How I Manage My Time

I'm not sure I always use my time as wisely as I should. I've wasted countless hours watching Netflix, sitting around, browsing social media - doing all of the things that pull attention and energy away from the things that matter. I've still managed to accomplish quite a bit, and I'm sure that if I were more disciplined with my time I would be able to accomplish even more. This year alone, I've taken courses, fallen in love, written my very first book, read over thirty books, and so much more - all while working a full-time job. I've been able to do all of these things because, over the past several years, I've grown much better at being very deliberate about how I manage my time. 

I structure my time (and, consequently, my life) around the things that I believe give it meaning: spending time with the people I love, working on interesting projects and problems, striving to understand the world around me, and writing about the things that I think are interesting and/or important. In practice, this means that I make time for my relationships, for music, for reading, for learning (by taking classes or by studying on my own), for writing, and for work.

I don't make time for things that don't fit into the above categories, because I think life is far too short to spend time on things that don't enrich, excite, or challenge me. For better or for worse, I'm not interested in becoming a collector of novel experiences, and so my way of structuring life is a bit different than most people I know. Some people have told me that this is too short-sighted, that I don't leave room for spontaneity, that I close myself off to more exciting experiences and adventures by limiting myself to a small set of things that I am willing to spend time and energy on. My reply to these remarks is usually something along the following lines: the structure I create and impose on my life does open me up to the kind of (intellectual) spontaneity I value, it allows me to experience wonderful and incredible things that I never would have expected (like learning about the behavior of ant colonies), and it has allowed me to find new opportunities to do things that are challenging, interesting, difficult, fulfilling, and rewarding (like writing my recent book - something that, a year ago, I never would have predicted I would accomplish).  

My life is the sum over each of my days, so I try to fill every single day with all of the things that are important to me. This means that my days are usually completely crammed with things to do, and I plan everything by the hour so that I can accomplish each of my goals. Here's a look at a typical weekday in my life: 

Early morning: get ready for work, listen to foreign language tapes/podcasts/news so that my skills and understanding don't deteriorate, journal for 15-20 minutes, read or write while walking to the train (I often draft things on my phone while walking), continue reading on the train until I get to work. 

Morning to Evening: work, work, work on whatever needs to be done at Uber, while making sure to keep a steady state-of-mind so that I'm not emotionally exhausted by the time I get home in the evening. 

Evening: read more on the train, write or read while walking home, return home, play violin for 30 minutes to an hour (I usually can only fit this in two to three times each week), spend time talking to or hanging out with my sweetheart, write for 3-4 hours (can stretch to 5 or 6 if I'm lucky), then finish the day by studying things for Stanford or self-study courses until around 2:00 am.

Every single weekday is the same for me, unless there are special events to attend in the evening. I try very hard not to deviate from this schedule, because I've found that I accomplish the most and feel the most fulfilled when I follow a routine every single day. It helps to get into a daily rhythm. It also helps to maintain a steady state of mental energy throughout the day, from the second I wake up until the moment I fall asleep. Weekends are a little different, and I still haven't figured out the weekend routine quite yet, but the average weekend isn't much different from the weekday (except that I work on my own things instead of Uber things). 

There is one change I wish I could make to my day-to-day schedule: I wish I could cut down the list of things I care about so that I would have fewer things to fit in each day. For example, I sometimes wish that I wasn't interested in foreign languages or the violin, because then I'd have another thirty minutes to an hour and a half every day that I could spend writing. Maybe someday in the future I'll find a way to manage my time even better. Until then, this is what I've got!