Wasting Time, Spending Time, or Investing Time?

It’s a pretty obvious choice – are you spending time, or investing it? For many, the options don’t seem to exist. They think they have no time, no margin, no ability to make the choices that are going to change their lives.

But they’re wrong.

You just need to do two things.

Time – Are you Saving, Spending, Wasting, Using or Investing?

how could I possibly have any spare time? I work hard already, I’m tired when I get home, I have a glass of wine, I go to bed, and I do it all again

I wanted to have a talk about the concept of time and in particular the concept of saving time, or spending time, or investing time, or using time.

We talk about saving time, but the reality is we can’t actually save any time.

There’s no time you can save that is going to ever come back. You can’t put it in a bank and then have a 48 hour day next week when you didn’t have one this week.

You can’t actually ever recapture the time you’re spending. And so the question becomes if you can’t save time, what are you doing with your existing time?

Are you using that time to your advantage?

Are you investing that time?

Because that’s the one thing you can do with time: you can spend it, or invest it.

What does spending time look like?

Spending time is when you’re doing things that are actually never going to reap any benefit of any kind for you. You spend it – and it’s gone.

Of course there are any number of things that you probably have to do that are going to fall into that category.

But my question to you today is, how are you spending your time? And, specifically, are you spending your time in ways that aren’t necessarily doing the right sort of thing for you?

Back to Investing Time

You can use your time in such a way that it is an investment. That is, you are giving away something now with a view to recouping something greater later.

Think about the time you invested in learning how to read when you were a child.

Think about the time you invested in your legal career.

How much money have you invested so far? I’m guessing you’ve invested tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in your legal career and how are you going to now utilize that investment?

You’re going to get a job as a lawyer, you’re going to hopefully increase your salary over time.  You’re going to do well, you’re going to serve customers or clients.  You’re going to actually deliver on all the things that you have attempted to invest in by going to university, going to law school, and actually becoming a lawyer in the first place.

So that was an investment.

You didn’t spend the money, you invested it. It might seem sometimes like it wasn’t actually a worthwhile investment, but the fact is it got you the piece of paper at the end of the day that allows you to now practise as a lawyer.

Have you Stopped Investing?

Now for a lot of you lawyers, that process of investment simply stops.

As soon as they’re invested in their law degree then the concept is gone – there’s nothing more to do.

But that is the absolute wrong way to look at your legal career. It’s the absolute wrong way to look at how you should be spending your time.

If you are investing your time now, then you can still reap the rewards later. Your period of investment is not over.

How are you Utilising your Time?

Are you spending time, or are you investing time?

A classic example of spending your time is binge watching TV, or Netflix (depending on what you watch these days). But whatever it is, with binge watching you might spend 10, or 15, or 20 hours, basically in a row, watching TV. Now I’ve done it – maybe not quite for 20 hours – but I’ve certainly watched a lot of TV in a row back in the day.

But that wasn’t an investment, that was spent. I will never have that time back.  Sure I can have the memory of some episodes of TV that I can share with others, so maybe you might consider that to be an investment. But is it an investment in your career?

How are you utilizing your time as an investment in your legal career?

Of course I accept that you shouldn’t necessarily be doing that at every hour of every day. I’m not someone who says you should be working 20 hours a day, as you probably know. You don’t need to.

But my question is, what are you doing when you’re not at work? How are you investing your time there? And what are you investing it in?

There are any number of opportunities out there for you to invest your time rather than spend your time.

But I don’t have any Spare time to Invest!

Now you’re probably going to say to me, “Chris, how could I possibly have any spare time? I work hard already, I’m tired when I get home, I have a glass of wine, I go to bed, and I do it all again”.

And that is what it seems like, for a lot of people.

You’re just dancing from one thing to another, you’re going from one urgent task to the next, one issue to the next.  You’re not really in control of your own agenda, you couldn’t choose to do things if you wanted to.

But, if you step back and zoom out, that is in fact a bit of fiction.

You can do much more than what you think you can do.

What do I mean by that? I mean you need to purge. And I’ve done other videos on this, but you need to find the things in your life that are not helping you get to that goal, that aspiration, that target.

What are you doing to work towards that thing?

And you need to find all the things that aren’t contributing to that, and you need to get rid of them.

It’s Like Cleaning Out your Closet

It’s much like cleaning out your closet. You go in and you realize that there are clothes in there that you haven’t worn in 25 years, and probably never will.

If it’s your wedding dress, okay, you’re allowed to keep that. If it’s some other sort of sentimental item, then keep that.

But we accumulate a lot of stuff, and the same goes for our lives.

We accumulate a lot of tasks, a lot of habits, a lot of things we do, that we don’t necessarily need to do.

What have you accumulated?

What do you need to get rid if? Because before you can invest, you need to have something spare.

You need to have time available to you, in order to invest it. So how are you going to recapture that time, what are you going to get rid of? You need to strip down to the bare essentials. And the book Essentialism is really good for this, and it really helps you understand and appreciate exactly what you need, as opposed to what you’ve accumulated.

