Learn to cultivate an appreciation of time before it’s too late.

Photo by Rasheed Kemy on Unsplash

“Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time. It’s the one thing they’re running out of.” — Jon Stewart

That quote was taken from Jon Stewart’s speech to congress in July of last year concerning the 9/11 health care first responders bill.

Most of us can consider ourselves incredibly lucky because our chances of dying early are relatively small, but that doesn’t make our time any less valuable.

Time is one of the few constants that will be with us from birth to death. It will accompany major life changes and all the mundane moments. If we hope to fully appreciate life, we have to be aware of what we’re doing with our time. A life well-lived is created by a person that used all their time wisely.

We’re Really Good at Wasting Time

The unfortunate thing about time is the more we have of it, the more we tend to waste it. When you have a long time to do something, it’s easy to delay, focus on less important tasks, and wait for the perfect circumstances. We use our abundance of time to justify distracting ourselves, going through our day half-heartedly. We hold off on important conversations until tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes.

Time doesn’t feel scarce, so we gradually let it slip through our hands.

Just think of all the things we do each day, with little to no purpose. Phones, social media, YouTube. How much time do we spend scanning these things with no end goal in mind? Now and then we may use them consciously as a form of relaxation or connection, but most often we turn to them because they’re convenient or they can distract us from doing difficult but important work. We let precious minutes and hours go by each day without getting anywhere.

I’m blown away by how much time I end up wasting. There are days when I spend 3 hours in the afternoon doing nothing productive when I could be writing or going through homework or connecting with someone. There are so many valuable pursuits I could be doing, yet I spend hours each day doing none of them.

Even when I’m doing work, I sometimes find myself half-heartedly focusing on the task while my mind wanders elsewhere. I still manage to be fairly productive, yet I can’t help but wonder how much I could have accomplished if I used every minute effectively.

When There Is Little Time, People Become Insanely Productive

How often have you heard this story: A person was on a normal track in life, good at some things, not so good at others. They were seemingly destined for being average in their career, relationships, and so on. Then, something devastating happens. Either they’re diagnosed with an illness, they get in a life-threatening accident, they’re faced with their own potential death.

Following the event, they become one of the most productive people around. Everyone starts to know who they are. Every month they seem to accomplish something more amazing.

The sad part about our relationship with time is most of us must feel a lack of it before we learn to truly appreciate it. Once we’re told we’re running out of time, we start to make the most of the time we have left. This isn’t always the case, but a lot of the time it is.

People confronted with their own death 40 years before they expected it to happen seem to bring 10–15 years’ worth of value to the world and their relationships all in the span of 5 years. Goals that have been pushed further and further back are finally pursued, and the life we’ve always imagined living comes together shortly before we’ll no longer be able to live it.

It’s sad to think about how often people discover and begin pursuing their dreams during their final years. If we live more conscious of our time, can we do the things we’ve always wanted to do before our final decade on this planet?

I Hope to Create This Appreciation For Time Well Before I Run Out Of It

Personally, I hope that every day I get a little better at using my time. I hope that each day allows me to become a little better at maximizing what’s left in my countdown clock.

I want to notice when I start to wander toward things I don’t find important. I hope to minimize unimportant tasks and small talk, spending as much time as possible looking at the big issues in life. I’ll always have things I want to do, it’s a truth I accept more with each day, but at least I can do some of that stuff now.

One of my biggest fears in life is nearing the end feeling like I haven’t really lived. I can’t imagine the regret of spending so much time on this planet and only having a few people I really care about, only doing a few things I really like, only saying a few words that really mattered.

As I sit here at 6 am writing this article, I can’t help but think that thought that’s always hidden in the back of my head. I’m running out of time.

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