The Myth of Saving Time

Monday author:  Susanne Skinner

“One day you will wake up & there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.”
~ Paulo Coelho

In the age of instant gratification, time is becoming irrelevant. Businesses are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The digital world makes working hours an oxymoron, morphing nine-to-five into a never-ending work marathon.

hourglass, saving time, living in the momentThere are books and apps promising to save you time, meals that arrive in pre-measured packaging with everything ready to cook, and books read to you while you’re driving, flying, or cooking the meal that just arrived on the doorstep. It seems we can do two things at once, despite my mother’s assurance that it was not possible.

The concept of time feels condensed and underappreciated for what is actually is—a day in your life. Everyone gets the same amount: 24 hours, 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. No matter how you choose to count them, you must spend them. They are not bankable and accrue no interest.

A quick Google search for how to save time produces 469,000,000 results, all of them supporting the myth that one can save time. The reality is you are not saving anything; you are just managing the time you’ve got.

We’re All Heading in the Same Direction

open grave, saving time, no one gets out aliveNobody gets out alive. That alone should make each of us value the time we have and vow to make the most of it. Instead, busyness drives us in pursuit of what we want instead of what we need. The wisdom to know the difference is elusive.

I don’t think this realization comes to us in our youth, but arrives with a resounding thud when we cross the line into our fifties. The half-way mark, when objectives realign themselves and death asserts itself as a harsh reality. Funerals start happening.

When we reach that age, we have faced the loss of grandparents and parents, spouses and partners, and friends who left us way too soon. We look at time differently and feel the pain of its passing.

In our twenties, we have all the time in the world. Thinking about how we spend it seems like an unnecessary investment of—you guessed it—time.

The Great Equalizer

No amount of money buys more time. Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson and Bill Gates have the same 24 hours you and I get. When it comes to time, their money is no better than ours is.

They probably don’t do their own laundry or carpool, but time doesn’t care about your bank balance, your social standing, or your lineage. It’s a great equalizer when it comes to how much each of us gets. We can’t bargain for more, put unused minutes in a cache for later or give what we have to someone else. We can share our time but we can never increase the time of those with whom we share it.

When it comes to time, we can agree that we never seem to have enough of it. Time continues, we can’t slow or stop it, and once a second, minute or hour has passed, it is gone for good.

What remains for each of us is to figure out how we want to spend it.

Live in the Now

Be Here Now, living in the now, present in the momentSpiritual author Eckhart Tolle reminds us there is only the present moment. In his 1997 book The Power of Now, he stresses the importance of living in the present moment, avoiding thoughts of the past or future. Back then, his writings were too left of center for me, but Oprah made it one of her favorite things so…I attempted to read it. I did not care for his style of writing nor did I find it to be the self-enlightening book many claimed. A few years ago, I tried reading it again. Same results.

But there were a few good takeaways. I discovered the beauty of the Tibetan singing bowl and the importance of not letting tomorrow rob you of today. I try to find joy in each day and valuing the present moment is always time well spent.

Doing Nothing

We live in an internet-dominated world. The idea of doing nothing, to take time out of a 24-hour period for an activity not considered productive is almost unthinkable.

Nothing is hard to do, since it feels like a waste of time. However, I am getting better at it. I argue it is an investment in yourself when you take some of those 24 hours and sit quietly. No music, no internet, no books—just nothing. Restore your mind, body and spirit by allowing nothing to be part of your daily routine. Nothing is a good way to spend some of your time each day.

Find Purpose in Each Day

Mark Twain reminds us the two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you figure out why.

There is valuing in learning to manage time, because that allows us to spend it with meaning. If I can look back on a day that had purpose, I know it was time well spent.

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