Dear <<First Name>>,
Today I am going to give you some extra time. The easy way to claim your free gift of time is to stop reading this. On average, reading Letter Zero takes 1 to 3 minutes each week. You can reclaim those precious minutes right now by unsubscribing. But if you want even more time I am going to have to hypnotize you. And that requires your consent. So let me start with a warning...
Warning: This email is designed to hypnotize you. I am serious. The effect can’t be reversed and it legitimately has negative side effects. For example, you will probably lose respect for some co-workers, perhaps even family members. At the very least you will feel sorry for people who don’t have as much time as you. Heck, it might cause you to quit your job. I don’t want to be responsible for that. So if you accept this risk, continue. Otherwise, please stop reading now.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Let the hypnosis begin...
Got it? That’s going to be your trigger. This week, every time somebody talks about time (including you) I want you to see a big, loud, fire-red firetruck. Can you hear its siren blaring in your ears?
The reason for the big, loud, colorful trigger is that this device allows you to interrupt your thoughts when you would otherwise continue on auto-pilot. It’s similar to how when you purchase a new car you suddenly start seeing that make and model everywhere. They were there all along, you just didn’t notice them until you were sensitized and then triggered. To increase visibility into the invisible world we need to disrupt our thought patterns with something unexpected.
The big fire-red firetruck will appear in your mind every time you hear somebody talking about time. Listen for phrases like, “I’m too busy” and “we don’t have time to...” especially in the context of trying to estimate how long something will take.
Every time the fire-red firetruck appears, ask yourself, “how personally invested is the person in this topic? I predict that what you will notice is that the people using these words aren’t actively engaged. They are on auto-pilot, instinctively protecting their most valuable resource, time. And they don’t even realize it. Red alert!
Time excuses are a reflex, a habit that we don’t realize we have. By default, we start by claiming we don’t have time and wait for somebody to convince us that we should care. Most often, we are left unconvinced and our reliance on the shortcut increases. The habit reinforces itself. Lack of time is a culturally agreed upon, mass-hallucination. Now you know.
So how do you create time?
Time is a by-product of caring. When we really care about something we find time. Or more accurately, we don’t think about time. That’s why the fire-red firetruck trigger is so important. What you are really tuning into is the motivations that cause people to create time. What you thought was lack of time is actually apathy.
In other words, “I don’t have time” is the polite way of saying, “I don’t care.” You have become permanently aware of a depressing truth:
Most people have plenty of time and very little that they care about.
That’s the reason that I started this letter with a warning. If I am right, your firetruck siren will be going off quite a bit this week. Most of the excuses you hear will be apathy disguised as rational, productivity-boosting, life-hacker-approved, time management skills. Like I said, this hypnosis is permanent. You can’t unsee it. And it's everywhere.
But what about you? How does this translate into more time for you? The fire-red firetruck shifts your focus from lack of time (an excuse) onto what you care about (something you control). Instead of reflexive stalling, you will get better at investing your time into what you actually care about and dismissing the worthless distractions. Ask yourself, “Is this worth caring about?” If not, why? If so, how can I invest my time in a way that my work is filled with quality and integrity? How can I demonstrate to others that this work is important? Noticing the no-time excuse in others is like x-ray vision because knowing what drives others is the first step in getting them to throw their weight behind your workload. If you can get to that level, you are not only creating time for yourself but in other people as well.
I will write again next Sunday. Stay creative.
P.S. I can’t resist a chance to debunk one of the most insidiously evil expressions used by humans. It’s the passive-aggressive phrase, “You must have too much free time.” Your fire-red firetruck exposes the true meaning of these words. It means, “The things that are important to you aren’t worth caring about.” Ouch. You have my permission to punch anyone who says that in the face.