A Magician of Time

It’s strange sometimes to see yourself through other people’s eyes. Others see things — both good and bad — that you don’t see in yourself.

“I see you as outdoorsy,” a new friend told me the other day, which caught me off guard. I’ve never thought of myself that way.

Or a few months ago, a friend told me, “Every time I see you, you’re doing something amazing.” Me? I love my life, but much of it seems so mundane, so boring. But I only see this friend a few times a year, and through her eyes I’m always doing something new and different, like training for a marathon or traveling to South America or writing a book. (To me, these are the exceptions and not the rule. Mostly, I sit here at this desk, typing on this keyboard, writing about money.)

Then, on Monday night, my Spanish tutor said something else that surprised me. We were talking about the books I’ve been reading and my plans for the coming months. “Tu eres un mago del tiempo,” she told me: “You are a magician of time.” When I asked what she meant, she said that I seem to do so many things that I must be able to create time out of thin air.

Well, I can’t create time, of course, as much as I wish it were true. But I’ve been thinking about this comment for the past couple of days, and I’ve realized that maybe I’ve finally learned to be productive — at least more productive than I used to be. Here are a few of the things I do to magically create more time:

  • I say “yes” to things. A few years ago, I made it a policy to say “yes” to any new opportunity that came along, even if it scared me. As a result, I’ve jumped out of an airplane, written a book, and met dozens of GRS readers. Because I embrace new experiences, it probably seems like I’m doing more than I actually am.
  • I say “no” to things. While I’m eager to say “yes” to new opportunities, I’ve also learned that it’s important to say “no” to the things that drag me down. I’m only one man. I can’t do everything. At the age of (nearly) 43, I’m smart enough to recognize when something will be a time sink; I steer clear of time sinks.
  • I do what I love. I used to be a dilettante. I dabbled in dozens of hobbies — astronomy, gardening, woodworking, electronics, photography, and so on — but I wasn’t particularly good at anything. Over the past year, I’ve made an effort to focus on just five passions: fitness, friends, writing, Spanish, and travel. Because I’m working on just a few things, I’m doing well at them. I’m having more fun with my friends than ever. I’ve learned Spanish quickly. I’m in the best shape of my life. And you know what? By limiting the things I do, I’m spending a lot less money.

Note: I do still dabble in other interests from time-to-time. I’m always practicing photography a little, for instance, but I do it with a cheap point-and-shoot camera, not my fancy DSLR. I still read comics — but not much. (I still haven’t bought any comics in 2012.) But these other interests are much, much less important to me than they used to be.
  • I multitask — smartly. I’m very aware that multitasking while working is actually a recipe for reduced productivity. But there are ways to do more than one thing at once that can create more time. (Sort of.) An example: I could drive the two miles to my Spanish lessons. In typical Portland traffic, that would take about eight minutes. Instead, I choose to walk while listening to Spanish-language podcasts. Yes, this takes more time (about 30 minutes), but at the same time I’m getting additional exercise and I’m practicing my Spanish listening abilities. Volunteering with second-graders lets me practice Spanish while working with kids. (I’d forgotten how much I love children!)
  • I don’t “waste” time. Ten years ago, I played videogames 20-40 hours a week. I watched a ton of television. And so on. These activities are fine for others — I’m not dissing them for you — but I find that for me, they’re a waste of time. I enjoy them, yes, but not as much as I enjoy going to the gym or writing a new article. By cutting these downtime activities from my life, I’ve freed up plenty of hours for Crossfit or meeting my friends.
  • I make use of my network of friends. This might seem like a strange thing to include in a list of productivity tips, but I’ve found that by maintaining a wide network of friends and acquaintances, I have access to a broader range of opportunities and experiences. The other night, a friend called to see if I wanted to go watch the Portland Trailblazers, for instance. This weekend, I’m going to learn how to salsa dance. After I finish writing this article, I’m going to join my cousin to try Turkish food for the first time. (He and I plan to visit Turkey this autumn.) You GRS readers are a part of this network, by the way; I’ve encountered many opportunities because of people like you, for which I am grateful.

Last night, I met Tim Clark for dinner at a local restaurant. (Clark is the editor of Business Model You, and a past contributor to Get Rich Slowly.) I told him about the whole “magician of time” thing.

“You know what part of it is,” he told me. “You don’t work a nine-to-five job. A lot of times, a nine-to-five job can prevent you from using your time the way you’d like.” Good point. I do work hard, but I’m able to work on my schedule. Some days I don’t write at all. But there are weeks where I’m writing from dawn to dusk for seven day straight. The key is that I have the flexibility to work when I want (or need) to work. (And, of course, not having children allows me to be more flexible with my time too.)

I realize that not everybody wants to live this sort of life. That’s fine. Do what works for you. As for me, I’m having a blast. I don’t have time for everything I want to do, but I’m still able to accomplish a lot. Maybe someday I’ll actually find the secret to creating more hours in the day. Until then, I’ll continue to pursue my passions with the time I’ve been given.

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There are 92 comments to "A Magician of Time".

  1. eemusings says 09 March 2012 at 04:29

    I consider myself a dilettante, too – I’d count my interests as writing/blogging, food, guitar, photography, running, reading. You say you’ve picked five, but even that feels like too many for me!

