LearnYour Life Timeline


writes on September 17, 2009

I just got back from a two week holiday in France and I purposely chose to leave my iPhone and laptop behind. The primary reason was that I didn’t want to get sucked into work, but the secondary reason was that I wanted to have space to think.

The trouble with our always-on lifestyles is that you can’t go anywhere or do anything without being interrupted (it’s even harder if you have kids). The problem with being constantly interrupted is that it keeps you from thinking deeply.

Why is thinking deeply important? Simple really: life is insanely short and you might be wasting time doing stuff that has absolutely no value to you. The problem is that when you’re busy, it’s easy to overlook.

If you can’t afford to take a two week holiday right now, then here’s what I’d suggest: Wake up two hours early or stay up two hours later for just one day. Don’t turn on your computer or go near your phone. Simply grab a notebook and a pencil. Then here’s the important part: just let yourself be quiet and think.

I’d suggest drawing a timeline from 1 to 100 and plot your current age. Then plot milestones on the timeline like when you’ll be 40, 60, 80 and ‘Kids go to college’, etc. Then even put ‘Death’ on there. Morbid? Not really. It’s just the truth – none of us will last forever. And that makes what you’re doing with your life right now even more important.


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0 Responses to “Your Life Timeline”

  1. Visio has a wonderful timeline template which can be used to get correct scale – and shows ‘today’ so you can be properly freaked out about your impending doom. I also marked other people’s ‘expected date of departure’ on the line – the parents.

    Thanks for this suggestion.

  2. It is great to take some time away from everything and just think. It’s amazing how much more productive you can be when you do that! I have been trying the get up early thing…unfortunately it hasn’t been working because my two girls under the age two think they should get up with me! So maybe we’re better off to take a vacation!

  3. It would be great to take a few weeks and do that, but not everyone can. So even if you take a day, half a day or an hour to walk away from phones, computers and TV would make a difference. I did that just recently took a few hours away form everything and everyone in my life thought something had happened to me. They could not reach me by phone or email so of course they thought something bad had happened. In the fast paced world of technology, we have to learn to walk away and as they say smell the roses.

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  5. Ryan, I’m glad you posted this. It was a nice read after the morning rush. I typically try to ‘unplug’, but this is a nice twist.

    My wife and I are going to try this together this weekend.

    Thanks again and I’m glad you enjoyed your France vacation!

  6. That’s a great article. I need to start incorporating a couple hours just to think in my weekly routine. With all the devices and TV you would have to plan to make this work.

  7. That’s a very good stuff. Your idea of a time line is awesome. It excites me to visualize my future and refocuses my self. Can I have a suggestion? How about include our Creator when we do this. That’s only a proposal. 🙂

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  8. Angus Neil on September 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm said:

    I like the idea but fear I’d identify that I’ve not got that much time left to achieve everything I want to do with my life. Also the crystallisation of my mortality is a bit like tempting fate. What are your key milestones? Are you ahead or have you got some catching up to do?

  9. Wow thats a wake-up call! :-0

    Personally I kind of do take a notepad and pen first thing in the morning and have a think about my “to-do’s” etc, but not actually to plot out the rest of my life!

    Its something I am going to try tomorrow I think.

    Thanks for this.



  10. I’ve just done the exact same thing for 3 weeks. Breaking the routine certainly helps to re-evaluate how you spend your time.

    Oddly enough it was family and friends that were concerned about us not taking our phones and not being online. Only a few years ago that was normal whenever you travelled!

  11. Well life is now a days rough and tough. The economy made us only the parts of machine. So called professionalism treats human like part of machine. If someone is ill, have genuine problems or whatever, they (the buyer/employer) will replace with new one. The life cycle and today’s economy made us working all the time. Actually we are helpless, I remember the time when 1 person from house was earning and 2-3 families were depended on him, and that time he had no stress, no tension. But today, every person from house is earning money, but full of stress, tension everywhere. No social life, no personal sittings, no discussions.

    We’ve lost our beauty, we have no time for for sick/ill people. We have no time for our parents, we have no time for prayers, we have no time for social life, we have no time for love, we have no time anyone but only for earning money.

  12. Nice tip. Thanks for sharing it with us. From the bulky post world of internet we hardly find some good post like this. Thanks.

  13. I’ve just been on holiday for 4 days in a Finnish hut. No phone, laptop, running water. And have come back with some of the freshest ideas I’ve had in ages.

  14. I love it! Thanks for the tip 😉

  15. Christopher Lee on September 18, 2009 at 5:58 pm said:

    Outstanding. Well put. Simple. And extremely important. Thank you.

