What Would You Do If You Only Had Two Hours?

I’ve only taken to using Twitter as a regular thing fairly recently, so it’s entirely possible that Dave Navarro (@rockyourday) has been doing this for years and I never knew about it, but I’ve been kind of taken with the way he often starts off a morning:

“What would you work on if you only had 2 hours today? Okay, do that first.”

Combine that with a T-shirt from Woot.com that I love called Procrastinate. The shirt reads, “Because if the world ends tomorrow, you don’t have to do it.”

It’s official, you guys: I have been assimilated into the Borg. The Internet Borg.

Here’s the thing – if the world did end tomorrow, or in two hours, how would you want to go out?

If the World Ended Tomorrow

What would you want your legacy to be? Let’s pretend for the sake of argument that there’s some kind of afterlife, so you get to pass judgment on your last day on earth with a nice cogent thought process. So you’re up there on a cloud or something and some other spirit-guy, maybe your friend, comes by your cloud and says, “Hey. What was your last day like?”

Let’s pretend, furthermore, that there’s no lying in the afterlife, so you can’t get out of this one that easily. For a lot of us, this is how that conversation would go:

“Um. Well. I read some blogs. A lot of blogs, actually. I took a break and made some food and thought about getting started on that new project. You know, the one I was really excited about but never did anything with? Yeah, I didn’t do anything about that on my last day. Um. I think I called a friend, we talked for awhile. I did some work at the very end of the day, really stressed out because I’d put it off. I ate dinner. I watched TV. I went to sleep.”

That’s a lousy last day on earth, people. Think about yesterday. If the world had ended and you were up on a cloud right now thinking about it, would you have been proud of yesterday?

Me neither.

Now imagine this one:

“I got up and immediately sat down and wrote down a bunch of new ideas that I had for that project. Then I had some quick breakfast and got all my work done right away so I could work on the new ideas. I got some people behind them and started working on the new ideas, getting them into action. I called up a friend and we had lunch, had a great time, and talked about a lot of interesting stuff.”

Here’s a question: which one of those guys is going to wish the world had stuck around for another day?

The first guy is thinking, yeah, the last day sucked, I wish I could do it over, but he knows damn well that if he had had another day, he would have done more or less the same thing. The second guy? Man, he wishes the world hadn’t ended. He wanted to do that thing. He was so close.

They both wouldn’t want the world to end before they did their cool thing. But the second guy knows he would have done it. The first guy is pretty sure he wouldn’t.

If the World Ended in Two Hours

What I find interesting is that if we thought the world is going to end in two hours, we’d probably do lots of fun and wacky stuff, none of it remotely close to work. Or we’d go find all our loved ones and hunker down with them. I, personally, would find a handy good-looking fella and go out with a bang, if you know what I mean.

None of us would work. Not a one. No one wants to think they’ll spend their last two hours working at their desk. No one wants their last words to be, “Could I invoice you on that?”

But here’s the thing: the world (probably) isn’t going to end in two hours. The reason Dave’s advice makes so much sense to me is because it implies that since you only have two hours to work, the rest of your day is going to be filled with awesome stuff.

Two hours of work, and then you can get moving on that awesome new project that’s going to make you rich and famous. Two hours of work, and then you can have lunch with your favorite person. Two hours of work, and then you can spend the rest of the day getting boozy on a chaise longue while Johnny Depp feeds you grapes.

Okay, maybe that last one is just me. But the point is, if you get all your work done now, you can do whatever you want for the rest of the day. You can go do something you’d be proud of if the world ended tomorrow.

If you procrastinate, you’re going to be mulling around doing fake work. Checking email, reading blogs, watching videos on Hulu. But you’re not going to be doing something awesome. You’re not going to just disappear for the day. You’ll be at the desk; you just won’t have gotten anything done.

I like Dave’s way better. Two hours of the best damn work you can do and then two hours of awesome.

Either one of those – the two hours of doing the best damn work you can do or the two hours of doing something you sincerely love seem like pretty great ways to spend your last two hours.

And hey! They probably won’t be your last two hours! You can have MORE! The world’s nifty that way.

But just because you think you’ll have more hours doesn’t mean you should waste these. The zombiepocalypse could come, people. Get to steppin’.

Post by Taylor

Taylor Lindstrom (fondly known as Tei) is a twenty-something copywriter and journalist from Boulder, CO. She’s the team’s rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol’ boys club. She loves the color green, micro-point Uniball pens, and medieval weaponry.

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  1. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    If the world is going to end today, make it quick–I’m scheduled to remove old wallpaper all day. UGH!