    • Dogs or Dollars says 09 March 2012 at 07:44

      Agreed. I was creating my own mental top five, simultaneously thinking “just 5!” and “That’s Still a lot of hobby”.

      That in and of itself is a useful exercise.

  2. Kenneth Benjamin says 09 March 2012 at 05:22

    Hi J.D.,

    Productivity is knowing when to say “Yes” and when to say “No.”

    By knowing yourself, who you are, what fulfills you, and why this is so, you can set yourself on a path where it’s much easier to know when to say yes or no.

    I’m glad you’re saying “Yes” to Turkey. I’ve visited this fascinating ancient crossroads between Europe and Asia several times and plan to go again. Enjoy.

    • Brenton says 09 March 2012 at 09:06

      Turkey looks like one of the most interesting “safe” places to visit.

  3. MikeTheRed says 09 March 2012 at 05:28

    I really do find that personally the 9-5 (more accurately, 8-6 most days) does put a damper on effectively using time during the day. I leave the house a bit after 7, get home a bit after 6, by the time dinner’s done it’s 7:30 and I’m awake for maybe 3 hours after that. While I’d love to do more with those 3 hours, I often just don’t have the energy, plus my wife would like to see me from time to time.

    On long weekends, or a week off from work, I definitely get more done with my time since more of it’s available to me to manage and prioritize.

    I just did the math, and on the average day I have about 5 hours where I’m awake but not at work. Take an hour out for morning routine and there’s 4. Take time out to prep & eat dinner, and we’re down to 3. I don’t know about other folks, but I tend to need those 3 hours to wind down before I fall asleep and start the grind all over the next day.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, i’m not complaining about my life (on the whole, things are quite good), I’m just pointing out that the lack of a fixed 9-5 job drastically changes how time management works for a person.

    The job and the elimination of time vampire hobbies (video games… my vice of choice, though mostly only on weekends) I think are really the key elements to allowing you to do so many different and interesting things.

    • J.D. says 09 March 2012 at 06:05

      Mike, I love that phrase: “Vampire hobbies”. It’s perfect!

      And again, I want to reiterate that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying vampire hobbies, as long as you’re aware of them. But for me, right now, I prefer hobbies that help me improve myself. Ultimately, this is more fun for me right now. (But I can see myself in ten or twenty years returning to the fold of videogame addicts.)

    • Laura says 09 March 2012 at 08:03

      MikeTheRed, +1. I am in *exactly* the same boat (but substitute “husband” for “wife” ) and I agree completely with your assessment. My long-term goal is to ditch a 9-5 existence, although it probably won’t come till retirement. 🙂

    • Chasa says 09 March 2012 at 08:44

      Mike and Laura, I’ve been complaining about the exact same thing recently! I too have about 3hrs a day and about 3 hobbies – but with only 3 hrs to work with, often I don’t get to do any of them on a daily basis. For me to participate in my hobby on a weekday, I’ve got to come home from work with the energy and mental state to scarf down a quick dinner and hit it – I can accomplish this sometimes, but it’s not the norm.

      My goal is to ditch my commute, and perhaps find a job where I can work 8 – 4ish, then maybe another hour or two later in the evening at home. Just that small amount of control over when I work would mean a drastic change in my hobby “productivity”.

    • amber says 09 March 2012 at 08:56

      agreed. A long commute is really the killer.
      I do not accept having to wait for retirement to get my personal life back though.
      A few actions I am taking now:
      **lunchtime, commute time – what can I do for me during this time that is not just mindless internet reading?
      **compressed schedule – next week I move to start working 4-10 days. that is a forty hour week in 4 days. I realized like you that my evenings were not very productive but when I have a long weekend a lot gets done. Yes, I am blessed to have this option where I work. Push for it where you are if it is something that you want.

      • amber says 09 March 2012 at 09:02

        and before any accuses me of reading on the freeway … I ride public transit, which makes my ride longer than if I drove, but allows me to do what I like

        • Brenton says 09 March 2012 at 09:12

          Public transit is a misunderstood entity. I used to ride the bus to work everyday. People would look down on me, as if I was too poor to afford a car or something. Really, I just liked being able to put the hour long commute to good use. Reading, watching tv shows on my iPod, etc… It was so much better than driving through stop-and-go traffic.

          Sure, occassionally you have to put up with the smelly dude who yells into cell phone, but hey… its a small price to pay.

        • Sarah says 09 March 2012 at 09:36

          I love public transit too. To me, no time feels less productive than time spent behind a wheel sitting in traffic. Now, for me, public transit even saves me time as I take the subway partway. I once drove to the office instead and it took me twice as long to drive as it took on transit – because of the surface traffic.

        • KS says 09 March 2012 at 09:45

          I moved from a short car ride to a bus ride (and a car-free existence). I use my public transit time to read, knit, and listen to music. I also use the bus for other activities, so spend a lot of time on public transit. I also walk sometimes, either two or from work. I’ll be downloading Irish language podcasts soon. It’s tough on my husband though; he gets bus-sick, so no multitasking on the bus for him, poor guy.

          I’ve always pursued a lot of interests even though I have a high-volume job (time-wise). Not watching TV is a big help in that regard, as is living near work, not getting hung up on cleaning, etc, and yes, now renting. I think owning a house sucked up way too much of my time.

