T is for Time
Updated: Sep 5, 2021
“The way we spend our time defines who we are”. Jonathan Estrin
We often use the excuse "I didn't have time" (often linked with “I've been busy doing x, y and z”) when in fact what we are really saying is that we have made a choice to prioritize one activity over another. How many times do you excuse yourself for not having done something or gone somewhere, or contacted someone when in fact the reason you haven’t done so is often simply that something ‘more important or ‘pressing’ came up, you weren’t very organised or simply that you needed to take some time for yourself and you made a choice by default.
“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst”. William Penn
We all have 24 hours in a day. Some people use that time intentionally and generously, achieving great things; others waste it, complaining and making excuses, they have little to show and they don't achieve their full potential or have the best relationships with others that they could have. We only have one life therefore we should 'carpe diem' and make it count.
“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Steve Jobs
YOLO is the acronym of the phrase "You Only Live Once". It is a call to live life to its fullest extent and to flourish. What living life to the “fullest” looks like is up to you. The meaning of your life is your responsibility, it is something you create day after day with your actions and thoughts.
“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” C.S. Lewis
What is time?
“Every second is of infinite value”. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Time is an irreplaceable asset. It is free, but it’s priceless.
“You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” Harvey Mackay
One glance at a dictionary will give you a myriad of definitions of time. Carlo Rovelli, says time is an illusion and our naïve perception of its flow doesn't correspond to physical reality. He continues that reality is just a complex network of events onto which we project sequences of past, present and future. (See nature.com article below)
In Greek mythology, there are two gods associated with two different kinds of time, which roughly correspond to the Greek words chronos (χρόνος) chronological or sequential time (measurable, predictable and recurring in known cycles) and kairos (καιρός) meaning the right, critical, or opportune moment.
“Every kairos is a chronos, but not every chronos is a kairos.” Hippocrates
Kairos is concerned with quality or experienced time, it is non-recurring and not as predictable, but it flows. Examples of kairos include when we talk about having a good time with someone or when we find the right time to say something or to make an investment.
Today we all crave more ‘me time’ or quality time as if it is a special moment of time endowed with a better quality than normal time but every moment is filled with potential, so what determines our experience is how we use the time we have. Whether we enjoy it or not is subjective and not reflective on its intrinsic value. Our experience of time is a personal one and we get out of it what we put in
People often consider time as a relentless, unstoppable force but it can also be viewed more positively as a valuable resource that each one of us has, which we can each chose how to use and is there for our benefit.
Benjamin Franklin is attributed to the quote “Time is money.” It refers to the concept of opportunity cost i.e. each choice you make has its cost, and procrastination usually leads to a decrease in output.
There are lots of phrases we use linked to time e.g. “saving time”, “ we get robbed of time”, we “lose time”, “we have all the time in the world”, “time waits for no one” etc
“Time is a gift, given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life.” from The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
One of my favourite books I used to use with classes I taught was Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth” as it was so rich in its funny reflections on the English language. The Clock in the story is a Watchdog whose name is Tock. His job is to make sure that nobody wastes time. The Lethargarians don't like him because all they do is waste time. In the middle of his body is a large alarm clock that goes off when people are wasting time. When he first meets Milo, Milo tells him that he is just "killing time" That makes Tock so upset that his alarm goes off. He says "It's bad enough wasting time without killing it!"
Why do we waste time?
“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity” Henry David Thoreau
No one can stop time or slow it down so why do we waste the limited time that we have? There are many reasons why we can do this e.g. when we are not clear about our aims and objectives, when we are overconfident and our ego convinces us that we will complete the task we need to do in less time or when we start listening to negative self-talk and believe we will fail or that we have done our best and we cannot achieve anything further.
Sometimes we waste hours scrolling through social media feeds or keep “busy” with stuff that doesn’t move our life forward the way we want. It can be relaxing and fun and we can convince ourselves that is how we recharge. It can be ok until it starts affecting your life in a negative way i.e. doing those activities when there are other needs.
Wasting time isn’t defined by what you do. Wasting time is defined by when you do it.
“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” Stephen R. Covey (The Time Management Matrix) )
You can spend time on useful or useless things, but if you invest your time, you’ll tend to invest it in something that has value and importance for you. By choosing our goals wisely the time we spend on things becomes an investment, not an expense. It’s impossible to save time so the most important aspect of time is its value now and what we are doing with it.
I think that the definition of wasting time is doing something that’s not contributing to your long-term goals and not learning from it. This can be a conscious action or it can be done unconsciously.
“Don’t waste your time in anger, regrets, worries, and grudges. Life is too short to be unhappy.” Roy T. Bennett
Why is time important?
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life”. Charles Darwin
The way we spend our minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, lives defines our quality of life. It does not mean that we need to be constantly 'doing', simply 'being' or 'resting' is an example of us using our time in a way that will have positive gain for ourselves and our relationships. Building memories and experiences with those we love is what will matter to us most in the future. Time is not reversible. It is too easy to regret that we didn’t spend our time more wisely or wish we could change things we did or didn’t do in the past.
"Do something today that your future self will thank you for"
We cannot turn the clock back, but we can do our best today to make tomorrow a better time.
“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them”. Dion Boucicault
How can I manage my time better?
“I'm late, I'm late, For a very important date,
No time to say hello, good-bye, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late
No, no, no, no, no, no! I'm overdue!
I'm really in a stew, No time to say goodbye, hello, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late”
Unless we want to be like the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland”, we need to learn how to manage our time effectively. We all have 24-hours in a day, but some people seem to be able to get the most out of every minute of the day and others struggle. The difference is time management.
"It's not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?"
Henry David Thoreau
Time management is all about spending your time in the right places, on the right things and at the right time. It’s about working out your priorities and the things need to do then intentionally creating good habits and a balanced schedule. When you manage your time effectively, you benefit in all areas of life.
“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
It seems to me that we can often fritter away time and do unimportant stuff and then try to fit in the essentials into whatever time we have left rather than prioritise the essentials first and then fit the rest into the ‘gash moments’ of our day.
While life is definitely about balance, a mix of work, rest and play, these gash moments of time are also just as important and it is important to use them wisely.
"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot." Michael Altshuler
In order to manage our time better first we need to be aware of our thoughts and perspectives about the time we have and begin placing a premium on our time remembering that what we do with our time today will determine the quality of our life later.
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you”. Jim Rohn
We need to identify the areas in our life that have value for us then begin to create a structure to our lives by implementing daily practices that cultivate and support those values to give our lives more meaning.
“It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it” Seneca
Boundaries are essential to protect and manage what matters to us. If we don’t create boundaries then we will end up living at the whims or demands of others while neglecting our own needs
"If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves”. Maria Edgeworth
The benefits of not wasting time?
“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of”. Bruce Lee
Time Management allows us to spend time on the things that matter to us most. By managing our time we encounter less stress and less rushing from task-to-task and place-to-place like the White Rabbit. We get more of the right tasks done, first time or with less mistakes, therefore using less time and making our life easier. By planning and preparing our day we reduce the unnecessary friction in our life and avoid creating our problems. e.g. forgotten objects, appointments, etc By giving us more time to do more of the things we enjoy it allows us to rest motivated and energised.
Our decisions and actions define whether time is our enemy or ally. By taking control of our time means we can live our life efficiently and to its full potential.
“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right”.
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
Do you use your time effectively or do you waste it on things that don't move your life forward or contribute to your self-care?
How can you manage your time more effectively to do more things that you want to do?
What small change can you make to create more quality time?
“Time is the wisest counsellor of all” Pericles.
If you want to find out more on this subject, here are a few links to get you started: