If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
from ‘Time in a Bottle’ by Jim Croce
As a kid, you’d hear adults use the term Time is Money or the most valuable commodity is time or some such variation. And it made no sense whatsoever, what the hell are they talking about? Time was endless, if anything it moved too slowly as you watched the minute hand struggle to get all the way around to 3 o’clock. It took forever to be old enough to go to a concert by yourself or the mall or to get your driver’s license. Summers seemed an eternity, affording us endless hours to lay in the grass watching yet another sunset play out above and then below the tree line.
Time was cheap, there was an endless supply and it never seemed to go by fast enough.
It was not until you began to feel time being pulled from you rather than laid at your feet that you truly appreciated how quickly things were passing.
I got home from work the other night and saw something leaning against the tree out front. I couldn’t quite make it out from the driveway as the sun sets at around 2:30 in the afternoon these days so I walked over. It was my son’s crib, dismantled and awaiting special pickup. The same crib my daughter slept in five years ago when we lived in a one-bedroom on the Upper East Side. “What happened with the crib?” I asked my shift supervisor/wife.
“He jumped out of it last night. Twice. He’s gonna sleep in a bed tonight.”
Just like that. I left for work that morning waving goodbye to my baby boy…I came home that night to a kid who sleeps in his own bed. Wasn’t he born fifteen minutes ago? Where was I?
If I learned anything this year, it’s that I have to start saying No to stuff more often. Not just saying no for the sake of saying no but declining on the grounds that if I don’t, I will be out of time. Or more accurately, I will arrive at a point in time and become overwhelmed with how much I missed or how quickly it all went. I’m pretty good at getting stuff done and fitting a lot of diverse things in on any given day. But when you look back on a year’s worth of progress, you begin to realize that not everything should have been multi-tasked or “thrown into the mix”. I can’t sit here and quantify how much time I’d spent wasting time on things that didn’t matter, it’s too mentally painful.
So yeah, I think this coming year I’m going to start saying no to a lot more things. I need to be more aware of the things I say yes to at the very least. I always laugh when I come across an ad or an email with the word FREE in it. Free 30-day trial or free admission or free webinar. An activity is only free if your time is worth nothing.
I’m sure I’ll miss out on certain opportunities to meet great people or to learn new things, but if I don’t get my priorities straight, all of that will be for naught. So for 2012, I’m keeping an open mind but a tight schedule. I can’t attend every event or read every book that comes to me in the mail or watch every TV show or take every meeting or sit on every conference call. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I just can’t. Not anymore. I’m going to have to get a lot better at declining.
It’s the only way I know of to cope with how swiftly time is passing these days.