    Taylor, your thoughts made a difference. I am going to send a couple “I love you” emails. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I’m assuming you had Depp in mind when you wrote this “would find a handy good-looking fella and go out with a bang.” Not that he would necessarily be ‘handy’…

    Seriously though – A really get post. Reminds me of the song “Live Like You Were Dying.” I try to be as productive as possible, but by keeping this in mind, I know I would be even more so.
    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..How Entrepreneurs Can Get the Benefits of a Team (Wihout Selling Part of Their Business) =-.

  3. No way would I work on my last day on earth, nor would I be here reading this blog and writing a comment!

    Don’t the internet borg depend on people wasting a good portion of their lives away in order to assimilate their dollars and blog comments and retweets and so forth?

    I’m going to go to the park with my son. Can’t think of a better way to spend my time. Bye!

  4. Try to stop the world from ending!

    G.
    .-= Giulietta Nardone´s last blog ..Three keys to success and happiness! =-.

  5. I always responded to Dave that I’d read half of the 4-hour workweek book, but in all seriousness, we should treat each day like it’s the last; after all, each day does indeed END.

    Thank you for the reminder today.

  6. “Two hours of work, and then you can spend the rest of the day getting boozy on a chaise lounge while Johnny Depp feeds you grapes.”

    Hell no, that’s not just you! :-)

    I think that’s a great way to think of every day. “The zombie apocalypse is upon us. What do you want to finish before then?”

    …and I just noticed the Jack Sparrow quote in the footer. AWESOME.

  7. I have a birthday card signed by Johnny Depp. I will never part with it.

    I’m a firm believer that we should live each day as if it’s our last. I love my family, value my friends and my community, and put passion into everything I do.

    It’s a good reminder and an important message.
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..Your Freelance Writing Clients Know You’re Lying =-.

  8. Jennifer Brown Banks says:

    Great, thought provoking piece. Gives a different perspective to how we value our time and prioritize our days and thoughts.

    My last day? Keanu Reeves would definitely be on the agenda.:-)

  9. Powerful question there! I usually ask what if today was your last day? But the question Dave asked takes it down further, what if the world ended in 2 hours?

    Man, I’m not even thinking about the last day I should be with my family and friends kinda thing. I’m thinking more about what I should do if I only have 2 hours every day to work on the things I love to do. I’d just focus on the real work instead of spending time doing non-important things like checking emails/twitter every 10 mins.

    Thanks for the best productivity tip ever!
    .-= Ken Siew´s last blog ..Are You Ready to Earn More Money? =-.

  10. I’d get around to finally inventing my time machine so I could go hunt a T-Rex.
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..How To Have Tourette’s Part 18: 8400 Seconds =-.

  11. It’s 7:30 am in Australia. It’s safe to say that I would be asleep.

    Rad new design, btw guys. I love it.

  12. Taylor, great reminder (and MWP consultants are worth every penny). I do think you should retitle your post, based on how you’d choose to go out. Change the “what” to “who.”

    Jus’ bein’ a smart alec.

    Lisa
    .-= Lisa Gates´s last blog ..Negotiation Twitter Style =-.

  13. Wonderfully thought provoking. I’ll definitely have to start incorporating that into my day – positive thinking can be contagious.
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..When Other Little Girls Wanted To Be Ballerinas, I Wanted To Be Like Joan Jett =-.

  14. Since Taylor’s jet-setting around the world, I’ll step in and cause chaos-… uh, I mean, reply to readers as she would :)

    @Amy – “What would you do in your last hours” is a little fu-fu for my tastes, but I’ve found that “Do you really want to say you did nothing but work in your life?” tends to get me to put stuff down for a little bit and take the kiddo out in the sun. Positive thinking indeed.

    @Justin – Dude. By 7.30 am I’m coffeed, showered and hitting my stride ;) (And thank you!)

    @Jennifer – You just reminded me that I liked that movie where he and Bullock are in the bus. :)

    @Deb – I have Denis Hamel’s scribble on my fridge. What does that say, eh?!

    @Michelle – We love us some Jack Sparrow. Mmhm.

    @Shane – Interestingly, today I HAD to work. WANTED to work. TRIED to work. And nothing was working. It was a huge internal struggle to finally say, “Okay, today’s a wash.” And it took only 15 minutes doing something else to realize that hey, yeah, it wasn’t that important today.

    @Guilietta – Well, I can try!

    @Ken – If I only had two hours a day to do what I want to do… good question. Hm. Play guitar, read books, go sit in the sun with a beer, talk business. That’s my list.

