When I was young, a friend of my father’s, who was a well-to-do businessman, told me that time is more valuable than money. Money has the potential to be infinitely renewable, but the time that a person has is finite. It’s a lesson that’s stuck with me and one that I’ve reflected on often.
Years later, an anecdote from a dying man, Randy Pausch, in his book, The Last Lecture, gave me a deeper appreciation for this wisdom—which resonates even more now that I have a young family of my own. A tenured Carnegie Melon professor, Randy was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in the prime of his life. While the disease wreaked havoc on the inside, he still looked healthy and was able to lead a relatively normal life on the outside. Knowing he had only months to live, when faced with an erroneous charge at the grocery store one day he made the conscious decision to let it slide, as the minutes he would have to spend having the charge reversed by a store manager would be better vested with his wife and children. A decision he may not have had the wherewithal to make before his prognosis.
If there is one thing that will drive home the value of time, it is knowing that your time will soon be up.
You cannot store this moment away to be spent later. The present is flowing into moments spent whether we want it to or not and, as time is spent, there is no replenishing it. Infinite time can earn infinite money, but infinite money cannot buy anyone infinite time. You cannot earn more of it, spend more of it, or use it any faster or slower than anyone else.
While it is possible to augment the time we do have, through delegation or efficiency, it is of greater importance to take measures to spend time effectively, to proactively choose to spend time on what matters. There is a strong distinction between being efficient and being effective: You can be incredibly efficient spending your time on inconsequentialities, but you cannot be effective if you don’t invest your time in things of good consequence.
The ability to make good decisions about how best to use the time we do have requires clarity of thought. It is worthwhile to pause now and then to reflect on whether we are spending time on what counts. Taking the time to eat and sleep well also pays dividends. Sleep deprivation and poor nutrition don’t bode well for making good choices or enjoying the time that we do have. As with all things in life, though, balance is key.
Draw lessons from the past, but don’t dwell on what’s passed. Be thoughtful, but don’t be fastened to an immutable plan. Be ready to adapt. Learn. Love. Laugh. Live in the moment.
Time is precious. Employ it wisely.