      • Rosa says 14 March 2012 at 20:18

        When I worked four 10s, I found that having my day off in the middle of the week was really useful – otherwise people find out you have a 3-day weekend and start asking/expecting you to show up at all sorts of things they wouldn’t expect you to travel to otherwise.

        I think our families are more pushy (and spread farther geographically) than most, though.

    • Brenton says 09 March 2012 at 09:17

      A general reply to the “I dont have enough time during the week” comments.

      I’ve never understood this. For most jobs today, 9-5(or 8-6) is a general guideline, not a hard and fast rule. I rarely ever work exactly 8 hours. If I want to do something on Tuesdays, I leave work early and just work longer on Monday or Wednesday.

      Plus, alot of times you can find ways to fit a hobby into your work schedule. I play basketball every friday during the day. I’ve been doing it for years, spanning 3 different companies.

      If you make yourself productive when you are at work, you will work less and thus have more free time.

      I do understand some people are hourly workers and this doesnt apply to them. For those people though, I would suggest doing whatever it takes to get a better job.

      • Amanda says 11 March 2012 at 06:40

        I’m a teacher. I really like my job, but need to be there when the kids are. I don’t think it’s a case of “get a better job.” For some jobs (nursing, teaching, firefighter, emergency room employee, etc), you just need to be there during set times because other people depend on you.

      • Krishanu says 16 March 2012 at 12:02

        Gotta agree with Brent. My work does offer the flexibility to finish work and leave early (and on other days to stay back for a 12 hour day) and I’m pretty grateful for that. Most salaried employees generally have this option open in my field of work.

        About using the public transportation bit for daily commute: I am a huge fan of using public transport but over the last 5 years I have used it exactly twice. I just feel that my options are so whittled down, tied to the bus schedule. Also the time I spend in my car commuting, is MY time. I listen to music, news, audio books or just let my mind wander, while I’m on auto-pilot. My car is my own sweet little haven!

    • Carla says 09 March 2012 at 09:48

      I was in a similar situation a few years ago. I was working 45 hours a week plus starting and eventually running a business using every waking hour I had. I did this until my chronic illness kicked in big time and I had to leave work on short-term disability. Short-term turned into long, and so on. I thought I was superwoman since I was/am still pretty young (29-30 at the time), but my illness brought me into reality.

      Now I’m desperately looking for work, so my issues is the opposite: lots of time, but no money. I wonder if I will ever have a balance so that I can have a life…

  4. El Nerdo says 09 March 2012 at 05:47

    Jotadé: sospecho que dijo “mago del tiempo”, porque así se dice.

    Speaking of nine to five and time management, I’ve been working all night… My magia only happens when I pull an all-nighter! 🙁

    • J.D. says 09 March 2012 at 06:10

      Es posible que hubiera dicho “del tiempo”, ya lo sé. Pero escuché “de tiempo”. Todavía estoy aprendiendo. 🙂

      But if that’s how it’s said, I’ll change the post to avoid confusion. Thanks, Nerdo.

      • El Nerdo says 09 March 2012 at 06:40

        It’s a funny thing to think about why we do this, cuz it’s done instictively, but time functions as a kind of entity in this context, which is why it takes the article–

        eg. check out this famous song:


        I don’t have the brains to explain the grammar cuz my brain is putty right now with no sleep, but this song is pretty cool if you look up the lyrics, it’s a latin american classic.

        ps- maría moliner used up 7 1/4 columns for the entry on “tiempo” in her dictionary. my eyes hurt! 🙁
        ^great dictionary to have btw

        • J.D. says 09 March 2012 at 06:48

          It doesn’t have anything to do with referring to time as a concept? Sort of like how you’d say “me gustan los gatos” rather than “me gustan gatos“? I’m under the impression that the noun takes the article when it’s used to refer to a class of items rather than specific items. But Aly is always correcting me on that, so it’s clear I don’t have a good feel for it yet.

          I love Spanish. Just signed up for two hours of small-group sessions each week. Plus, I’m probably going to tutor English to a native Spanish-speaker. Debe estar divertido!

        • El Nerdo says 09 March 2012 at 07:14

          Ha ha, yessir, I think you got that right– but I couldn’t discuss because my rate of neuronal death is pretty high right now– ¡necesito una siesta! Me voy a dormir…

      • Sara says 09 March 2012 at 08:49

        Or maybe you’re a meteorologist — a magician of weather 😉

        • El Nerdo says 09 March 2012 at 10:43

          ha ha– maybe JD “makes it rain”! 😀

  5. DJ-MoneyforCollegePro says 09 March 2012 at 05:47

    Having the flexibility to create your own schedule often does give you more control over your time. However, I find that since I do work a 9-5, I am able to focus intently on the time I do have outside of that job. I am much more productive in my “after hours” work than I am in my 9-5.

  6. Get Rich Point says 09 March 2012 at 05:48

    The unit of measuring life is Time. So, if you are doing more in less time, then your are living more withing the allotted time.
    I always wanted to spend my time according to my terms, but my Day Job does not allow me to do that. But, I know that very soon I will not need the day job anymore. I am already on the path of Freedom.

    • Jane says 09 March 2012 at 07:19

      What’s with capitalizing Time and Freedom? Is this akin to the rather annoying capitalization of Stuff? If so, explain to me how “Freedom” and “Time” are different than their presumably mundane counterparts that don’t warrant a capital letter?

