As a compromise, I’ll skip drinks for my next three meals in order to pay for that luxury.

Our current average lifespan is now 78 years — if you insist on doing things you don’t like and don’t value, that’s a lot of time to be miserable.

Time isn’t meant to be like that, even for things you don’t particularly enjoy doing but required to, like waking up at 6AM every morning to show up to work, being stuck in traffic for 40 minutes or having to wait for your significant other to shop at the mall.

It’s a mindset; someone who actually enjoys their work will forget about the concept of time and work entirely. Another person could look at the 40 minutes in traffic and take that time to think about the project they’ve been wanting to start. Someone else could find the waiting for their significant other worth it because it makes them happy.

Which is to say that when you make an effort to appreciate even the things you consider as a chore, time will feel faster.

One of my favorite quotes Henry Van Dyke touches upon this exact topic:

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”

The way you look at your time determines the quality of that time.

Instead of viewing the time you drive your kids to school as a chore, look at it with the perspective of having done it because you value your kids enough to want to provide them with better opportunities in life through education. Or you’re driving them so your significant other won’t have to. Or you’re driving them so you get a few more precious moments with them outside of work.

Time we enjoy is never regretted.

Why It Makes Sense to Follow Your Passions Alongside of Work

Neither passion nor work, but both

What always astounds me, is how much of the world’s career advice gravitates towards either working relentlessly or blindly following your passions.

Why is it always one or the other, but not both? Is it really so crazy to pursue your passions the same time alongside of work?

The crazy thing is we have been doing it already — we just don’t realize it. Every relationship we’re in or have been in, are in itself a type of relationship — because how else can we explain why we spend the time to deepen those relationships if not out of passion?

Yet, somehow, none of our other passions seem to matter; instead, we see them as distractions to our work. And because we treat them as distractions, we neglect them until after our career, thinking that there we’ll have more than enough time to pursue them after we’ve retired.

The only problem is, we’ve miscalculated.

When it comes to passion, there isn’t any amount of time that will be ever enough. How many books can you read until you’ve decided you’ve read enough in your lifetime? How many cups of coffee, craft beers? How many fishes, games, art pieces?

The reality is, there isn’t likely to be a point where we’d ever be satisfied with the amount of time we have left to pursue our passion — our passions evolve with knowledge — the more we know, the more we’d want to know and inadvertently, the amount of time required to fully develop that passion.

Which is to say, our passions may very well take beyond an entire lifetime to learn. In that case, is there really enough time left to wait until after our careers to pursue our passion?

The time we’ll have spent on our careers — be it ten, fifteen, twenty years, will have been fifteen years in which we could’ve been developing our passions alongside of our work. Fifteen years. That’s enough time to probably become proficient enough in your passion to have made money from it — after all, how long did it take you to learn the skills for which you’re employed for?

Another misconception is waiting until you’ve made enough before pursuing your passion: I’ll start once I can afford a DSLR for photography. I’ll start once I can afford a Shun knife for cooking. I’ll start once I can afford a Macbook Pro for coding.

Sure — having the equipment helps, but is it required?

Why do you need a camera, much less a DSLR if you want to start photography? Why can’t you start by learning how to photo edit first? Since after all, photo editing is inevitably one of the things you’ll have to learn anyways if photography is your passion.

Passionate about scuba diving? Learn to swim and tread first — because until you do so, you can’t even be certified to dive. Passionate about furniture building? What’s to stop you from making miniature wood or clay models? What’s wrong with learning Italian before visiting Italy?

Not to mention, how unrealistic the goal of waiting until you’ve made enough money to pursue your passion is. Our lifestyles are tied in correspondence with the amount of money we make — the more money we have, the better our lifestyles will be, which is to say, once our lifestyles have expanded, we’ll have no choice other than to continue working in order to maintain that lifestyle. When that happens, will we have the time to pursue our passions?

Every conscious decision we make decides our future — whether or not we hold back on our passion until after our careers is one of them. All it is, is a choice: what do you want your future to look like fifteen years later?

The #1 Reason Why You Can’t Seem to Form Good Habits

Hint: It has less to do with you than you think

I still remember distinctly, the first time I uploaded a video on Youtube — it was early in the morning, perhaps even 4 or 5AM. I probably should’ve waited, but having already spent an entire week on the video, I was anxious to upload straight away. My only concern, was that nobody would like it — which, turned out to be a fear unfounded, since not a single person had even watched it.

Needless to say, I Continue…

How Much Money Do You Need?

What comes next after making millions of dollars.

