Someone walked in to my office the other day and said “do you have 5 minutes?” and I said, “Sure come on in”. One hour latter the person walked out.
Some years ago I used to train people on time management and I heard someone use a great analogy, which I always think of when talking about time. When someone says to you “do you have a minute?” they mean 10 to 15 minutes, when they say 5 minutes they mean half an hour to an hour and if they want 10 minutes of your time you need to call home and let them know you will be late for dinner!
And almost everyone I have met in my career has had in his or her performance review or development needs “attend a time management class”, I know I have seen these words too often on my own reviews! Companies spend thousands on time management courses every year, and yet people still struggle with time.
There are some phrases that never fail to come up when it comes to time. Here are some I’ve heard before:
If I had more time…
I don’t have enough time…
Where do you find the time?
I just don’t have the time…
What do all these phrases have in common? They all refer to time as something you can buy, have or obtain to use when you need it. I’ve also heard someone refer to time as a “commodity” but time is something you cannot obtain to use as you wish. Time is there for you to do with it as you wish, but you cannot obtain it as it is already there. And we all get the same allocation of time. Time is one of those things that do not distinguish between poor and rich, race and creed. Money in this case cannot buy you more time.
There is a great fable that talks about time and it is entitled “Value The Present”. In this fable, we compare time to a commodity we all know, money. It beings by asking what would you do if you had a bank account that credit you every day with 86,400 dollars for you to use as you wished? The catch? You have to spend it all on that day, there is no saving for tomorrow, there is no over drowning either. If you don’t spend it you loose it! What would you do? Spend it all of course!! We all have such a bank; it is call time! Everyday it credits us with 86,400 seconds and every day it wipes off what you did not use wisely. A second wasted is a second you cannot recover or use another time. A minute you did not use wisely you cannot bank on a saving time account and use it some other time. If time was a product, every second you don’t sell; you loose it and do not make money on it. I guess this is where the famous phrase came from “Time is money and money is time”
And here we hear another set of phrases famously associated with time:
He wasted his life away
You just wasted my time
What a waste of time
I just wasted 2 hours
And what do all these phrases have in common? They all refer to the fact that you could have done something better with that time, which is now gone and cannot ever be used again! In some cases we have no control over the time that is wasted. Take a meeting you attend regularly and at the end you say “what a waste of time” You may not have had a choice and had to sit at this meeting, so you lost this time which you would have rather invested in something else. However, most of us continue to attend this meeting and never question what we are doing there. So if you like your time, stop going to the meeting or question its purpose and your involvement.
But more often than not we do have a choice on how we spend that time. Take this article as an example. I am writing this at the back of a car on my way from Yerevan to Tbilisi on a Sunday morning. It takes 4 hours to drive to my destination and I have a choice as to what I do what that time. Remember, I will not be able to use those 4 hours again, once gone they are gone. I am lucky I don’t get carsick, so I can write as I travel. But for me these 4 hours are so important that I need to do something with them. I do not want to get to my destination and say “what a waste of time!” I’d be the only one to blame!
And this is how I came about re-igniting my passion for writing, finding the time that has always been there, and investing it wisely. Remember, I don’t get more time allocated to me, or have a magic account where I store my time for later use. I have the same number of hours as everyone else, I just know where that time is and put it to good use.
And everyone is different. I do understand that. My philosophies may not be the same as the person next to me, but there is great value in understanding how others operate and how you can also gain from their experiences and ways of doing things.
I engaged into a very interesting conversation recently with someone about time and being tired. I have a basic believe that I never get tired because I don’t have time to get tired. This belief was formulated from my experience when I first got involved as a facilitator of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. In his book, Covey tells us that we have a choice in everything we do and that we chose to think positively or negatively. Our minds command our body and being physically tired can be attributed to the mind. If you say you can’t, you wont. If you say you don’t have time, you never find it. If you say you are tired, you physically feel it as your brain has told your body this. If you say I need more energy, you find that energy. I find that when I have time in my hands and I don’t do something with it, I get tired, I loose energy as I now have time to get tired, my body reacts to being relaxed and becomes physically tired. I am not suggesting that people should not relax; everyone has a different way to do this whether it is watching TV, reading a book or writing. I prefer to be doing something rather than nothing at all. So this conversation I had was centered on the fact that I only sleep about 6 hours a day as I rather invest that time doing something else. So I will get up for the gym at 6am, I will stay late to write a blog and I will write a play on a rainy Sunday afternoon instead of a nap. The person whom I was talking did not see it that way. She needed at least 8 hours sleep, and for her relaxation was doing nothing on a Sunday afternoon. By they way, I’ve heard her say “I am tired” or “I don’t have time” rather than “I need more energy” or “let me find the time”
I am not saying everyone should be like me, that everyone should sleep 6 hours a day and write every minute you have. No, we are all very different, and operate in very different ways. What I am suggesting is that your time is the same as mine, that you have been given the same amount of time as I have in our “Time bank account”. It is up to you how you spend it. All I say is spend it wisely.
Do you remember the fable I mentioned called “Value The Present”? At the end it tells us we should plan for the future and always remember the past but live in the here and now. Live for today as today is a gift, a present, and that is why the here and now it is called the present.