Earlier this week I talked about how time usually opens doors between the ages of 0 and 21 and then starts to close them from 21 on.  I promised a follow up email with some ideas on how to maximize your time and opportunities.  Here are 15 practical ways to live a purposeful life and get things done before time closes the door.

(BTW, I added a few pictures from a recent trip to Washington as inspiration.  If they cause the email to display incorrectly, just click the title above and you can view the post in your browser.)

  1. Know your “Why.”  If you don’t have a good answer for “why” you won’t have much success with “What” or “How.”
  2. 80/20 your life.  Pareto’s Law says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts.  Look at every area of your life from your work day to your wardrobe; from your friendships to your finances; from your possessions to your future plans.  What if I told you that you had to cut 80% from every area?  What 20% would keep?  More than likely, that is the 20% that will make the biggest impact on your life.  Focus on those “Big Wins.”
  3. Don’t let meaningful dates sneak up on you.  On January 1st of each year, print out a list of holidays, birthdays and other special occasions.  Next to each one, jot down some ideas for how you want to spend that day and what you need to do in order to prepare.  Once December 31st rolls around, time has closed that year’s “doors” for good.
  4. Always know “What’s next.”  What are the key things you need to do at work tomorrow?  What is the next trip you’re planning?  What is the next date night with your spouse or activity with your kids?  Don’t just be O.K. with what the day throws at you.  Have an agenda.  To help in this area, I use a free software program called Asana.
  5. Add more time.  We all have 24 hours in our day, but some have more days than others.  If you want to keep time from shutting certain doors, don’t overlook the obvious solution of getting yourself healthy so you can do more things over a longer period of time.  It’s like shoveling sand into the top of your hourglass.
  6. Control more of the time you have.  Each day subtracts from fewer and fewer.  No matter how healthy you are, you won’t live forever.  Once you’ve done your best to add days (see #5), work at controlling more of each day that you have left (e.g. save more to achieve financial independence, be intentional with your free time, outsource as many tasks as possible, negotiate a remote work agreement, etc.).
  7. Focus on milestones (e.g. family, relationships, meaningful work, education, adventure), not maintenance (e.g. paying bills, mowing the yard, worthless meetings, pushing paper).  When you reflect on your life, the milestones will be the things that stand out.  They will be the things that you are most proud of.  The maintenance will just fade into the background.
  8. Given the choice between “more stuff” and “more experiences,” choose the latter.  A life spent in dogged pursuit of rich experiences will usually have a much better payoff than one seeking the latest gadget or gizmo.
  9. Consistently shake up your routine.  There’s nothing wrong with having a place you go for coffee every day or a list of tasks that need to be done each week, but be careful that your routine doesn’t become, well…routine.  Try to live a life where you have 60+ years of great experiences, not 1 year of experiences lived 60 times over.
  10. Create some margin in your life.  One problem that business owners often have is that they spend so much time working IN their business that they don’t have much time to work ON their business.  The same can be true for individuals.  Create margin in your life so you can spend some time every day or every week thinking about and doing things that will actually make your life better.
  11. Schedule the “fun” stuff.  If something is on your calendar, it gets done.  Don’t just schedule the things you have to do.  Schedule the things you want to do and then keep that “appointment” just like you would any other important meeting or obligation.
  12. Make a Bucket List.  You can see mine over here.  If you have specific plans, you’re more likely to follow through with them.
  13. Curate your life.  Your life will largely be defined by what you allow in and what you keep out.  Choose everything—friends, hobbies, work, philanthropy, clothes, vacations, meals, gadgets, books, etc.—with a discerning eye.  Be a tough curator and you’ll have an interesting life.
  14. Dream big.  Daniel Burnham (designer of such small projects as Chicago, Washington D.C. and Union Station) once said “Make no little plans.  They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.”  When you dream big, it changes how you think and how you act.  It inspires and changes you.  Dream big and have a vision for your life.
  15.  DON’T WAIT!  The longer you wait, the less you believe yourself when you say “Someday.”  Your dreams begin to atrophy.  Your opportunities begin to vanish.  You aim lower.  You talk yourself out of things.  Time begins to close doors.  Before you know it, it’s too late.  Don’t wait.

Your “trying to make the most out the time he has left” blogger,

~ Joe

The case for mini-retirements
The funny thing about "Time"