      • Andrew says 09 March 2012 at 09:04

        Nouns are always capitalized in German, but in English it’s a no-go.

    • Amanda says 11 March 2012 at 06:46

      “So, if you are doing more in less time, then your are living more withing the allotted time.”

      I don’t think so. I know a lot of people who are always busy, busy, busy. They do far more in a week than I do. They’re also often stressed out, easily angered, and tired. If that’s “living more,” I’m glad to live less.

  7. Joe says 09 March 2012 at 05:51

    You’re absolutely right. Being a jack of all trades means you’re a master of none. I think there’s a huge value proposition presented by this kind of “focus”. Focus on just a few money goals, focus on a couple hobbies. Be satisfied, not scattered – simplicity is awesome. Learn to emphasize experiences over things.

    • bareheadedwoman says 09 March 2012 at 13:40

      there are some lifestyles where being a Master Jack-of-All Trades IS the necessary skill set; frugal and farming are the first two that come to mind.

      You don’t need to know the highest level of any one thing, but you need to be able to turn your hand to any of a great number of things.

  8. Iain says 09 March 2012 at 05:54

    I too am a dilettante. But that can be a good thing if you want to dabble at interests. Better to buy that $500 bike instead of the $5000 want you’re drooling over. To me it is a chance to try it instead of, as is my tendency, of going ‘whole hog’. I speak from experience in having owned a Hasselblad camera.

    Oh, congradulations in not buying any comic books!!!

  9. Savvy Scot says 09 March 2012 at 06:22

    I agree with some of the other comments. Commuting and a 8-6 job gets rid of so much time. People feel that they are obliged to stay in the office until 6 – because everyone else is.
    My action item from this post is to pick the 5 things that I want to be good at. I feel myself ‘dilettanting’ too much!

  10. Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy says 09 March 2012 at 07:00

    I like to think of money in terms of time. If I spend $100 on hockey tickets, that’s ~5 hours of my life (I’m a student on stipend) that I spent in order to buy those tickets. When I’m not spending, I’m saving time, not money. The money I save now can buy me time later by allowing me to attain something without needing the time to work for it. That’s what innovation is all about: cars, computers, etc. They may be more expensive, but they free up time for other productive efforts.

    I like the idea of focusing on 5 things, and meshing them together whenever possible. I like to listen to investment podcasts while at the gym.

  11. Kraig @ Young, Cheap Living says 09 March 2012 at 07:38

    I second how funny it is to hear others’ perceptions of you. Even when I tell people my perceptions of them, they think it’s crazy that I think that way.

    Regarding being a magician of time, that’s really what it is. I think it all comes down to being able to work on YOUR schedule. That’s what’s “magic” to the rest of us. We are wish that could happen for us and think it’s magic instead of reality. I’m somewhere in the middle, believing I can accomplish it, but am just not sure on when I should attempt to try it and how exactly I will execute on it, meaning how will I make money. Great post.

  12. Elizabeth Lukes says 09 March 2012 at 07:42

    While still young, I determined that doing things that scared me would keep me young. To some extent, this philosophy has worked. Sounds like you have chosen the right track!

  13. Marianne says 09 March 2012 at 07:49

    I agree with Tim that it may seem like you do more with your time because you don’t have to do it around the time constraints of a 9-5 job like many other people. I’m on mat. leave right now and even though most of my time is spent looking after my kid, I’m able to get a lot of things done that I wasn’t able to when I was working but didn’t have a kid because I can make my own schedule. I technically have less free time now than when I was working (freetime starts when baby goes to bed at 8 ) but I can multi-task a bit while I’m watching the baby whereas it’s not OK to multi-task personal tasks while working your real job.

  14. Jan in MN says 09 March 2012 at 07:53

    You sound happy and alive in this writing, JD – good for you.

  15. Kristen says 09 March 2012 at 08:16

    For a number of years, I commuted 45 minutes each way for work. I, too, left at 7 and returned at 6, as a previous poster mentioned. A few years ago, my husband became self employed. For four years, I worked my regular job, then did the books for his business on Saturdays. Last year the company I worked for was sold and the office shut down. I now work with my husband in his business. I have my Saturdays back now and my commute is two minutes long, but now I’m working those extra hours rather than driving. No complaints here, though. Although I think it’s harder to take a day off to play when you work for your spouse. LOL.

    • J.D. says 09 March 2012 at 08:26

      Kristen, it’s also tough to take a day off when you work for yourself! The work always has to get done, and you’re the one who has to do it. Still, it’s awesome to be able to get a bunch of work done at once so that I’m able to take two or three weeks of vacation. It’s not all bad! 🙂

  16. Mrs H says 09 March 2012 at 08:31

    This post reminds of yesterday’s article. Doing too much is the reason overachievers get burnt out. I’ll remember this article to remind me that one doesn’t have to do everything to accomplish anything. Life is indeed lived in moments and not by the rush of time.

  17. Armando says 09 March 2012 at 08:50

    It’s nice to hear learning Spanish is one of your top 5. I am a Venezuelan long time reader and I always try to adapt your advices to my underdeveloped world. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but at the end it’s been a good exercise.

    Keep posting JD!

