7 Worthy Takeaways From Stephen Hawking's Work to Make the Most of Your Time

Treat learning and discovery as a journey and a process rather than as a goal. Things will look a lot simpler and more exciting

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Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with a serious motor neuron disease shortly after his 21st birthday and doctors gave him just 2 years to live. On 14th March 2018, Hawking passed away at the age of 76, a full 55 years after the doctor's prediction. What is really important is not the length of his life but the richness of his contribution and the content of his character under such adverse circumstances. Here are some key takeaways from the life of Stephen Hawking on how to make the best of your time. As Stephen Hawking summed it eloquently, "Time is the only resource in this world that is truly scarce".

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1. Intelligence is the Ability To Adapt to Change

Of course, Darwin taught us long back that the species which survives the longest is not the strongest or the most powerful but the most adaptable. Hawking's life is a classic case of adapting to adverse circumstances right from using a full-time wheelchair to using a machine to speak when his motor nerves failed him completely. Interestingly, many of his bestselling books like "A Brief History of Time" and "Black Holes" were written after he had lost his ability to speak.

2. Focus on Things Your Disability Does Not Prevent You From Doing

By the mid-1980s, Hawking had lost his ability to speak but that did not impact his ability to be a professor and guide students or to write books to enlighten the world on the mysteries of the Universe. Had Hawking regretted the things he could not do like walking and talking, he would never have managed this level of productivity.

3. At All Times, Try to Make Sense of What You See

Hawking's theme was to always be curious and keep asking probing questions. "Look up at the stars and not down at your feet", was a classic Hawking imploration to probe the mysteries. Stars here is a metaphor for the mysteries of the universe and it is a call to all people to not get bogged down by the disabilities and impediments that we create within our minds.

4. Focus on the Joy of Discovering, Not the Rewards of Discovering

What Hawking basically means here is that research and exploration is a journey and not the final destination. The focus, therefore, should be to purely enjoy your exploration. The moment you start exploring the mysteries with the intent for a reward, the entire process becomes laborious. That is surely a great perspective on using time more productively and more seamlessly.

5. I Have So Much I Want to Do, I Hate to Waste Time

This quote from Hawking is important for three reasons. Firstly, it shows how a positive attitude towards life can make you a better time manager. Secondly, Hawking has always held the view that the time that goes does not come back and hence every person's focus should purely be on ensuring that they do not waste time. The lesson from Hawking is that you need to set high ambitions and commit yourself to it. That is the only way to achieve big things; respect time.

6. It is No Good Getting Furious if You Get Stuck

This is a very important takeaway. More often than not, we reach a dead end when confronted with complex problems that sound fairly abstruse. According to Hawking, the answer is to move on without losing out on your core problem. To cite an example, it took Stephen Hawking 29 years to crack the problem on black holes and information loss, but it is this kind of perseverance and multi-tasking that actually helps you make the best of your time.

7. If You Have Time to Complain, Then You Have Time to Find a Solution

This is all about adopting a positive approach to problems. More often than not, most of us tend to focus more on the problem than on the solution. The problem becomes a handicap rather than a trigger to find a solution. That is where time management comes in. As Hawking said, "If you can spend time complaining about the problem then why not spend the same time finding a solution to the problem. You are likely to get closer to the solution, that way."

If you browse the 7 key takeaways on time management and productivity, there are 3 things that we can really learn from Stephen Hawking…

  • When you are up against any hurdle in your task, keep moving but don't lose sight of your problem. Focus on the solution rather than on the problem.
  • Time is irreversible and therefore the more productively you utilize it the more fruitful and meaningful your life is going to be.
  • Treat learning and discovery as a journey and a process rather than as a goal. Things will look a lot simpler and more exciting.