Less Than 100% is Still Valuable

Whilst I’m on a bit of a streak right now, generally speaking my post writing is fairly limited and restricted. A large part of why that is, is because I constantly tell myself that I just don’t have time. Fairly often this is the case. I have a daughter and dog to look after, a job that keeps me very busy and a household to help run. Other days, however, it’s fair to say it’s more of an excuse than anything else.

My evenings, at least a fair few of them, will see me sink 1-2 hours of gaming on my PC or Xbox Series X. Just today I spent almost two hours playing the (admittedly excellent) Halo Infinite, when I could have been doing something more productive with my life.

Firstly, before I go too far, I think spending some time in a week to unwind, especially after a busy or stressful day, is not only ok, it’s necessary. I’m productive at work all day, and sometimes evenings during a busy project, so I have no guilt or hesitation in having some well earned relaxation. The issue I have, however, is using a lack of time for putting off those tasks that I do want to do and allow myself to get distracted far more than I should. I could do with learning a bit more JavaScript for work, or I should use that exercise bike I bought to try and shift a few pounds. I will often put myself off starting this by insisting on the fact an hour or two spend doing either one night won’t make me a slim, toned man-God or JavaScript legend overnight. If I can’t get to 100% of my target, what’s the point of doing it all? I may as well have another match of Call of Duty and get to bed.

I occasionally listen to the Rework podcast from the Basecamp guys. A recent episode, entitled ‘No Time is No Excuse’ raised a quite interesting point, a few minutes into the episode:

This statement really struck me. No, an hour or two on the exercise bike won’t make me fitter overnight, they’ll take months. There is, however, still value in spending some time on it. I won’t suddenly turn into Trey Ratcliff after taking some time out when day for a quick photo walk around my village. I will, however get slightly fitter than I would have if I spent that time in Halo. I would, over time, start taking slightly better photos if I redirected my time slightly.

It’s incorrect that ‘time is not an excuse’. It absolutely is, a lot of the time. It’s not a good enough excuse all of the time however. Relaxation time spent playing games absolutely had value, but so does perhaps skipping an evening or two and redistributing that time into another area you want to improve, work, or learn more about. As DHH says, there’s a version of what you want to achieve that will take all your free time for a year. Spending only ‌some of your free time on the same pursuit won’t give you 100% of the end result you could have had, but it will give you some. It’s still a valuable use of your important time and you’ll achieve something new regardless of it being 100% or 25% of its full potential.

Never feel bad with genuinely not having time to take on that extra curricular activity, but if you do want to learn or do something extra, don’t put yourself off by thinking the previous time you can spare is wasted unless you come out of it with 100% gain, or a perfect result. If achieving at least some of it is at least rewarding or beneficial to you then it’s time well spent regardless.