When moving to Thailand years ago one of the most crucial adjustments I had to make was my typical German fixation on time. Those adjustments, as controversial as it may seem, actually lead to me becoming even more aware of my time and how I spend it. My relationship with time changed. It is no longer casual, but serious. And that’s a good thing.
Time is the only thing that, once it’s gone, you can never get back.
So even though people in Thailand aren’t that aware of time, or at least do not consider it to be that important as waiting (for the rain to stop, the documents to be processed, questions to be answered, etc.) is part of everybody’s daily routine, living here helped me to re-focus on when, where and how I spend my time.
Speaking from experience it all comes down to getting ones priorities in order and focusing on those. This also means to say ‘no’ more frequently and having to deal with people calling you selfish or ‘mean’ for not always spending all your time listening to their problems. However, if you listen to everybody, all the time, do you really think you could help them or would you just listen for the sake of listening but without actually thinking about what was said?
This is a big problem these days in my opinion. We try to participate in as many conversations as possible (in real life or social media) yet we do not really listen to what others are saying. We don’t actively think, we just take place. Once one change this ‘participating in everything’ to ‘thoughtfully participating in important conversations’ one can feel the change. Ones brain will not have to deal with lots of unimportant input but can actually focus on important issues, process them, and come to conclusions that matter.
This whole ‘focusing on what matters’ approach certainly will not always get you new friends as there will be people who will be mad about you for not spending ‘just 15 mins to quickly talk about some idea’ or for not ‘just passing by for a bit’ — but even those small intermissions accumulate and will take a toll on you. Therefore learning to prioritize and to say no to non-priorities is an important skill to learn and to implement. Once that is being done, focus will automatically shift towards what matters.
Ever since prioritizing and blending out the disruptive noises I feel like I am able to focus more on what matters. If I’m working, I work. If I’m doing sports, I do it more determined (which actually helped improve my performance). And if I’m with friends, I’m with friends — and not on the phone checking emails. Thanks to blending out the noise that so easily distracts I feel that my relationship with time has changed; evolved. So now, even while waiting at the immigration office (which takes forever), I try to use my time according to the priorities I have. There are times when you have to ‘waste’ time (e.g. the immigration office) but still can make the most of it (check emails, work) so that you free up time later on that you can use in a more satisfying way.
One more thing that I got rid of since moving to Thailand: TV. Not watching TV anymore freed up so much time. I used to watch lots of soccer or any kind of sports for that matter but by now I only catch some highlights and the ‘important’ games once in a while and save so much time not sitting in front of the screen anymore. Freeing up time like this is incredibly helpful. That doesn’t mean I don’t watch TV shows anymore or stopped following sports. I do. I even still watch Wrestling or MMA fights, what many would consider waste of time, once in a while. However I do it on my time, my terms, my schedule (thx streaming services) and am not bound on broadcasting schedules, etc. This frees up lots of time.
The next step will be to stop writing blog posts ;-)
While I was writing on here I listened to the Joe Rogan podcast and came across the following conversation which very well sums up the importance of priorities (he calls it ‘buckets’ in his talk). Everybody, of course, has to find their own ‘buckets’ in life.