How to Arrest Time Thieves

How to Arrest Time Thieves

How to Arrest Time Thieves in Your Life

We all know (and say) the biggest excuse of all: “I just don’t have time.”

Imagine you wake up every morning to $1,440 in your bank account. Each day, you get to choose how to spend it—but there’s a catch. If you don’t spend it, it doesn’t carry over to the next day. Someone or something else takes it. It is literally stolen from you. Lost forever. The next day you get another $1,440, and so on and so on, but all the days end with $0 and start over with $1,440. 

If that were true, you would be damn sure to spend each one of those $1,440, right? You’d get creative. You’d look for things to invest in so your wealth would build up instead of just disappearing.

That’s how time works. You get 1,440 minutes every single day, just like everyone else. Time is the great equalizer: we’re all working with the same daily budget. But if you don’t intentionally choose how to spend yours, someone or something else will choose for you. If you let today go to waste, it’s gone for good. If you spend two weeks doing something you don’t really want to do, those two weeks are stolen from your life forever. And guess what? Time is nonrefundable.

Time is truly our most valuable natural resource… but we don’t treat it that way. In fact, people tend to be pretty oblivious about where their time goes and why. That’s how they end up “busy” from dawn to dusk and yet somehow not doing anything they actually want to do. When we (mistakenly) act as if there will always be more time, we never get around to achieving our dreams and goals.

“Time” is a paradox. Something that parents of young children say all the time is that “the years are short, but the days are long.” And that’s how life actually is. 

If you do the exercises in our book, Experiential Billionaire, we promise you’ll see that you do have time to go after the experiences you want. But if you look at your Memento Mori chart (available for free on, we can also promise you that you’ll see the time you have is shorter than you think. 

Think of it like an hourglass. The grains of sand are the days of your life, and before they fall, each one possesses enormous potential experiential wealth. But once it slips through the hourglass and falls to the bottom, there’s no going back. Once it’s spent, it’s spent. 

So, make sure you are spending it the way YOU want to. Your free time can go toward activities that reflect your real priorities—things you’ve intentionally chosen and genuinely want to do—or it can get stolen and squandered. Let’s examine the usual suspects that most often steal away our time: technology, people, and work.


Unless you live in a cave, it should come as no surprise that technology, while a major benefit in so many ways, is also a massive time thief. We’re connected to it 24/7, and the problem is that it’s painstakingly designed to capture and hold our attention, whether we want it to or not. The average worker is interrupted every 11 minutes. We switch tasks 300-plus times a day and spend one-third of the day recovering from distractions. In the age of distraction, focus is a super power.

There’s email, messages, social media, games, news, television, and more just waiting to suck you in. It’s easy to minimize the cost of a few minutes here and there, but look at your screen time log and you’ll see how they add up. Eighty-six percent of people check their phones within an hour of waking up. Even worse, screens screw with your perception of time, making it feel like life is flying by faster. We definitely don’t need that.

Realistically, you can’t quit technology altogether—that ship has sailed. Technology has become the cafeteria where our information comes from. But that doesn’t mean we’ve ceded control of what our information diet consists of. We can still control what we consume and how much time we spend consuming it.

To do that, we need to be aware of the difference between intentional technology use and letting yourself get caught in the vortex. Some of the conversations you have and the content you consume adds massive value to your life—sharing photos with your family, chatting with a potential client, researching something important to you, even laughing your ass off at some silly TikTok video. But if you’re not careful, those devices turn into turbo-powered time wasters and sometimes even hurt you.

These are all habits that can be changed. I’ll use TV as an example, but it’s the same for scrolling or gaming or anything else tech related. Growing up, I watched a lot of TV. When I moved to the beach, I replaced most of my TV time with new activities (skateboarding, biking, attempting to surf). Those became my dominant lifelong habits, and now, even when I’m not doing those activities, I’m looking for other new or active things to do, rather than plopping down and turning on the TV. I still watch a show occasionally and love a family movie night, but TV isn’t an unplanned activity used to fill up my time. I can’t even begin to imagine how much that one habit change has allowed me to actually participate in life instead of just spectating. 

So, take a hard look at what you’ve been consuming and the value it generates for you. For example…

Messages and posts that help you stay connected to your friends and family? Great. Shiny influencer-style posts that make you feel inadequate and envious? Not so great. 

Work emails that help you get stuff done? Excellent. Back-channel Slack drama that distracts you from what matters? Boo. 

Thoughtful, unbiased content that educates you on the things you care about? Absolutely. Content that makes you feel outraged, scared, or frustrated about things outside your control? Absolutely not.