    @Annabel – Well you read and commented, so I’m glad to know it wasn’t your last day on earth :)

    @Heather – Actually, I think if we all kept it in mind, all day, every day… the world might be a very different place. Kind of bittersweet, eh?

    @Mary – “I love you” emails… Now that’s a nice thought. I should send some myself.

    Happy St-Patrick’s, everyone!

  15. Music, writing, loving, laughing.

    Throw in some food and drink and it doesn’t get much better.

  16. I heard a story once about James Whitefield (a very busy circuit-riding preacher from 300 years ago). Someone asked him, if the world ended tonight what would you do today? He pulled out his little black book and pointed to that day’s tasks. “That.”

    I’d like what I have planned today to be exactly what I would do if the world were ending tonight.
    .-= Brandon Cox´s last blog ..By: Brandon Cox =-.

  17. Taylor – that was a great article!!!!

  18. Taylor! Love the thought provoking post. The real goal, from my perspective, is to love what you do for ‘work’ so that work and fun are the same. Immerse yourself in a community of people who support your mission – which hopefully includes family and friends – and then ‘projects’ become pleasures. Then, when the clock starts ticking towards the end (which it is right now by the way…) you’ll have peace of mind and no regrets. Can I get an ‘Amen.’??

    Amy’s latest blog is at http://www.parmfarm.com.

  19. I really loved this post – I am still trying to figure this entire thing out, so I decide to come home and tend to my aging parents who need me, and I cannot seem to handle it very well…but I want to be of service, I had this dream of coming in and saving the day, instead I am spending time going a bit crazy and calling my Dr. in San Francisco for anxiety meds. BUT, I know it is all about family, nothing about money, and we are only here for a short time..I have made a lot of mistakes, and am still continuing to do so…I say if I only had two hours, I would be here, trying to fit in again, trying to be the good daughter, trying, trying, trying…and seeing them. I am PRESENT. Love, Anne

  20. Good advice, I think, we did not delay our work, if we do our work quickly, we are still a lot of free time to do something else. but more importantly we have plenty of time to check our work again.
    .-= rososusilo´s last blog ..How to Make a Twitter Account Like Celebrities =-.

  21. Hmm. Maybe the world isn’t going to end today. Maybe it is. Today might very well be my last. I might not even make it ’til lunch time – there’s no guarantee. So yeah, live like you’re gonna die today.

    Give. From your heart.

  22. Taylor, you made me laugh and re-think my day!

    And, Helloooooooo Johnny Dep … I got distracted by that photo for a few minutes before finishing reading.

    I usually make sure to be done with work by 3pm so I can do fun, relaxing stuff (walk down to the beach, etc) the rest of the day.
    Yet, the approach … “What would you work on if you only had 2 hours today? Okay, do that first.” … really has you prioritize in a powerful way.

    Thanks so much for the laughs and inspiration.

  23. Rena, I do the same thing as you. Except, I get off work at 2pm and I’m already in some shorts and a t-shirt ready to go out and sit on the back porch. I might crack open a beer and enjoy this lazy Sunday. Especially since I have to get up early and get back to work.

    Cheers.

  24. Hey, I’ve been warning people about the zombie apocalypse for a while now! Excellent reminders to focus on the real work, not the fake work, and spend the rest of the day preparing for the zombies or something equally fun!

  25. Fantastic post. This is my first time to visit this blog, and it definitely won’t be the last. (Not entirely because of that photo of Johnny Depp…)

    What an excellent reminder of how finite our time here is. You’ve captured in a fun, concise way the best method for making sure we have few regrets when that time runs out.

    My biggest challenge with this philosophy is the way exercise fits in. If it were my last two hours on earth, I wouldn’t have to worry about those cupcakes going to my hips, you know?

  26. This has struck a real cord with me. I’ve been procrastinating for more than a year and I have known exactly what I need to do but have put off doing it for one reason or another. Time to make a big change, thank you for the kick I needed, you’ll never know how important it was but I promise you I’ll never forget this moment!! x

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  2. […] What would you do if you only had 2 hours: No, really, what would you do? You probably wouldn’t be stuck inside on a beautiful day reading this. Heck, I sure as hell wouldn’t be inside writing it. […]

  3. […] What Would You Do If You Only Had Two Hours? – What article DOESN’T look good with Johnny Depp on it?  Beside that though, Taylor writes an easy, fun to read blog post that packs a heck of a message that we all can benefit from. She expounds on the question, “What would you do if you only had two hours left before the world ended?  She compares what a “slacker” might say or do vs. someone who is uber motivated. Very interesting. Give it some thought and you’ll learn something about yourself. […]

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