    • bareheadedwoman says 09 March 2012 at 14:36

      now there’s a series of guest writer articles i’d like to read

  18. Andy Hough says 09 March 2012 at 09:00

    Even if you don’t have a 9-5 job it is easy for time to get away from you. This post made me think of this quote from “About A Boy”

    “I find the key is to think of a day as units of time, each unit consisting of no more than thirty minutes. Full hours can be a little bit intimidating and most activities take about half an hour. Taking a bath: one unit, watching countdown: one unit, web-based research: two units, exercising: three units, having my hair carefully disheveled: four units. It’s amazing how the day fills up, and I often wonder, to be absolutely honest, if I’d ever have time for a job; how do people cram them in?”

    • BrokeElizabeth says 09 March 2012 at 10:10

      Great quote from About a Boy… it completely makes sense in this context.

  19. WWII Kid says 09 March 2012 at 09:25

    I’m sorry – this has nothing to do with the article – but I can’t stop laughing at the memories it’s bringing back. I was the invisible nerd in school and nowadays everyone says (with distain) “Oh, you were one of those cheerleader/pom pom girls, weren’t you?!”

    By the way, I have a 9 to 5 week, a 9 to 3 Saturday and Sunday AND a home-based business. Time? What time?

  20. Ely says 09 March 2012 at 09:49

    I completely disagree that a 9-5 has to interfere with your life. I have one – actually 7:30-4:30. I paddle with a dragonboat team, 2hrs practice a week and 5 races in different cities over the summer. I sing in a choir. I go to school part time. I won NaNoWriMo. Recently, I felt the need to try something new. I signed up for a writing class and joined a virtual orchestra. I signed up to volunteer at the library. Last night I participated in my first-ever writing competition. Which I won. And I see friends and family at least once a week, not counting the ones I see at various events.
    The only thing I’ve dialed back with all this new stuff is watching TV. It’s fun and something we enjoy, but not a priority for us.

    • amber says 09 March 2012 at 10:41

      Congrats Ely on the writing contest (both of them!) Wondering how a virtual orchestra performs … but also wondering how long your commute is? I’m guessing it is less than an hour a day. Also how much people sleep varies. Do you get a full 8 hours or run on less?

      • Ely says 09 March 2012 at 14:58

        My commute is 30-45 min via bike+transit. A little extra fitness time + reading/writing/homework time. I need about 7hrs sleep, and I mostly get it.
        If I had to drive I would do about half what I do, with the extra time plus stress/exhaustion. Driving kills me. 🙂

    • Audrey says 09 March 2012 at 12:12

      I’m tired just reading that!!!

    • Laura says 09 March 2012 at 13:52

      With due respect, are you single and childless or married with children? I could probably do as much as you if my husband and son didn’t want to see me or do anything with me. While my job + commuting make up Time Suck #1, DH & DS are definitely Time Suck #2. Difference is, TS#2 is much more enjoyable. 🙂 But yeah, trying to find time for the projects *I* want to do that aren’t what someone else wants to do is challenging.

      • Ely says 09 March 2012 at 15:00

        Married w/ dogs. Husband is at least as busy as I am most of the time. Dogs seem happy enough & we do enjoy our time with them.
        Kids? Forget it. I have classmates w/ jobs & kids and a greater courseload than mine and I don’t know how they do it.

  21. margot says 09 March 2012 at 10:17

    I don’t think that your productivity and life enjoyment have anything to do with not having a 9-5 job. I think it’s all about your attitude and your time management skills. I’ve had freelance/consulting jobs before, and without the imposed structure of a regular job, I was no more productive. I spent the extra time watching TV or sleeping in or getting into a mental funk. That’s true for lots of people. With 9-5 jobs, many people are extremely productive and still live full lives outside of work. Others waste time throughout the day, do personal email and other tasks at work, drag out their work day longer than it needs to be, and then complain about not having enough time. No matter what one’s life circumstance, some people always lean on the “not enough time” excuse. You’ve just managed to grasp using your time well, having a positive attitude and not getting depressed. That’s awesome!

    • Carla says 09 March 2012 at 10:26

      I’m not in the situation, but for some people, time truly is a factor. Family responsibilities, a job that REALLY work you so that there’s no time, a person’s energy level, and so on.

      Sometimes it is that cut and dry.

      • Holly says 09 March 2012 at 11:29

        Amen to that. In my 3 non-working hours each day I cram in 5 activities: kids, kids, kids, housework and kids. I’m not complaining, but for parents working full time outside the home there are no other activities in life for 12-15 years. I’ll get back to being interesting when my kids are teens.

        • Daniel says 10 March 2012 at 09:03

          Same here, I work 8 to 5 teaching with a 30 minute commute, and often still have work to do at home (contrary to this idea of teachers living the good life we see some talking heads say). That leaves me about three hours with my three year old daughter and soon my new son, and about two hours to myself. In addition, I teach Saturdays and summer to pay the bills. Maybe, when I’m not teaching eight classes and my children are older we can have more time. That said, I’d rather spend time playing and being with my wife and children than a “magician” of time.