TV, movies, and games that help you relax, have fun, and connect with other people? Yes, please. Scrolling through options aimlessly for hours only to be left feeling like a couch zombie? No, thank you.

One way to figure out exactly what’s worth keeping and what’s got to go is to take a tech break. Eliminate every device-based activity in your life that’s not absolutely necessary. In other words, turn off the TV, leave the computer at work, and send your phone back to 2004—essential calls and texts only. Hide or delete all the other apps.

All those hours you used to spend on social media, TV, video games, and more are now available for something else. How about a tennis lesson? An adventure with your dog? Make dumplings? A game of Monopoly with your family? Now is your chance to do something you’ve been wanting to do but just never found the time to do. 

Do this for a week, and the activities you’ve been missing out on as well as what you actually miss about your tech will be clear. Are you dying to get back into your favorite video game? By all means, plug in that PlayStation. But maybe you’d rather go for a swim every day than spend half an hour on Instagram, so that app stays deleted.

In the end, the point is to take control of your devices. Unfollow, unsubscribe, filter, block, delete. Use notification settings and schedules to minimize distractions and eliminate the triggers for compulsive tech use. Leverage all the tools at your disposal to curate what ends up in front of your eyes. That’s how you protect your time from technology. Remember: if you aren’t paying for it, your time is the product. Don’t give it away or let it get stolen. 


Anything that eats up your time without giving you value in return is a time thief—even people. Every relationship requires us to invest effort and time, and that’s fine and to be expected. However, some relationships provide great returns on those investments… and some don’t. 

Toxic people are a good example. You know, the ones who are always taking, never giving. It could be a friend, family member, coworker, or even a romantic partner. They demand your time, energy, and attention (maybe even your money and love) and just leave you feeling drained.

Surround yourself with people who make excuses and stay stuck, and you’ll find yourself on that same excuse train. It sounds ruthless to say you should abandon your high school dropout friends that aren’t making an effort to change, but life doesn’t care. You can still have compassion for those people, but if they drain your energy or drag you down, it’s important to minimize the time you spend with them.

Just like toxic assets in a wealth portfolio, these bad investments need to go. They don’t pay off. These are more like money pits—they just keep costing more and more and more, and they never give anything in return. It’s never advisable to throw good money after bad, so stop giving your valuable time to people who repeatedly waste it.

I’m not saying you must cut them out immediately and permanently. Sometimes you can, but it’s not always that easy. What I am saying is to think carefully about that relationship. Put up clear, reasonable boundaries. Don’t give an inch if you know they’re going to take a mile. Safeguard as much of your time from them as you can, because you know they’re going to steal it if they get the chance.

The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80 percent of the consequences come from 20 percent of causes. If you apply that to your relationships, the top 20 percent of your relationships bring you 80 percent of your happiness and joy. Inversely, the bottom 20 percent bring 80 percent of your negative thoughts and emotions. 

So, consider the people who regularly steal your time and leave you with more negative than positive feelings—the ones who bring you down and never inspire you or cheer you on. You would almost certainly benefit from dialing back the time you spend with them. If you identify the bottom 20 percent of your relationships and phase them out, you just might find that 80 percent of your interpersonal negativity disappears.

Sounds harsh, I know, but you know what else is harsh? Feeling that you haven’t lived the life you wanted to live because of someone else. Don’t let that happen to you. 


Speaking of things that take and don’t give, what about your job? We know, you’ve got to work for a living—we do too. But if your job is making you miserable on a consistent basis, change it. In the experience-rich life you’re building, your job should be an asset that contributes to your wealth daily. We spend an average of 90,000 hours at work, equating to one-third of our lives So, if at all possible, you might as well make work something you enjoy. 

You might be able to make your existing job better by collaborating with your employer to change certain aspects of it. Maybe you need to switch roles, adjust your schedule, or transfer to a different location. Maybe you want more responsibility and challenge. Maybe you need to get away from a toxic boss or teammates. If small changes could make a big difference, don’t wait around—ask if they’re possible. 

But sometimes those adjustments aren’t possible or aren’t enough, in which case, it’s time for a new job. It’s not a crazy proposition. People do it all the time. Polish your resume, get on LinkedIn, and check out job postings. Want to start your own business? Do the research. Can you take out a loan? Any potential partners? Know anyone who might invest in you? Ask. Shamelessly. 

None of this is easy, it’s true. When work becomes a time thief, the problem might not get solved overnight—but the sooner you start talking to people and making moves, the sooner your path forward will become clear. And if you do that, you might be surprised at what happens.