December 23, 2013

How Philosophy Helps Focus Your Time

Stone in the sandWhat does philosophy have to do with being an entrepreneur? And more specifically, what does it have to do with time management? Isn’t it all a bit esoteric, ethereal and wishy washy? I wonder if you think it’s interesting to study but not something you can practice or make use of in your daily life or work. I used to think like that. And then I read Alain de Botton’s “Consolations of Philosophy.”

I came across it almost two decades ago when I was working for a bookshop. I don’t think I would have found it otherwise even though it became a popular book, or if I had seen it advertised, I probably wouldn’t have bought or read it thinking it was a lot of fancy fluff. But I did find it, albeit by accident. I did read it. I did learn from it. And I do apply it, every day of my life.

Here’s what I learned:

1-We all have a Philosophy.

We just don’t call it that. We call it something else, like principles. Or values. Or judgments. Or viewpoint. Or perspective. We’ll use any word other than philosophy for fear of sounding too high brow or up our selves. So like it or lump it, you already have a philosophy.

  • Richard Branson’s philosophy is this: “The best lesson I learned was to just do it.”

In terms of time management I see that as a call to action. Think creatively about whatever it is you want to do – but only for a little while – then get on with it. Because at some point you have to start doing stuff to see what actually works. Until you start doing, you can’t get any results, any feedback, any idea of how well things are going and how to navigate your way to success.

2-There is Never Enough Time.

You can never have enough time, and you can never have too much time. These statements are both true, relatively speaking, because you only get 24 hours in a day. The quantity never changes. Ever. So all that is really left to do is for you to decide what you can get done in that time. That’s where your focus needs to be, not on the quantity of time alone but on the quantity of tasks you want to squeeze into that time. What is it that you can get done in the time you have? Focus on that because the number of tasks or the amount of people you throw at them are the only things you can actually control (although after a point, the number of people on a task will increase its complexity to such a point that the task will collapse upon itself or grind to a halt). What you cannot do is create more or less time.

  • Andy Warhol said this, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

3-There is Never a Perfect Time.

What I mean by that is that at some point you have to ship your product or service. You can only do so much preparation and practice but at some point, the starting whistle must blow. You must run the race. If you don’t then you don’t have a business; you have a factory producing stuff that is piling up at the door not going anywhere. Yes you can spend even more time trying to get to 100 percent, or waiting for the right moment to arrive before you give something a go, or for conditions to be exactly how you want, but how much extra time, effort and money will it take to get to that point? And how many others will beat you to the prize while you’re still finishing off? I’m not saying rush. I’m not saying don’t research or think carefully or plan ahead. I’m saying…

  • As William Arthur Ward said, “Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.”

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Lee Carnihan is a passionate digital entrepreneur. He's an optimist and loves helping people make the most of the web in whatever way he can. He started life as a designer, became a developer, turned into project manager and now writes about it all just for good measure.