Time is our most valuable asset because it’s the only thing you can’t get back. I don’t think I would get much disagreement with that statement. Opinions start flying when people discuss how to utilize this time. The primary point I want to discuss in this post is the contrast between understanding what we’re doing with our time, and why we’re doing it.
We all have a very clear idea of what we’re doing all of the time. We love making lists, updating our calendars, completing tasks, and keeping everyone up to date on our accomplishments via email, Facebook, and twitter. We feel good when we’re productive, and that’s a wonderful thing, but I wonder how often we consider why we’re doing what we’re doing. Often when I ask people why they do things their answer is related to the next task on the agenda. “Uh, I’m food shopping so I can cook my family dinner tonight,” or “I need to go to class so I can graduate.” We have this well documented life long task sheet: go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, raise good kids, retire, have grandchildren, die happy. If someone isn’t on this trajectory, they start making people uncomfortable for some reason, like they just can’t relate or understand.
I think some of the discomfort comes because if someone can find value and happiness in an alternative lifestyle then they need to evaluate if their own lives are bringing them value and happiness. As long as we surround ourselves with people following the same life script we never need to question our choices, and that’s a shame.
I propose that we spend more time focussing, thinking about, and evaluating why we fill our schedules the way we do. We need to push ourselves outside of the life script box and really ask ourselves if this life script is right for us. When we come home to our families, we’re asked, “What did you do today?” Instead we should be asking, “What did you discover today about living a better life?” or “Are you happy with how you used your time today?” As a manager you learn that you get what you ask for from your employees, so if you ask for a list of accomplished tasks, they’re going to fill their day with an abundance of tasks whether they’re useful or not. If you ask, “Are you happy?” they’ll fill their day with things that make them happy.
The primary concern I have is how we allocate most of our time for our careers. Of the 16 hours or so we’re awake in a day, we spend about 10 working and commuting to work. Then we go home, tell our loved ones about work, eat, relax to recover from work, and then maybe spend a few hours with our family and friends. The center of our lives becomes our job and the best answer we can give for why is, “I’ve got to make a living.” When I’m on my death bed, I don’t want to reflect on a lot more than that I made a living. I want to know that I spend as much time loving the people in my life and that I saw and did the things I want to do, not what my boss wants me to do.
This is a tall order, and I’m the first one who needs to take these steps. I don’t know the answers. I’m not sure if there are answers. But I refuse to be afraid to ask the questions. Time is my most valuable asset and I want to utilize it. Maybe my meditation practice will help. Time to go meditate.