Q is for Quality Time
Updated: Feb 17
Although there is already a post on Time in the first alphabetical series, I wanted to explore in more depth one specific aspect of time; ‘quality time’.
“The best gift you can give anyone is to spend quality time with them.” Laurence Overmire
I would define quality time as time set aside as a priority, so you are able to pay full attention to yourself or to the person you are with rather than focus on worries or responsibilities. It can equally refer to the practice of giving your undivided attention to the task in hand be it simply unwinding and having fun, achieving a specific goal or fully enjoying and engaging in an activity that you are passionate about. Quality time is productive and is of benefit to all involved.
Quality time is an essential part of self-care. By creating quality time for yourself you are allowing yourself the time to practice self-care, to explore your creative impulses and by giving yourself the time for reflection you are then allowing yourself the opportunity to explore your strengths and weaknesses and to increase your self-awareness and resilience.
In any relationship, whether family or friends, quality time is important to allow for uninterrupted communication and expression. It is an opportunity to talk at a deeper level, explore and build shared interests and create memories. When you deliberately make the time to spend with someone you are affirming their importance in your life.
In the 'Journal of Social and Personal Relationships' a study published calculated that, on average, it takes about 50 hours of time with someone before you consider them a casual friend, 90 hours before you become real friends, and about 200 hours to become close friends.
“Available time is finite and friendships take time. This temporal constraint affects the initiation of new friendships (Miritello et al., 2013) and the maintenance of old friendships (Roberts & Dunbar, 2011). Time spent with one person can be conceived as both an opportunity cost for developing other relationships and an investment toward the relationship’s continuance or development (Hall & Davis, 2017).” Monica Torres
It is very easy for days and weeks to go past without really talking to people and sharing what is going on in your head and in your life. As time increases a sense of distance can creep in and it is easy to ‘interpret’ this distance as a ‘lack of interest’ and not only for those who have a tendency to depression, but anyone can very quickly withdraw and descend into a spiral of negative self-talk. Prioritising quality time with others can help prevent this. Spending quality time is more about intention and focusing on another person in a concentrated way i.e. the emphasis is on quality not necessarily quantity (though obviously both is ideal).
“Relationships are built on small, consistent deposits of time. You can't cram for what's most important. If you want to connect with your kids, you've got to be available consistently, not randomly.” Andy Stanley
Although the above quote refers specifically to children, in the current Covid-19 scenario where it is often not possible to spend time physically with those whose friendships that we value, it makes it even more important for everyone to prioritise making the time for regular exchanges via messenger, WhatsApp, email etc whenever unavoidable commitments or low energy levels do not allow for more meaningful telephone calls, Facetime/video calls, Zoom etc. A simple ‘Just wanted to say hello/to let you know that I’m thinking of you’ or a ‘How are you? You’ve been in my thoughts recently’ can make all the difference to someone and helps to reinforce your connections with the other person.
The same can be applied to those we share a house with. If you are quarantined with your partner or your family, you may think that you already spending sufficient time with them (lol!) but there is a distinct difference between simply sharing the same space with someone i.e. doing various jobs alongside each other, making plans for the week, watching tv together etc and consciously spending meaningful time with them to show your appreciation and affection and enhance your relationship further. It is very easy to be so caught up in day-to-day life and general responsibilities that we forget to spend time making more meaningful connections and so can feel distanced from those we share the household with even though we may be quarantined with them.
Like anything there needs to be balance. Connection and social interaction are important but you also need ‘me-time’ to unwind and to be by yourself. It is not simply a case of spending every waking moment with someone, in fact decreasing the amount of mindless time spent together can help increase the quality of mindful time you do spend together.
One of my favourite quotes on this subject is from a book entitled ‘The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
What does it mean to you to spend quality time with someone?
Do you prioritise quality time for yourself?
Who do you enjoy spending quality time with?
Who do you want to spend more quality time with?
How do you work creatively to maintain and develop your friendships and relationships within the restrictions of Covid-19?
If you want to explore this subject further, here are a few links to get you started: