I have always liked the idea of viewing your time as currency. You get to decide how you spend it and what types of investments you make. Sadly, just like with our money, many of us make bad or misinformed decisions. Time is finite. There will be an inevitable moment when it grows short and then disappears. Our children will only live with us for a brief period. They grow up and move away to begin their own lives. People we care about will leave us and all that will remain will be the memories we made with them while they were still here. Our career will follow a natural arc and eventually our lives will be less about what we do for a living, and we will need to redefine ourselves. Knowing this, what can, and should we do differently? It all starts with priorities.
Always remember that how we spend our time is a proxy for what we value. I hope the following questions spark some useful self-reflection:
- If we spend most of our time at work and not enough time with our family, what message does that send to our loved ones?
- If we watch the clock at work and leave at the first chance we get, then what do we expect will happen with our career?
- If we spend most of our free time on leisure activities but ignore our physical fitness and health, what do we expect will happen as we age or have to deal with major life stresses?
- If we spend more time on fun and relaxation than on learning and growth, why should it surprise us that the complexities of life become overwhelming, and others pass us by?
- If we are spending rather than making and/or saving money, what is the inevitable consequence?
- If we focus more on taking or receiving rather than giving, why should it surprise us that our social circle eventually narrows and others we hope care about us lose patience with us?
- If we spend no time on ourselves, why is it a surprise that we end up feeling unhappy with who we have become, and the demands placed on us to maintain that person?
- If we ignore our basic human need for spiritual understanding and development, why is it a surprise when mid-life crises emerge, and our lives feel less fulfilling despite the rewards of success and/or material acquisition?
As with most things in life, operating at extremes is rarely the answer. Balance and flexibility are the key and we need to be able to flex up or flex down as needed. It is important to know where you stand in life and what your time priorities should be or where there are obvious investment deficits. Ultimately, the person we become and the personal legacy we leave is directly correlated to how we spend and invest our time.