That is really the distinguishing feature, what do you need vs what have you accumulated.

We’ve accumulated our habits, we’ve accumulated our tasks, we’ve accumulated our friends, we’ve accumulated more family sometimes. If you took a hard look at everything you have accumulated and you think “when I am using time on this, is is spending time or investing time?”

That can be a challenging question, because there’s a lot of things that you do that will not come up to the mark – and some of them will be things you like.

There’s a lot of things that you do when looked at rigorously, and through the lens of a critical eye, that you will have to be honest with yourself, and say “this is not one of the things that I should be spending time on anymore. I should be taking that away, and I should be investing my time in this other thing”.

Once you’ve done that, once you’ve purged, once you’ve gone through that process, once you’ve eliminated the unnecessary, then the question becomes: what are you going to invest your time in?

What should you Be Investing Your Time In?

Now in particular, of course, I’m going to talk about investing time in things that are good for your legal career, because that’s what this website is about.

But you might have other things you want to invest your time in, and let’s not necessarily look myopically as what we want to invest our time in.  

But for a person who is focused on their legal career, and who has gotten rid of some unnecessary things, and they want to focus upon investing time on their legal career, what would I suggest?

Investment Number 1: Reading

First I would suggest reading. Read a lot. Now I’m not talking about novels, I’m talking about nonfiction. Get into the huge, huge library of nonfiction books. And you don’t even need to buy these, just borrow them – go to a library. 

If you know someone who has a nice big set of bookshelves full of nonfiction books, then go and ask them if you can borrow some of their books from time to time (just make sure you give them back).

Reading is going to expand your horizons, and offer all sorts of new opportunities for you.  It will help you discover new habits that you can use to improve your work productivity, your focus, your ability to deliver things effectively, your client service.  It’s going to open your eyes to all sorts of things that you simply aren’t coming across at the moment, because you’re spending all of your days at work doing only the things that the people there have determined are important for you to do.  

And you can bring something new to the table, you can add a new angle to the table, you can bring new marketing strategies to the table, you can bring your productivity, tips, and strategies, and work habits to the table, and you can show people. Because arguing with people doesn’t get very far. You can show people how those things can make you into a better lawyer.

So that’s number 1 – read widely. If you want a recommendation, just let me know in the comments, and I’ll give you half a dozen recommendations in two minutes. Read my book, In Practice to start – it’s got some deep messages in there. Read something. Read constantly. Find time to read.

That is habit number one that I think you should be investing your time in.

Investment Number 2: Writing

Not surprisingly, the second place to invest your time is with writing. Lawyers are communicators. Our job is to communicate.  A lot of that is going to be done in the form of writing.

You need to learn how to write effectively, and that means you need to write a lot. And it doesn’t mean you need to spend your days only writing legal letters – it means you need to write anything.

Start a blog. It is free, you can write it, it’s possible no one will ever see it, but then maybe they will, and that’s fine, and you need to get over that terror of doing it. If you don’t want to start your own blog, start writing on LinkedIn, use the publisher platform on LinkedIn.

Start writing on Medium. Medium.com is a forum that you can simply write on. It’s a blogging platform that you can just start writing. Start writing something. Analyze your own work. Look at the comments if you get any.

But just start writing. It doesn’t matter if people look at it, that’s not why you’re writing. You’re writing to invest your time in learning how to be a better communicator. In learning what phrases work, and what phrases don’t. In learning how people actually communicate as human beings rather than as lawyers.

Investment Number 3: Peace

This could be a bit counter intuitive, but the third really valuable investment of time I think you could consider is just to stop, and listen, and breathe. And sit down.

You don’t have to be active all the time. You don’t have to be doing all the time.

I’m not talking about meditation, I’m not talking about anything like that. I’m just talking about consciously and deliberately coming, and sitting, and doing nothing, and closing your eyes, and taking a minute.

You will be amazed at how five minutes doing nothing will reinvigorate you, will give you more energy – as such, I consider it to be an investment. A lot of people will consider that to be a waste of time, but I don’t. I think you will be genuinely appreciative of just how much you can recapture, and how much energy you will have, and how much focus you can have, if you were to give yourself that five minutes every now and again.

And then you could get back into it.

Over to You Then

So that’s what the big question is for today. There are obviously a million other options you could be using for investing your time, but how are you going to do it? Let me know in the comments.

How are you going to invest your time?

It’s a two step process, don’t forget, because every single one of you watching this is thinking to yourself, I’m too busy to do those things. No you’re not.

Step one, purge.  Find the things that are not essential in your life. Adopt a disciplined pursuit of less rather than an undisciplined pursuit of more.

Step two, invest. With your new found time, with your new found space, and margin that you have given yourself, invest in things that you are consciously and deliberately choosing as things that are going to benefit you in some way. 

Happy Lawyering!

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