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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Time - Your Most Valued Resource

A lot has been written over the years about how important time is. We are told that we cannot get it back, that it is finite. We hear these words or wisdom, and yet we waste so much of it in our day to day lives that we aren't even aware of just how much. Why? because we are creatures of habit. Once we get into a routine that works relatively well, we don't stop to think carefully about the alternatives, nor do we really think deeply about why it is so important.

We all know that the following things are stated to be important to our long-term physical and emotional health:

1. Maintaining our friendships and relationships with our family.
2. Pursuing some hobbies and interests outside work.
3. Maintaining good oral hygiene.
4. Regular exercise.
5, Healthy, well balanced eating.
6. Having an active and satisfying sex life.
7. 8 full hours of sleep a night.

What they all have in common is that they take time:

1. Maintaining friendships requires us to actually remember important days in our friends lives and make an effort to acknowledge them, as well as being available when our friends need us. Maintaining family relationships requires some form of regular contact and genuine interest in the lives of our parents, siblings, and children.

2. Pursuing hobbies to the point where such activities become enjoyable, i.e. when we develop some proficiency at our chosen pastime takes an actual commitment of  time that can be a few to several hours a week.

3. Proper brushing, rinsing and flossing takes 5 minutes, two to three times a day. Doesn't seem like a lot of time, but I'll bet that 50% of people take only a minute to quickly brush and do not bother flossing.

4. A good workout with varied exercises and proper warm-up cardio is an hour at the gym, after you have arrived and changed. In an hour you can do 3-5 exercises and work one-third to half your body. So a good , balanced exercise regimen is 3 times a week for an hour each.

5. With ample time, natural, fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, some meat, fish and poultry can be transformed into amazing gourmet dishes. The key is freshness and no additives or preservatives. We worry endlessly about fat and cholesterol, but my grandparents ate meat and potatoes, full fat milk, butter and eggs almost daily and lived into their 80's at least. Why my grandmother died of a massive heart attack at 97, long after her mental faculties and her had parted company. I'll tell you what they didn't eat though: processed foods and fast foods. They simply didn't exist on the Canadian prairies in the 1920's, so they never developed an appetite for it. They also didn't have TV and they were active every day. Preparing these wonderful meals from scratch takes an hour to an hour and a half assuming that you have all your ingredients.

6. An active sex life, if you are in a relationship requires a connection with your partner as well as the desire to be physically intimate. Where this is suffering, the culprit is usually a lack of connection caused by one or both people not being emotionally present. The cause of that is usually stress over not having enough time to do all the above, or work related stress.

I would wager that most people who struggle with balancing all the above have the best of intentions and try really hard, but what they don't realize is that the modern working lifestyle simply doesn't afford us enough time to do all the above and do them well.

Consider my daily work schedule and see how closely it relates to your situation:

We had to be at the office by 9 am. Getting a decent place to live, in a decent area that we could afford requires us to be 25 km away from the office. On a good day it took an 1.5 hours to get to work each way. On a bad day 2 hours each way. Getting ready in the morning takes an hour, so without any gym routine, I would have to be up at 6:30 and out of the house by 7:30, If I wanted to go to the gym which is right across the street from my house, i'd have to get up at 5:15.

On the days where I actually could leave the office at 5, I would get home by 6:15 or 6:30. But most typically, I wouldn't get to leave until 6, or sometimes 7, which means 7:30 or 8:30 I would be home. Most nights, given my level of responsibility, I would get home at 7:30. My partner, Steph did the cooking because she was home at 5:15 and I just couldn't be motivated to make anything that required any thought or effort, which would mean some type of processed food. Steph was happy to do this, but I didn't like the idea of her being responsible for all the cooking. During tax season (February-end of April), I wouldn't get home until 8:30 or 9.

Suppose I was single, or we had kids, or Steph had to work later than me, all perfectly plausible circumstances. That would mean that at the earliest, I would have to start cooking at 7:30. Given the stress of the drive home and the workday, the LAST thing I would want to do, even though I love cooking, is to spend what little time I have cooking a fresh meal. So like a lot of people, I'd pop a frozen dinner into the oven or whip up some meat with a ton of condiments to make it palatable. By the time dinner is ready, eaten and dishes are done, it is 8:30-9:00.

Remember that I had to get up at either 5:30 or 6:30? That means that get 6 hours of sleep, which is not ideal by the way, I'd have to get to bed at 11:30 or 12:30. So I'd have between 3-4 hours a night for all the other activities in my life. It sounds like a lot of time, but what happened is that I spent less time maintaining my relationships. There are friends on Facebook that I think about every week or two that I haven't written in two years. Thanks to Steph, who is very fastidious about these things, I do manage to remember birthdays, graduations, anniversaries etc. and my mom and I talk ever week by phone. Also remember that the 4 hours a night is if I cut out the gym, and only got 6 hours sleep. If I wanted to get 8 hours sleep, which is ideal, and go to the gym, I'd have to go to bed at 9:30, which would only give me an hour of spare time each weeknight. It is doable, but it just doesn't feel like a quality life.

Because of this scarcity of time, the household chores would all get pushed to the weekend, so that we would be spending half the weekend getting ready for the next week and one day resting and connecting. Its enough time for Steph and I to maintain our connection, but not enough time for the hobbies, or the other relationships outside of our immediate family.

This is why time is so valuable. Without enough of it, no matter how good your time management skills are, one or more of the above areas in a life lived will suffer. Also, there is something to be said about the quality of life when your time is not so scarce that you have to manage it to the point of scheduling everything. It feels good to get everything accomplished, but at the same time very awful and stressed when your time is scheduled so tightly that there is no room for error, or the unexpected, or just simple relaxation.

Those are some of my thoughts about time and its importance. I'd love to hear yours. My next post will be about money - relegating it to its proper place in your life.


  1. Well said! Good luck on your journey.