  22. TB says 09 March 2012 at 10:29

    Hit the nail on the head, yet again! I didn’t read the post about choosing a few things to be good at, but what a great idea. I like the idea of being a rennaisance man and knowing/doing a lot of little things, but it drives me nuts sometimes, I just can’t do it all! Apparently, I’m not a renassaisance man and just need to accept that. 🙂

    • Carl+Creasman says 09 March 2012 at 16:51

      Not being picky, but a historian, I must add a tiny bit here–the notion of being a Renaissance Man was based on Leonardo Da Vinci and as such, meant someone who was excellent or well-skilled, well-versed, knowledgable in many fields. I wouldn’t go as far to say “expert” because, as noted, an expert has drilled VERY DEEP into one thing, or maybe a few things. A Renaissance Man though is deep enough, able to hold an intelligent conversation on several points. She (open to all sexes, of course) is well-skilled in many fields and in those fields, can handle various tasks without having to look for said expert.

      Ever since learning about Petrarch, della Mirandola, Da Vinci, Boccaccio, and the other greats from the Renaissance, it has been my dream to be known as such a man. Its too early to say for sure if I’ve made it, and probably way too arrogant to give myself that title, but I do feel like I am on my way (heck, I am only 47, so I hopefully have lots more time to continue to learn).

  23. GH says 09 March 2012 at 11:36

    I recommend Simpleology by Mark Joyner. His system for managing your time, money, and energy is one of the best systems I’ve seen yet. While I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me, I’ve found that his system has helped me accomplish goals, whatever they may be – small or big, in a relatively simple manner.

  24. Laura+Vanderkam says 09 March 2012 at 12:07

    One reason people feel like their leisure time is disjointed and non-restorative is they’re trying to do too much. Especially if you have a job and a family, you’re better off choosing 1-3 things you love, love, love, and throw yourself into these pursuits, rather than dabble in 10. If you run only on occasion, it won’t do much for you, but training for a half marathon will give you a goal and can massively boost your health. I used to have running and a choir (with practice once a week). Now I’m down to running with some choir volunteering, but I need a way to be practicing and performing music. So I’m trying to take up piano again, but I want to do it seriously, trying to get better.

  25. Jenzer says 09 March 2012 at 13:04

    To “vampire hobbies” I would add “vampire volunteer work.” I’m in the process of transitioning out of a volunteer position that takes a lot of my time and drains far more energy than it gives back. Years ago, JD posted a link to Derek Sivers’ blog post where Derek explained, “When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ – then my answer is no.” At this point, my volunteer position does not elicit an emotional response anywhere near the “Hell yeah!” level, so it’s time for me to move on.

    As a middle-class mom with two kids in school, I see requests for volunteer support come in constantly (e.g. parent-teacher organization projects, fundraisers, Scouts, classroom assistance, school holiday parties, dance recitals, athlethic/music/theater boosters, field trip chaperones, etc.) While I admire the parents who are willing to give so much time/effort/energy to these projects, I’m not one of them. I feel very little guilt for saying “no” to most requests.

    As others have mentioned, I do best with only 3-4 activities on my plate at one time. With two of those spots reserved for work and family, I really want to save a place for one activity that’s purely fun and restorative. If that means I never volunteer in a classroom, so be it. Call me selfish, but I’m not into the Mommy Martyr thing.

  26. Kate says 09 March 2012 at 13:32

    Time? Hahahaha! I work an 8-5 (not a bad commute – maybe 30 mins at most each way). But after work, that’s when I devote my time to my family.

    Reading these comments, I haven’t been hearing a lot about family needs, and what one has to do to fulfill those needs. I have a 7-year-old daughter, and it seems that by the time we’ve eaten dinner, practiced piano and done her homework and nightly routine, it’s already her bedtime. Once she’s in bed, that’s my “free” time … except, I’m so exhausted I normally pass out on the couch. Exercise? I would love to have an exercise program, but I’m not a morning person, and 5 a.m. is looking to be the only time I could do that. If I try to exercise at 9 p.m., again, I’m suffering from a severe lack of energy. I can barely stay awake.

    And hobbies? Hahaha!

    This is precisely why I want to be financially free. I want to ditch the day job and concentrate on the people I love–and still somehow have some time left for myself.

    • Laura says 09 March 2012 at 14:00

      Been there, done that. Parenting was/is my “hobby”. Now that DS is 14, it is easier but still not non-existent. Sleep is more important to me than exercise, learning a new skill, and even making more money, because unless I have enough sleep, I can’t do any of these things without falling into a sneaky hate spiral (see http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/05/sneaky-hate-spiral.html ).

      • Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy says 09 March 2012 at 14:45

        I think you’re right on about sleep and exercise, Laura. Plenty of people put in hours and hours at the gym, don’t sleep well, and wonder why they don’t see or feel results. The reason is that going to the gym breaks your body down. When you rest, it builds back stronger. If you don’t give your body the rest it needs, then it’s not going to rebuild properly.

        I hear people say that they get used to not getting enough sleep, and they think they “adapted.” They’re right in that they adapted, but it came at the expense of the body’s repair process. We damage our bodies throughout the day by using them, and our bodies fix themselves at night while we sleep, and throughout the day using energy saved during sleep. So, if your body doesn’t need as much sleep anymore, it’s likely that your body has stopped repairing itself, because it needs all the energy it has to just run normally. That’s why we don’t need as much sleep when we get older: our bodies don’t do as much repair.

        Just like personal finance, personal health is a gethealthyslowly process. Not getting enough sleep may not take its toll right away, but after years and years, little things can add up to big problems. Conversely, doing the right things little by little pays off in the long run.

