What’s this article about? It’s about TIME! It’s about time I wrote about time again. After all, it’s our most precious commodity. As Ben Franklin wrote, it’s the stuff life is made of. And because it’s a nonrenewable resource, it has unlimited value. Yet, don’t we sometimes kill time? When we do so, aren’t we murdering life? When we waste time, aren’t we committing suicide in slow motion? Why do we guard our possessions from thieves, but think nothing of the thieves that steal our time (life)? Those thieves are our own bad habits, which cause us to waste time. Isn’t it time we stopped spending our time the way politicians spend our money?
Normally, we don’t reap a reward unless we first exert some effort. My garden doesn’t just burst into bloom, first I have to water, fertilize, and care for it. Time represents an exception to this rule. Without any effort on my part, as soon as I wake up in the morning, another 24 hours are bestowed on me. Imagine, each day our cups are magically filled with 86,400 seconds for us to do with as we will. Each second is filled with promise. Each moment is a dab of paint that we apply to the canvas of our lives.
How can we take advantage of our daily allotment of time? A good way to begin is by avoiding the following common mistakes.
1. Thinking there’s lot’s of time. Never be misled by the number of days in a year. Their number merely represents the time that is potentially available to us. If it is misspent or wasted, it all comes to nothing. What if you were told you had one hour to live? Wouldn’t you believe you had very little time? Is there much difference between an hour and a day? A day and a week? A week and a month? A month and a year? A year and a decade? A decade and a lifetime? Understanding how little time we have available is the beginning of wisdom.
2. Not valuing time. It would be wise to heed the words of Peter F. Drucker, “One cannot buy, rent or hire more time. The supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up. There is no price for it. Time is totally perishable and cannot be stored. Yesterday’s time is gone forever, and will never come back. Time is always in short supply. There is no substitute for time. Everything requires time. All work takes place in, and uses up time. Yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable and necessary resource.” Unless we value ourselves, how can we value time?
Of what value is diamond ring, unless we occasionally pause to appreciate its beauty? If we wear it unaware, we might as well be blind. As the sands of time slip between our fingers, shouldn’t we be enjoying its grainy texture and glitter? Like diamonds, time has value because of its scarcity. When Henry Twells (1823~1900) reflected on the value of time, he wrote, “When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept. When as a youth I waxed more bold, time strolled. When I became a full-grown man, time RAN. When older still I daily grew, time FLEW. Soon I shall find, in passing on, time gone.” Lydia H. Sigourney (1791 ~ 1865) had this to say, “Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered for they are gone forever.”
3. Not realizing today is the most important day. What moment can be more important than the present moment? “One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour.” writes Ralph Waldo Emerson. He continues, “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he knows that every day is Doomsday.” To which Seneca (BC 3 ~ 65 AD) adds, “We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty.”
4. Squandering time. Why do we squander time? It’s almost as if we are afraid we will wear out if we keep busy. But it isn’t the moving gear that gets rusty. Instead of passing time, why not spend time. If we use it like money, squeezing out maximum value for each cent and moment spent, we will enrich our lives. John F. Kennedy also offered good advice: “We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.”
5. Trying to manage time. We mean well when we try to manage time, but think about it for a moment, how can we manage it? Can we expand or compress it? Time is inflexible. There is nothing we can do about it. It is merely the measure of passing events. So, it is not time that we should be focusing on, but the events themselves. For when we control the events, we control our lives. If we neglect our tasks, they will pile up and we will find that we will have emergencies to cope with. Spending the day putting out fires is both stressful and unproductive. We can regain control over our lives by getting into the habit of performing our tasks as soon as they arise. And we value time by doing the important stuff first. The unimportant can be done later, if time remains.
6. Some other mistakes. Don’t seek to live a longer life, but seek to live a fuller life. For as Thomas Fuller (1608 ~ 1661) wrote, “He lives long that lives well, and time misspent is not lived, but lost.” If you run out of time, it is not because of insufficient time, but insufficient willpower. We can always find the time to do what we want to do. The trick is to learn to want to do what is best for us. If you are unsatisfied with the current state of affairs, don’t believe time will change things, for it is not time but YOU that are the architect of your future. We must take responsibility for our own lives.
Do you know what time it is? It’s later than you think! To get the most out of life, let’s remember that everything in it takes longer to do than we expect. The only exception is life itself, which is shorter than we anticipate. So, let’s make the best use of time and measure it by the good we do. For it is then that time becomes sacred and we come to know, as Jean Paul Richter (1763~1825) did, that “Time is the chrysalis of eternity.”