My Christmas the year before last, was undoubtedly the worst I’ve ever had, despite having spent it on one of the most beautiful islands imaginable — Bali. My laptop had burned out on the eve of Christmas, and because New years was right around the corner, all the repair shops were closed; the only thing I could do, was wait.

If all the work you do is online, and having access to a laptop is the bread and butter to your livelihood, you’d easily feel the despair I had felt. The only choices I had were to pack up and leave immediately for China where I hoped repair shops would still be open, or stay in Bali indefinitely, until my laptop had been fixed.

I chose the latter — not because I was willing to wait, but because Continue…

Why It Makes Sense to Follow Your Passions Alongside of Work

Neither passion nor work, but both

What always astounds me, is how much of the world’s career advice gravitates towards either working relentlessly or blindly following your passions.

Why is it always one or the other, but not both? Is it really so crazy to pursue your passions the same time alongside of work?

The crazy thing is we have been doing it already — we just don’t realize it. Continue…

What Do You Wake up in the Mornings For?

How to set the right goals for a life of fulfillment

A few years ago, I watched a video of Alibaba’s billionaire founder, Jack Ma explaining his success:

“People like me, I was born in a very poor family. I never got a great education. I failed all the examinations — for what reason? I don’t know. But later I realized, I don’t have money, I don’t have technology, I don’t have a lot of good backgrounds — a rich uncle or something. The only thing I can compete with young people is let’s compete for 10 years later. This is what I believe 10 years later will be happening. So everything I do, I do for that goal I think will happen 10 years later.”

While I understood the message and theory behind it — to aim for ten-year goals in which you have a chance at winning, I couldn’t really relate at the time, until recently — for different reasons altogether, and after having taken time to reflect upon turning 30.

You see, most of my life, I’ve simply followed the currents like everyone else, letting it carry me wherever it wanted; if there was an opportunity, I’d try my best to ride the waves and likewise, if there were obstacles, I’d try my best to stay afloat. I’d like to say I knew what I was doing or what I wanted to do, but I didn’t — I didn’t have any clue at all.

My career was the exact same way. I transitioned, Continue…

The Only Thing That Matters

A story of hate, resentment and the journey within

Early in my 20s, there was someone I once hated.

We both graduated from the same high school, but I didn’t know him well at the time — except for where he lived, having knocked on his door once in an attempt to fundraise.

At school, he was quiet, even reserved — the sort of person you’d likely forget, until years later, when rediscovered within a yearbook. So I wasn’t exactly surprised several years later, when I realized I had indeed forgotten him when being reacquainted as his coworker.

At work, we were amicable but couldn’t be considered friends, given the disparity of our interests in all things other than each other’s purchases — which, while surely could’ve been the common ground for a great friendship, wasn’t and was instead the reason behind such misguided resentment. Continue…

A Story of Ironclad Persistence

And Why It's Not Always About Winning.

It’s summer, of 2012. My phone vibrates beside me, but I ignore it.

I’m in my parent’s garage, eyes glued to the TV. The garage is sweltering hot, like the insides of a sunbathed car, my only solace the dusty old fan dug out from the attic — but, I don’t care.

Because my attention at that moment, is on the screen, in London, on Kieran Behan — the first athlete I’ve ever been truly inspired by, participating in the 2012 London Olympics.

I don’t follow Behan because he’s talented or famous (although he does hold the title of being the first Irish gymnast to ever qualify for the Olympics), nor do I follow him because he’s particularly good-looking; I follow him because of his ironclad persistence — persistence that’s earned him the right to compete as an Olympic athlete, despite having had not one, but several injuries that left him immobilized for years at a time, including his very first injury when the doctor’s diagnosis was that he would never walk again.


The Ordinary’s Guide to Becoming Extraordinary

The secret to unlocking your potential.

It’s 2:00AM and I’m sitting in the dark, typing furiously, having rewritten this post at least a hundred times now— possibly more, but I’ve long lost count.

The once imagined sentences — formed gloriously in my mind, are now on paper — sporadic and unwilling, a mere whisper of the post I had wanted to write.

I ask myself:

Is writing supposed to be this difficult?
Am I destined to forever be a mediocre writer?

These questions, along with many others, fill up my mind as I struggle not to fall asleep:

How is it that great writers are able to write so effortlessly?
How is it that the people we look up to and admire, especially those we recognize as
extraordinary, are able to achieve all that they wish?

Because if anything, the question I really want to ask most is:

How do ordinary folks, like you and I, become extraordinary?