A recent article in the New York Times about New Year's resolutions caught my attention. Although plenty is being written on the subject this time of the year (including by yours truly), this one struck a chord with me. Arthur C. Brooks, the current president of theAmerican Enterprise Institute and a regular contributor to the paper's op-ed pages, shared his thoughts on human mortality and how to make the most of our short presence in this world.
What inspired him to write about this topic, he recalls, was a trip to Thailand where he witnessed Buddhist monks contemplating photographs of human corpses in different stages of decay to remind themselves of their own ultimate fate.
Paradoxically, such meditations on death are intended as a key instrument to live more consciously. They can heighten the awareness of life's transitory nature and help reset priorities. "In other words," he says, "it makes one ask, Am I making the right use of my scarce and precious life?"
In our daily routines, there is often a discrepancy between what truly matters to us and what we spend our time on. As studies have shown, watching television or surfing the Internet don't give people a great deal of satisfaction, yet they spend hours on end this way while other experiences like quality time with family and friends are sorely missing.
Of course, we all know that our lifespan is finite, regardless of our age, health or wealth. As Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church< and author of the bestseller The Purpose Driven Life once said, "Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can't make more time."
Then why do so many of us use time as if it won't ever run out?
It all comes down to how much you value your time and how you want to spend it, according to Craig Jarrow, author of Time Management Ninja. We all have the same amount of time available to us in a day, but how we apply it makes all the difference.
People routinely get lost in unnecessary activities, in stuff that is oftentimes frivolous and silly. For example, a lot of time and energy is wasted on complaining, gossiping, antagonizing, fighting and being plainly miserable, he says. We also waste it on doing things that yield no real benefits, like reading or watching so-called "news" about people and events unrelated to us, or updating our social media status with irrelevant information.
So, what can one do to reduce time waste? In many cases, it's not what you do but what you stop doing that turns you into a more efficient time manager, Jarrow suggests.
In fact, there are countless ways to get better organized and start saving time right away. You can plan in advance by making a list of all the things you want to accomplish in the order of their importance to you. Then stick to that schedule.
That doesn't mean you have to fill your day to the hilt with activities. Making time for yourself -- to take breaks, to think, to meditate, to play -- can be as beneficial and rewarding as any success at work or other pursuits. What matters most is that it is done consciously and with appreciation for the time you are given.
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