    • Angie says 09 March 2012 at 14:32

      It is interesting to see how other people have hobbies – at this point in my life, my hobby is reading which can be done anytime/anywhere. My kids are active in sports (although only 1 sport/kid) and scouting. I work fulltime and am a PTA officer and a girl scout leader. My husband is the boy scout leader and assistant coach on whatever team my son is on. It is a luxury to think about hobbies!

  27. Sara says 09 March 2012 at 14:17

    When a person becomes very devoted to regular exercise, the energy level goes waaaaay up. And the more intense the exercise, the more intense the energy level. A lack of exercise and poor nutrition are often a very big part of why people are so tired at the end of the day. But it is often just accepted as normal. It is not normal.

  28. bethh says 09 March 2012 at 16:04

    I’m single/no kids/no pets/renter, so 100% of my off-work time is mine. I picture my activity level as a sine wave – I cycle through very busy (something happening nearly every evening/weekend) to a chunk of time sitting on my couch staring at the ceiling. Either extreme makes me a little crazy, but I have YET to figure out how to get a perfect balance. I think it may be a myth.

    I structure myself around tiers of activities. There are things I do weekly: in my down time at home I use my creative energies knitting or cooking; I go to the gym 3x/week.

    I have regularly-occurring events that are nice but skippable depending on the rest of my life: every-other-week pub night, monthly wine and treasure hunt evenings, every-six-weeks book group meetings.

    Then I have the irregularly-scheduled things – travel or visitors, movies, entertaining friends, dinners out, etc.

    I only joined a gym a couple of months ago – I realized it really IS possible for me to go 3x/week, especially when I compare my vast amounts of free time to people who have kids/pets/partners/homes.

    It all comes down to the usual, I think: you can’t have it all; do what works for you.

  29. Carl+Creasman says 09 March 2012 at 16:45

    Well, others have commented already on this part, but ““You don’t work a nine-to-five job. A lot of times, a nine-to-five job can prevent you from using your time the way you’d like.””—that part caught my eye.

    Others in my past have also marveled at how I worked one “normal” job plus also led my church and handled a small speaking business while also fronting a rock band and writing books (and a blog–come check it out). I do it by being happy with my choices, but also by not getting to do other things.

    And, at times, it burns me out BECAUSE of the 9-5 job. In the past 3 years, my work as a college professor has “raised the stakes” by asking more of me, so I had to let the rock band drop away. And, the speaking business has declined as well, so while I still go and speak (wonderful conference on understanding the Millennial generation just last week), its limited.

    The time suck concept is the biggest thing, regardless of whether 9-5 or not. I also used to game a lot—A LOT. I let all of that go because, well, I realized that mostly I wanted to do other things that improved my life or fit my goals.

    Anyway, I do wish (at times) that I could really just schedule my time the way you do J.D. Maybe one day, but I do love teaching too. 🙂

  30. Henkel Garcia says 09 March 2012 at 16:50


    Si quieres practicar tu español, cuenta conmigo.

    Saludos desde Caracas, Venezuela

  31. Jason says 09 March 2012 at 20:39

    When was the last stretch of time that you wrote from dawn until dusk for seven days straight? How much did you write? Was it quality work when all was said and done?

  32. Tyler Karaszewski says 09 March 2012 at 21:44

    I used to think everyone who said “I don’t have time for (whatever)” was lying or kidding themselves. I still think that’s true a lot of the time – plenty of people waste dozens of hours a week watching television. They could have time for whatever they wanted if they turned off the tv.

    But my view overall changed when my daughter was born. I watch essentially no tv at all and still am busy almost all the time now. It’s why I’m commenting on this article at 9:00PM. Up at 7:00, off to work, by 8:00, leave by 6:00 home around 7:00, dinner time and then time with the baby and then at 8:30 her mom is trying to put her to bed and I have some free time. I squeezed in things like talking to my accountant about tax documentation and mailing health insurance during lunch at work, and this weekend I’ll be baby-proofing the house and mowing the lawn. Maybe I’ll find time for a bike ride.

    • Carla says 09 March 2012 at 21:57

      You have to remember that the post was written by someone who is childfree/less and now single. I don’t have (living) children so I can’t begin to know what it’s like to be squeezed for time in that way.

    • Anne says 10 March 2012 at 12:59

      Personally, parenting beats everything else hands down. Money can’t buy that kind of perspective on life.

  33. Ellen (Gluten Free Diva) says 10 March 2012 at 05:52

    Such good and sensible points, and such a valuable use of time, if done correctly. It’s funny, lately I’ve been trying NOT to multi-task because I thought that it seemed to take my full attention away from what I was doing at any particular multi-tasking time. But perhaps if I rethink and tweak how I look at multi-tasking, and reconsider the tasks that I would allow under my multi-tasking umbrella, I’ll become a magician of time as well. Thanks!

  34. Alex says 10 March 2012 at 09:01

    Great post on productivity! I was wondering if you, or any other GRS readers, had advice on how to tell whether something will be a “time sink” or not since that wasn’t completely clear to me.

  35. Jaime says 10 March 2012 at 11:48

    I like that you have a fulfilled life. I just HATED April’s recent article. I just found it offensive as if its wrong to grow, to have high goals, etc. Ugh.