  16. Great words Ryan, I think people definitely need to stop and think about what’s really important in life. Recently I left my job, band, friends and family in Sydney to wing it over here in the UK not just because I had the opportunity to do it, but because it’s been something I’ve wanted to do since I was very young.

    There’s only so much driving on motorways to and from work, late hours, restless sleep and lost time you can handle in this life – why not go out on a limb and try something different without being fully aware of the consequences; good or bad.

  17. reminds me this: http://dustincurtis.com/about.html
    its a really nice aproach.

  18. So on your graph, how old did you work out that you’re going to live to be and did you tell your insurance company yet?

  19. thanks for advice, but i’m going to live forever


  20. I’ve ever felt that most of people get so wrapped up in what they’re supposed to do in life that they forget that life is short and sometimes the things that people say that matter (money, for example) don’t actually matter as much as making sure you’re enjoying the time that you’re given.

  21. I find it curious, although completely understandable, that death is still a “morbid” topic. I think living each day in the full awareness that one day you will die is a really powerful idea. And your point of allowing time to think is equally powerful. I find that if I’ve not taken time out in the way you describe for a while I start to feel claustrophobic, like I’m trapped in the route I’ve chosen for my life.

    Thanks for a thought provoking article.

  22. nice idea! think i’ll be doing that this weekend. In an attempt to banish the bad thoughts (work) I go for regular walks along the beach, find my own little peaceful seat/spot on the sand and just stare out and watch the world go by. so relaxing.

  23. Fiona Legge on September 17, 2009 at 7:32 pm said:

    Totally agree with you, time flies so fast, space to think allows for creativity. It seems when bad things happen that is only time when you stop to think how short life is… sharing memories and experiences together in life are invaluable.

  24. Often something I’ve thought about; I’m rather young still but both of my parent’s have died recently of cancer and other causes. I’ve always felt that some people get so wrapped up in what they’re supposed to do in life that they forget that life is short and sometimes the things that people say that matter (money, for example) don’t actually matter as much as making sure you’re enjoying the time that you’re given.

    Probably will be taking a year or more of next year to just travel the world for a bit. Seems like the best thing to do sooner rather than later.

  25. When I attended the FOWD Tour in Leeds yesterday, I commented with a friend who also attended that it was unusual not to see you at a Carsonified event. You’re usually the MC for the events and keep them running like clockwork. Keir was a great replacement.

    For a small company it was good to see that you had complete faith in Keir, Louise, Will and whoever else from Carsonified was involved in the event. This trust only strengthened by the revelation that you have been away from your laptop and phone.

    As an employee, not employer, this shows great leadership and by giving yourself time to think allows you to grow stronger.

  26. I agree completely. About to go away for a week and will go off-line for the whole time.

  27. It’s very important to come back from a vacation refreshed, not stressed. You should be motivated to do work and if everything went well, have new thoughts, ideas, smiles for your workstyle.

    Leave all electronics and pack light!

  28. Dan Egbert on September 17, 2009 at 5:31 pm said:

    That’s a great exercise. But what if some of us will last forever? Life extension technologies are rapidly increasing. Ray Kurzweil thinks we could have the technology to live forever within the next 50 years. Maybe it’s just hopeful thinking but interesting none the less.

  29. You are completely right. I have actually left a job in the past because I felt that even when I went on vacation, I could never actually get away. Now that I am my own boss, I still feel the need to check my iphone every 5 minutes. Recently I have been going on some camping/climbing trips to remote areas where there is no cell phone service. It’s nice to forget the outside world. But I have to admit my heart jumps up a bit when I turn my phone back on and there are about 50 emails to catch up on.

    Although, so far none of them have been so urgent that I’ve missed an opportunity. 🙂

  30. Ryan Cumley on September 17, 2009 at 5:22 pm said:

    About a month ago, my Vespa got a flat tire, so I started walking to work instead. It takes 30 minutes door to door, I don’t check my blackberry, I don’t make calls, but I do find space to think.

    You’re right about gaining perspective by creating space. Most days I start my walk with a to-do list on my mind, but I usually drift into deeper and more long term thoughts about life and the world around me. It’s been quite invigorating, and has really helped me add perspective to each day.

    Good idea on the timeline. I’m going to sketch one out over lunch today.

  31. I agree, everyone should take time to reflect.

    A timeline is a good idea too! I wouldn’t fix it too specifically though or you may end up just getting frustrated – plans don’t always work out.

    Got to have goals though 🙂

  32. You are right. I have thought at times about the need for time to think on life. We are so much mechanical nowadays that the real thoughts never happen. We just sheepinshly move around … or just go chasing dreams … u got it right 🙂

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