As a young teenager, I stumbled across posts on an online forum by a man calling himself John Titor. He claimed to be a time traveler from the American military, sent back from the year 2036 to recover an IBM 5100 computer. The future was in crisis, and it needed the machine to avoid another Y2K type catastrophe.
In the forum, people asked Titor questions about the future, and he answered candidly, sometimes even with his own questions like “Are stock tips really the first thing you want to know about the future?” He shared schematics of his time machine and details of his future, like an eventual civil war and how many people still used typewriters. It was absolutely engrossing. Like those who bought tickets to see Back to the Future in 1985 or those who pulled The Time Machine off a bookstore shelf in 1895, Titor’s readers, myself included, were captivated by the possibility of being able to travel through time.
Then, in one post, Titor challenged that desire:
“Why do people in this time period worry so much about time travelers destroying their [future] when they have no problem doing it themselves every day?”
The question is incredibly powerful because it serves a heavy dose of reality. The actions we take on a daily basis are more powerful than we give them credit for.
Where We’re Going, We Need Roads
The question came in response to a few people expressing concern over the dangers of time travel.
For the uninitiated, many consider time travel to be a dangerous venture because it opens the door to unpredictable change. Pushing your father out of the way of an oncoming vehicle could be enough to keep you from ever being born, a-la Back to the Future. Swatting a mosquito in the Jurassic era could be enough to make Ned Flanders the unquestioned lord and master of the world, a-la The Simpsons. No matter the situation, the lesson is the same. If a time traveler isn’t deliberate with their actions, the smallest decision or indecision could alter their future (and everyone else’s) forever.
What I love about Titor’s question is that he turned the tables and said, “To be fair, you’re a time traveler, too.”
And he’s right. It’s a verifiable, scientific fact that we are all time travelers (in a way). During our existence, we travel or live through different eras. Seconds add up to minutes. Minutes add up to hours. Hours add up to days. Days add up to weeks—to months and years. Every second that passes marks an occasion of having traveled forward through time. When you think about it, we don’t need a DeLorean to visit the future. We’re already on our way there.
Titor pointed out our own hypocrisy. Although we travel through time, we don’t approach our own time and the decisions we make with the same level of severity that we would expect a time traveler to hold.
When we think about how our actions affect our lives, we often take a retrospective look. We look back and wonder, “How would my life look today if I had just done ______ instead of ______?” But rarely do we look ahead and wonder, “What would my world look like tomorrow if I just did ______ instead of ______?”
The possibilities are just as extraordinary, and in order to truly shape a new future, we have to first understand that we are in control of our time and how we spend it. Then, we can build a roadmap for using our time in a way that leads to the future we want for ourselves.
Holding Each Second Accountable to a Result
We’ve written multiple posts about how, once we set long-term goals for ourselves, we should time block our most productive hours for our most important work. But the truth is that blocking off smaller chunks of time can be just as meaningful if done purposefully and consistently.
It’s easier to worry more about how our days, weeks, months, or years are adding up than how our seconds, minutes or hours are currently being spent.
And that far-range thinking isn’t the best way to think, time traveler.
Time is impartial to the degree of change that can occur within it. Massive change can take place (or begin to take place) in a split second. When looking at how we spend our time, and the results we incur, it’s important that we bring the same level of accountability to each second that we would bring each year.
We wouldn’t suggest that you litter your weekly calendar with 30-minute time blocks. We also wouldn’t suggest time blocking every minute of your day. You aren’t a robot. Unstructured time is vital to your health. However, when looking at the time you already have committed to your ONE thing, and all the time that’s left over to do one more thing, it’s not a bad idea to start chipping away at an additional goal.
Take a look at your calendar and beside every time block there’s bound to be some open time here or there that you aren’t using to its fullest extent. What area in your life is being underserved? What do you want to do that you feel you don’t have time for?
When you have an idea of what areas of your life are lacking, the next question to ask is: What can I do consistently in a small period of time that will add up to a substantial impact down the road?
It can be difficult to plan for a an epic moment where within the span of 30 minutes, we can foreseeably decide the fate of the world. It’s more often the case that we can find a small habit or activity to engage in that, while seemingly insignificant when done once, adds up to something remarkable when done repeatedly over time.
If you don’t have 30 minutes, do you have five? Do you have one? Like reading a book, there’s always a road to self-improvement that can be taken one page, paragraph, or sentence at a time. You just have to match an activity that can be properly served within the time allowed.
When you set aside time for your activity, it’s important to hold your micro-time-blocks accountable in the same way that you would an ordinary time block. Approach it with a GPS. Keep track of your results on your 4-1-1. Identify an accountability partner. Build a bunker. Have a plan going in that won’t leave you scratching your head thinking “What next?” or “Where have the hours gone?”
Remember, your future is in your hands. If you haven’t already, we suggest engaging in a community of like-minded individuals who are striving to the get the most out of their time. Not only do they provide accountability, the shared experiences within the community makes us smarter and more productive. It just so happens we have a community that you can join. Hop on over to our Facebook page to get plugged in today!