    Its nice to know that you don’t want to be a vegetable and that you do care about growing and learning. And you’re growing and learning without wanting to kill yourself, and you don’t have a tiger mother after you. Its all because you’re self-motivated.

    I think that’s awesome. Keep growing, because staying the same is boring. 😀

  36. Lucille says 10 March 2012 at 13:14

    Sometimes as magicians, as we all are, we create children and sometimes not. Children swallow huge chunks of time as parenting is a full on (and hazardous) occupation. If you want to experience the deepest form of human love then parenthood is it. You’ll find your passions are less demanding; they’ll never complain when ignored!!

  37. Economically Humble says 10 March 2012 at 14:47

    THis was a spirited read that reminded me that although I’m a scholar I have to start my seedlings for the garden.. 🙂

  38. mrs bkwrm says 10 March 2012 at 15:30

    This makes me feel bad for my husband. He works 14 hr days 5 days a week and spends his work nights eating canned soup and sleeping in a truck bunk. That is what it takes to keep us afloat.

    When he’s home, he’s exhausted but he is still patient and generally good natured with myself and our four kids. He is my hero and I hope someday he will have more time to play.

  39. Earn Save Live says 10 March 2012 at 20:06

    When my son was young, I worked a full-time job with regular daytime hours and a 1.5 daily commute. I also took classes at night toward my Masters. It was exhausting, but it was what I needed to do then to support my family.

    Ten years later, I have an incredibly flexible work schedule, a short walking commute, a great salary, and more time for myself and my family. I really, really love being able to chose how and when I work. If anything, it makes me more productive – but it does require that I’m self-disciplined and efficient with my time and energy.

  40. MyMoneyDesign says 11 March 2012 at 07:31

    Good topic! I also exercise a plan for saying “yes” to new opportunities, but saying “no” to things that will not help me with my goals or priorities. I also like your take on “time”. As I get older, time has become more precious to me and I realize that I can’t be wasting it on frivolous pursuits. That ties in nicely with Point Number 3. I also have a great deal of hobbies and passions, but I have had to really condense them down to only my few favorites.

  41. bg says 11 March 2012 at 10:04

    Five ongoing projects is a great number 🙂 When I have less, it’s too focused and I tend to get fed up with one or two. If I have more, I spread my time too thinly and nothing can develop.

    Currently, I’ve got juggling, climbing, losing more weight (14kg down, 20 to go), learning Russian, better money management. And it’s fun, even next to a 7-5 job.

  42. Nick says 11 March 2012 at 11:14

    This is one of the worst articles I’ve ever read on GRS. It’s so self centered. The whole thing is about how amazing I am to other people, and how everybody wants to be like me!

    Give me a break..

  43. Drew C. says 11 March 2012 at 19:42

    I think doing what you love is an important point in this article. I find that many times my friends are trying to do way too many things at once. It is so much more productive to focus your efforts on just a few things you love. Many multitaskers/workaholics think that they are the renaissance man and can do everything at once but they just can’t.

  44. Carl Lassegue says 12 March 2012 at 16:11

    I love your first point: say yes to opportunities even when they scare you. This can open many doors and can help you grow as you learn to function when you are out of your comfort zone.

  45. ChristianPF says 12 March 2012 at 20:10

    I like how you say “Yes” to things. The jumping out of an airplane though? Whoa, I don’t know if I could say yes to that.

    What a great example for all of us – we should say yes to things even when they make us uncomfortable. I think I’ll say yes to a few more things now. Thank you!

  46. Dan Stratton says 12 March 2012 at 21:35

    Thanks for the post. I am in much the same situation. A nice six figure income makes it very difficult to cut the strings and strike out as an entrepreneur. I want to, but can’t justify it. The one nice thing is that I like what I do – managing people – and that doesn’t translate so well into a business. Hire me! I’ll manage your people for you. Perhaps it could happen.

    In the meantime, I save, work on too many hobbies and write, hoping that someday it all pays off and lets me escape to my own world. Perhaps. I don’t know if I really want that. The rat race isn’t all bad…

  47. Diana L says 13 March 2012 at 11:58

    I noticed a lot of the comments were in regards to paring down your hobbies from many to just a few. Isn’t that just a natural progression of “growing up?” When you’re younger you tend to try a little bit of everything to see what you like… and as you get older, you learn what you love and what’s just ‘ok’ and adjust your schedule accordingly.

  48. Dan says 15 March 2012 at 06:40

    I don’t have kids (yet). If and when I do, I understand that my own ability to “magically” create time will be severely diminished. I am also aware that, unless I increase my income, the amount I am able to put into retirement will decrease as well. Imagine taking Spanish classes/vacationing to South America/taking salsa lessons while working 40 to 50 hours per week, trying to stay in shape, maintaining friendships, AND raising kids? My guess is that some leisure activities would take a necessary backseat. Given your many activities, its interesting that you feel that much of your life is “so boring” or “so mundane.” Perhaps this characterization was simply modesty on your part. If not, and assuming its genuine, the questions are “why” and “what’s missing.”

  49. Jo T says 21 March 2012 at 06:11

    Have so much fun in Turkey! Make sure you try the apple tea, it’s amazing.

    As far as the time management goes, good for you that you follow through on things you want or need to do. I can budget or schedule my time out, but most times I don’t follow though with it.

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