Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life

By , on November 10, 2013

Opinion


My wife reported yesterday that she reduced her website loading time by a “humongous” two seconds. Of course, she is correct. This is the off-season for her site but she still gets 3000 hits per day. That’s 6000 seconds saved for her readers collectively each day, almost two hours. Wouldn’t it be cool if lawyers, family physicians, dentists, school administrators, and government bureaucrats valued the time of their clients, patients, students and customers similarly? (My doctor and dentist do not make me wait; it is one of the important reasons I do business with them.)

Managing time is somewhat different than managing money. Money is spent as time passes, but we trigger that phenomenon through contractual obligations. We can simply stop disbursements with money. We cannot add significantly to the high quality years of our lives, especially if we take care of ourselves. Our time as a resource is based on our lifespan. We can guess at its length, and may be lucky enough to extend it with good choices, but our control of it is limited. The big distinctions with time are we have no idea how many days remain in our life and we have limited control of how much we have. Thus, our only controls of it are using it well and not wasting it. Another peculiarity with time is that our perception of it changes as we age. It seems plentiful in youth, almost infinite, but in chronic short supply as we age. Money, with care, is quite the opposite for many of us. It is scarce in youth and more than adequate as we age – even for those who are not particularly wealthy.

I will not comment on the wise use of time. If you have read this far, you probably know more about its wise use than I. But not wasting it is bit harder to grasp. I no longer feel that failure to have a whole bunch of daily goals on a day off from work means that the day will be wasted. Examples of this abound. Walking the dog and spending time in the woods is not a waste of time. It is calming. It is exercise for my dog and me. He likes it. I like it. Posting is something I like to do. Perhaps it is good for my brain. It is free reading for you. Maybe my posts help you, even if you conclude that you disagree and have a better approach to an issue. I certainly do not get paid for doing this, and yet it is not a waste of time. A different kind of example of saving time is spending time and money in relatively large chunks today to save minutes every day. These activities take thought and calculation; they are not instinctive nor are they obvious. An example is manually trenching to install irrigation pipe for a suburban lawn. It saves money, is good exercise, and saves time in moving a hose about during the hot summer months. If you calculate the overall time savings, even at 3 minutes per day with automatic irrigation, you get a one or two year payback on the back-breaking work. And you will enjoy the microbrew as the lawn is watering automatically. The same analysis occurs by installing quarter-turn hose bibbs; and re-keying locks at your house so one key opens all the door locks, etc. Many people will say they do not have time to do these things. They should say they do not have time not to do them.

The drudgery work that is part of your passionate endeavors is not wasting time. It is the result of the pursuit of a free choice. This even includes mucking a chicken coop. It is okay. But it is insane, if there are other choices available, to watch twenty minutes of  commercials on television for each hour of programming,  to pick up the phone when someone is requesting a donation or trying to sell you something, to wait at a traffic light during a trip not needed , to sort mail each day to recycle the unsolicited trash, to buy a newspaper that is more than half advertising, and to engage in the many activities that are simply wasting our lives. We all need to take an active role in freeing ourselves to pursue meaningful lives. And that means taking an active part in limiting unsolicited intrusions and avoiding, to the extent possible, those people and companies who  waste our time.



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