Sunday, 27 July 2008

Time... how do you spend yours?


Sitting here on the 09:10 train from London to Leeds I thought I'd note down a few of my thoughts on the most valuable commodity in the entire world.... time.


Around a month or so ago I was on the phone to my Dad and he asked me what I'd like for my birthday... something for triathlon maybe? an electronic gadget? anything really... after a short period of thought I came up with the best present idea I've ever had.... a day! So, on Friday morning Dad jumped on a plane from Geneva, at lunchtime I caught a train from Leeds and by the afternoon we were spending some quality time together over a decaf cappuccino on a sunny day in London.

Those of you who know me will know that I don't place a great deal of value on material goods... don't get me wrong, I'm as excited as the next person about my new iphone 3G and am constantly working out ways of affording a new set of Zipp carbon fibre race wheels but am also aware that none of these things truly matter and certainly won't make me any happier as a person.

Although Dad and I have been apart for long periods during my 34 years (often residing in different countries) the time we have managed to spend together has always been of the highest quality and we're extremely comfortable in each others company, happy to spend hour upon hour righting all the world's wrongs and generally kicking back. This weekend my unusual request of simply 'a day with my Dad' led one of our main talking points to be the concept of 'time' and how both we and people in general chose to spend theirs, I'll try and summarise our thoughts...

The first and most important thing to note is that time must surely be the most valuable commodity known to man? Every day we are each given 24 hours to spend how we please, no matter who you are from Bill Gates to a tramp on the street it's the same for everyone... 24 individual hours to spend once only. Having worked in the health and fitness industry for many years I've lost track of the number of times I've heard 'I just don't have the time' as an excuse for not eating well or moving more. So lets set the record straight once and for all... every single one of us has the same amount of time, 24 hours in a day or if you prefer 168 hours in a week, what actually differs is HOW WE CHOSE TO SPEND THEM. What makes these precious seconds so valuable however is that we each have a finite number available per lifetime and once each is spent they can never be recovered. Material possessions however can always be replaced and many a dollar has been frittered away only to be replenished through varying combinations of work and good fortune. You'd think therefore that with each sweep of the hour hand being so valuable we'd spend our time wisely with priority given to those things which we hold dear...

But...

How many of us spend more time with our work colleagues than our family? How about more time watching trash telly than preparing healthy nutritious food? more time on Facebook than exercising? more time commuting than unwinding?... what about wasted time? how many hours a day do we spend unnecessarily on pointless meetings? hopping through the endless Sky TV channels again and again? replying to emails with no point or purpose?... and how about compromising quality? an hour spent 'together' having dinner but sat staring at a big box in the corner of the room? a day spent together without a kiss, cuddle or smile? or even a week spent together unable to get along because you're so stressed about work?

It's all about priorities really... surely the ideal would be to spend the most time with the highest quality on the most important areas of our life, less on the less important and probably none at all on the things that really don't matter? I doubt many of us (myself included) have reached this perfect balance and even people who may be seen as having led a successful life seem to have struggled. A little while ago I watched a documentary about Bobby Robson and when asked if he had any regrets he said he wished he'd spent more time with his family... I wonder if he'd have been prepared to compromise his levels of success within football? What's more important... family or work? It's not a trick question, however people's actions often betray their words...

How often do we hear 'as long as I've got my health that's all that matters' only to find someone working 60 hours a week and exercising for 30 minutes? Their words suggest that health is their highest priority yet they are prepared to spend 120 times more on their career than keeping fit. Work is clearly their priority therefore, however with such a miserly spend on exercise it's likely to be cut short or compromised due to poor health further down the line anyway... I think that's called a 'lose/lose situation'?

What I'm slowly getting round to saying is that although time is clearly the most valuable of our possessions we seem to spend more of it on things which really aren't that important and most of what we do spend on those things close to us is often compromised with regards quality...

Thanks to a fantastic weekend with my Dad then (he actually overspent on my present and gave me 40 hours instead of just 24) I'll be spending a significant amount of my valuable time over the next few weeks considering just how I allocate each of my 168 weekly hours, as H has already alluded to... there is change afoot ;)

See you in seven,

T ;)

4 comments:

runtilyoudrop said...

Nice post. Someetimes the challenge to time is "having it all" and the difficulty is then balancing the choices. Of course you and I do IM so there is no chance of sensible balance;-)

Ben Garrard said...

Nice post Tom, Couldn't agree more with you. If you bring in the pursuit of wealth, time becomes even more scarce, how often do you hear wealthy people say "they wish they had more time to spend their money and enjoy their lives". For me it's a teachers life, now how shall I spend my 1344 hours before I go back to work!

Ben G said...

Nice post Tom, Couldn't agree more with you. If you bring in the pursuit of wealth, time becomes even more scarce, how often do you hear wealthy people say "they wish they had more time to spend their money and enjoy their lives". For me it's a teachers life, now how shall I spend my 1344 hours before I go back to work!

Russ said...

All very true.

I've been in the situation of focussing too much on work and money. I won't make that mistake again, I like to consider how in my old age I'm unlikely to look back fondly on my time in the office or the possessions I owned.

I'm lucky enough to be really shifting that balance for the next year, no more wasted time standing on trains for me. I have no idea what I'll do when I come back from my journey, but I aim to maintain a solid balance between doing what I want and earning the money to support that.