You Only Have So Much Time
You only have so much time
Time has been described as many things: The great equalizer, precious, acommodity, a healer, and fleeting. But there is one thing time is not: limitless.
Time has been described as many things: The great equalizer, precious, a commodity, a healer, and fleeting. But there is one thing time is not: limitless.
The Wall Street Journal article below has an important message about how we can make the most of our time with our loved ones while we’re still here on this earth.
The stress and uncertainty of the past few years in a pandemic has certainly strengthened many people’s resolve in that regard.
What has it taught you?
Has it spurred you to a new goal or prompted you to finally do that thing you’ve been putting off? Let’s talk about it and get a plan in place.
Enjoy the article, along with some other timely financial news to inform and inspire your actions in the coming days.
You Have Only So Much Time. Are You Using It Right?
Lately, I can’t stop running the numbers on my life.
I calculate the hours I spend with my kids. I tally the nights I work late. I program my phone to monitor my minutes on social media (and then inevitably blow past the limit I set for myself.) On a recent, perfect spring day, I pried myself away from my computer for a run and, passing the elementary school my oldest child will attend in a few months, watching moms and dads stream out the doors holding little hands, all I could think was: Am I using my time right?
The clock has always ticked, of course. But there’s something about this moment. The pandemic has shown us how finite our time is. Meanwhile, many workers, logging on from home or easing into hybrid setups, no longer have their time determined by someone else the way they did when the boss was one cubicle away, five days a week. We’re fumbling toward a new normal, whatever that means, with more autonomy, more flexibility and a perspective shift, too.
“When you do the math, it really hits,” Nick Mazing, a 43-year-old research director at Sentieo, a financial-intelligence platform, told me. “Are you doing what matters?”
Covid-19 stirred some people to make big changes-move far away, quit their jobs, do two jobs at once. But if you’re pretty happy with the scaffolding of your life, often there’s no great escape to make, just the lingering privilege and pressure of making the most of your days.
Mr. Mazing has crunched the data, too. He figures that the majority of the time he’ll have with his son, now 10, will be gone by his 18th birthday, he says. So he tries to leave his phone in the other room when they’re together and has it programmed to ring only when someone in his address book is calling. When he walks his son to school, they talk-really talk.
Gail Bennett, a lawyer in the Seattle area, measures her workdays in six-minute increments, thanks to a billing structure for clients that requires her to account for slivers of time. When she wakes in the middle of the night, she says she can often just feel the time-say, 2:31 a.m.-and lo and behold, that’s what her clock will read.
On weekends and vacations, she tends to schedule activity after activity, accounting for every minute. But she wonders if that’s right.
“Maybe I should chill a little bit more,” she says.
We’re bewitched by the idea that there’s a way to control and master our time, says Oliver Burkeman, the author of “Four Thousand Weeks,” whose title is based on the typical number of weeks in a lifetime. We outsource and delegate, hang on to the advice of time-management gurus bent on optimizing everything, all while swearing next week will be less busy.
“Let go of this fantasy that you’re going to get your life in full working order and sort it all out,” Mr. Burkeman says.
Instead of trying to clear the decks, reach inbox zero or check every errand off your to-do list, acknowledge that you lack time for even a fraction of the things you want or need to do. Learn to tolerate the feeling-sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes anxiety-provoking-of having a lot clamoring for your attention, he says. And then: “Do the most important things.”
What those important things actually are has grown clearer, one silver lining of the turbulence of the past two years-war, gun violence, the virus. Joe Holt, a business professor at the University of Notre Dame and former Jesuit priest who splits his time between South Bend, Ind., and the Chicago suburbs, spent parts of 2020 and 2021 volunteering in an intensive-care unit as a nurse’s aide.
“They make me relish time,” he says of his days assisting patients suffering from Covid. He delights in tiny things: the ability to get out of bed, to walk in the sunshine. Never a big planner, he’s started setting goals, like completing an Ironman triathlon.
“Part of it is, my body is working right now and who knows if it will be in a year or two,” he says. “I’m more deliberate and determined when it comes to things like that.”
It can still be hard to know what to say no to and what to prioritize. Procrastination and decision fatigue kick in. Try to imagine what choice you’d approve of in a year or decade, recommends Alan Burdick, the author of a book about the biology and psychology of time.
Time is weird, amorphous and elastic, he says, with the ability to speed up or slow down depending on everything from how much we like something to how busy we are. At its core, he says, time is really about memory and what you’ll take with you after the seconds have passed.
Being present often requires doing less. Bevin Mugford spent 2020 working up to 90 hours a week, helping to pivot the apparel business where she worked as an executive amid pandemic lockdowns. Every time sales rose, she got a hit of adrenaline.
“You get addicted,” she says.
One morning in December 2020, she felt so exhausted she couldn’t get out of bed. She took a six-month sabbatical, spending her days on meditation, therapy and writing through the grief of her son’s death a few years prior.
At first, without the meetings that used to start at 6 a.m. and the lists of achievements, she felt untethered. But she got used to the new pace. Now working as a consultant for her company, she has built boundaries into her workdays-breaking to watch old “Law & Order” episodes during lunch, stopping everything at 4:55 p.m. to walk to the gym alone, no calls on her headphones. She feels calmer, in the moment, like she finally has space for herself.
“It was in the quiet,” she says, “that I figured out how to reprioritize my time.”