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“I’ve got no time,” you say to yourself. That’s nonsense: you have time; everyone does. The question is what you do with it.
If you’re are constantly busy, but never moving forward, it helps to take a few steps back and change the way you relate to time. Time being abstract, metaphors help a lot.
So: here are three ways to think of time, which will hopefully change the way you relate to it. We’ll also go over apps and tools for visualizing time more clearly.
Time as a Non-Renewable Resource
Time feels intangible, which is why wasting it doesn’t always seem like a big deal. But it should: time is the only completely non-renewable resource humans have.
Oil is called non-renewable, but if you wait long enough – and it’s going to be a really long wait – the living things on earth right now will eventually break down and become oil. Time, in comparison, never comes back: once it passes, it’s gone.
Time is also the most powerful force in the universe. Given enough of it canyons are carved, stars are formed, and galaxies collapse. Of course, as a human, you don’t have galactic amounts of time to accomplish things – which is why it’s extremely important you don’t waste any.
Think of time as a non-renewable resource: one you can’t get back once it’s gone. Find ways to make time tangible. It helps a lot. Personally, I use Lego to visualize my time. When the day begins, I stack blocks to represent the time I have to do things, and set them aside as the time passes. It makes time feel like a tangible resource that I need to allocate.
This is far from the only approach, though. We’ve highlighted a number of methods for visualizing time, and allocating this resource properly:
- There are numerous Pomodoro technique apps out there to help you think about your time more clearly.
- Mihir pointed out single page productivity planners you can download and print to help you visualize what you need to accomplish in a given day.
- Ryan’s ultimate time management system combines a number of techniques, including a colour-coded calendar you fill out in advance.
- Akshata pointed out other approaches to time management, and apps for picturing them.
Once you find a way to picture your time in a way that’s tangible, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions about it. This is comforting.
Time as a Currency
You’ve heard it before: time is money. The modern world is practically built on this maxim, but how often do we really think about what it means?
There are two things you can do with your money:
- Spend it.
- Invest it.
When you spend money, you’re giving it up in exchange for something you need or want. When you invest it, you’re putting it to use in ways that will benefit you later.
Time is the same way: you’re either spending it, or investing it. Your job is a good example of this: some tasks are time spent, others are time invested.
- Spending: Tasks that teach you nothing, and which don’t position you well to get a better job later.
- Investing: Tasks during which you learn new skills, or which position you for a better job later.
Most jobs require at least some time spent, but you’re better off if you can maximize the time invested. Whether you’re looking for a new career or committed to where you’re working now, try to find tasks that keep you learning new things. Use your time at work to improve yourself, whenever possible.
This extends to your free time as well.
- Spending: Activities that, while fun, don’t help you learn anything or help you improve your relationships.
- Investing: Activities that you get better at over time, leaving you with a sense of accomplishment. Also, activities that help you feel more connected with other people.
What fits into which category is going to vary from person to person – the important thing is that think about this distinction, and try to invest more time than you spend.
Technology makes it a lot easier to invest your spare time. There are apps that can teach you to play guitar, many different sites for learning a programming language, and many places for discovering creative writing prompts. Use the time you have to become better.
Failing that, invest your time in your relationships. Go out for coffee with a friend, or call your parents. If you want to do something like watch TV or play a video game, try to do so with someone else instead of alone.
Time as a Gift.
You’d think the Wikipedia article about time would be straight-forward, but it isn’t. Thousands of years of philosophy, religion and science leave us without a clear definition for what time actually is.
How do you describe time? The fourth dimension? The thing that keeps everything from happening at once? The thing that clocks measure? None of these quite describe time as we experience it.
Whatever time is, you have it. And that’s an amazing gift, regardless of where it came from. And when someone gives you something amazing, you don’t want to waste it. Think of every minute, hour, day, week and year as a gift – then try to make the most of it.
It’s cliche, sure. I might as well put an image of a gift here, just to clinch the cheesiness.
The point, however cliched, is this: you have time, so try to be thankful for it. Harry pointed out how to be happy in five minutes a day, by taking the time to think about the things you’re thankful for.
Bakari pointed out apps for keeping a gratitude journal. The idea behind these other apps are to realize the things you’ve been given – it will make you happier. Relate to time this way, and your worries about time will shrink.
What’s Your Relationship with Time Like?
I want to know: what’s your relationship with time like? How do you visualize it, and which technologies help you make more of it? Let’s talk in the comments below.