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Brutal prioritization

The amount of time a person has in a day is finite. Although such an obvious statement is seldom worth repeating, it became my daily reminder since my son’s birth a couple of months ago.

I’ve lived through time-constrained situations before, but they were never so clear-cut as the current one. For example, if I had 20 things I wanted to do in a month—like exercising, reading, going out, or watching movies—and enough time to do only half of them, I was still able to do a lot. That created an impression that I was on top of things. I could shuffle various activities around and always remove one to make more time for another. I embraced the flexibility and in turn sacrificed some focus.

It’s different now. Let’s say I still have 20 things I would like to do plus one extra—family. I dedicate most of my time to my son and my wife because it’s the most enjoyable and the most significant activity, but that leaves me with only two other free slots to fill in. And here lies the problem: If I try to go through all the things I would like to do by constantly changing them in the time I have left, it is going to be neither productive nor fun.

I tried to cheat recently, and I squeezed in one more activity pretending I have three slots. “I’ll manage somehow,” I said to myself. Guess who didn’t write for a month. The “finite time” maxim proved right again.

The time constraint made me think deeply about my priorities, and I realized I was conducting a brutal prioritization process. Is this something I love and can’t leave on the side? If I skip it, will my family be worse off? If the answer is “no”, it won’t happen. There were many noes, much more than I would have preferred.

At the same time, the prioritization distilled what is truly important to me. Even though I have less free time now, I am more focused on activities that improve my life and happiness.

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