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Life is short, time is scarce

I don’t have time.

The four famous words that sadly define and distinguish a myriad of homo sapiens.

The words we tell others as much as ourselves to remain justified that we aren’t the only ones without time.

To rest on our laurels, forego our dreams and visions, procrastinate, delay, and derail our responsibilities, accountabilities, and duties in life.

It becomes a dark pseudo-mantra to avoid the things we know in our hearts and minds we should start to work towards to accomplish, but put them aside instead due to a plethora of excuses; the most prominent one being that we just don’t have time on our hands.

This is why we see people cease to grow as individuals. We become stagnant, languid, and complacent, choosing to settle for what we deem is our “lot in life” and not work with any aspirations, motivations, and hopes to fulfil things in life that matter to us. 

What is time, anyway?

Haven’t we humans, since the genesis of early understanding, attempted to define, discern, and compile time into a structured, quantifiable construct?

Humanity seeks to perceive things beyond our capabilities and we endeavour so by labelling, categorising, and measuring that which we cannot easily wrap our heads and hands around.

We’ll toss a salute to science and religion where imagination, philosophy, and intellectual and practical summary merge with systematic observation and evaluation of the natural, material, and physical world.

You see, we tell ourselves that we can organise any idea into a box and give it meaning and reason. 

Which is why as a species we either remain in awe, in fear, or in complete obsession with the unexplainable. Those things that evade our mundane grasp. The stuff that piques our curiosity, invokes our imagination, and stokes the fires of wonder.

And so we have sought to measure time. Chain and cage it. We’ve christened it as “what a clock reads”. How very droll, no? 

Let us, for the sake of the narrative, define time as the continued sequence of the existence and events that occur in irreversible succession via the past, then into the present, and finally into the future.

But then time is also the measured period where actions, processes, and events are summed as per their duration. 

Time, ladies and gentlemen, is life’s greatest asset. 

Wasted time 

Why is it that so many of us waste this non-renewable resource? 

Professionally, we waste time by being unmotivated, stuck in a linear loop, and being intimidated to give it our best. For many, seeking out new opportunities and etching new chapters in their lives is too risky; and thus remain stuck in a job for monetary compensation where people work for a living and live for their work, without any passion for doing so. 

Students waste time by slapping an expiry date and timeline, saying in order to pay attention to academic goals it must be done at a certain juncture, or else it will be too late or difficult. Not everyone is a brilliant student. Be that as it may, to be an attentive and hardworking student who pours yourself into your academics by choice – this is where true learning happens and you grow with knowledge proper – is not only doable but achievable for anyone who has the right mindset and attitude.  

You maybe an artist, musician, poet, entrepreneur, author, investor, innovator, or some other creator or curator who is stuck in a rut, telling yourself that time is not on your side, when in actuality you are only sidetracked, distracted, uninspired, and perhaps without the clarity and focus to make most of the time you do have, even if you’ve not been as productive as you can be with the time you did have. 

Consider how much of time is wasted by social media, procrastination, commuting, and interruptions by so many around the world. 

Consider how many of us give up on things because we are programmed by families, schools, and society that only winners matter; that second best doesn’t cut it.

Many suffer from the “King of the Jungle” syndrome. Where lions are the king of the jungle with a natural genetic setting to sleep for 20 hours a day, while the lioness does the bulk of the work. Don’t we all know plenty of humans who fit the bill and description aplenty? The ones who lounge about and just let valuable minutes, hours, days, and weeks pass by with the same old routine, and a lack of enthusiasm to do anything out of the ordinary. 

Yes, not everyone is a high-performance candidate. And you don’t need to be. But ask yourself if you are letting the best, most capable time of your life where you are virile, vibrant, and active slip by because you lack vision, intuition, the ability to act, and have no concept of creating more value for yourself with maximum or minimal effort. To do this, you need to find things you are driven by and passionate about. 

The abiders of Parkinson’s Law. The notion that work expands to fill time and space is something we are all but familiar with right? How many of us tend to stretch out our deadlines and finish lines for projects, when we can work on them making better time? We’d deliberately stall a project and delay it, very often so it bleeds into other domains and areas of our life, affecting our personal relationships, social commitments and individual wellbeing. 

The “now we are old and it’s too late for me B.S. eaters”. My goodness. The percentage of Lankan adults who hit their 30s and 40s and simply let go of themselves is momentous. Many do this after marriage or having kids. Many do this after they get caught in the corporate dog-eat-dog, rat-race, slave-to-the-grind cycle, where their lives are encompassed with work stress and home anxiety, but while their mental health steadily increases, their physical wellbeing deteriorates significantly. 

The discouraged and disenchanted. Too many compare their professional lives to someone else’s. Whilst finding inspiration and motivation by looking at someone else’s journey and life is a good thing, obsessively drawing parallels to someone more accomplished than you can be unhealthy, because they may have worked towards that thing for a longer period of time and perhaps had more favourable circumstances, resources, infrastructures, and means to fulfil their goals, as opposed to you. Which is why you need to understand what to take and not take as motivation. For example, a starting entrepreneur comparing themselves to Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk and their achievements can be demotivating. Especially if you don’t consider what their beginnings were like and the hustle they’d had to get where they are today.

Time’s on your side

    1. Set goals: It’s integral that we set some boundaries as well as mental markers along the way to figure out how to get to where you want to go in life, and how you should work towards it. Make sure you start by telling yourself there will be failures along the way. You just need to pick yourself up and continue on your path 

 

  • Track and manage your time: No matter how chaotic your life is, take some tough decisions so that you change your conditions, environment, and mindset and get better organised, at least in terms of how you put time to good use. While it may not seem like a lot, 24 hours a day is plenty to sort your sleep, meals, and work duties, and spend time with those who matter to you. But have you allocated a few hours for yourself each day? Manage your time hourly, and even daily 

 

    1. Establish priorities and keep to a schedule: Sounds a bit boring, no? Show me anyone who has a success story in life, and I’ll wager that they work to a meticulous schedule and have prioritised their daily goals and duties. This is pivotal for all of us to do; professionally, socially, and personally. We can’t make everyone happy, all the time. Please accept that. And we can’t juggle multiple tasks simultaneously and perform at our optimal and finest at them all consistently. However, if we prioritise our tasks, duties, responsibilities, and goals, and ascertain to have some semblance of a schedule – which we can build upon and refine – you’ll start to see key differences occur in your life that will contribute to your growth and evolution. 

 

  • Keep yourself accountable: We need to learn to accept responsibility and accountability for our thoughts, words, and deeds. Isn’t this a major issue in our country? Far too many are poised to take the credit, while too few are prepared to share the blame. We need to own our mistakes and try to learn from our weaknesses, failures, and flaws. If we do this, then we realise that we need not fall back into old habits and toxic routines. It’s important to yearn to trudge onwards and away, but do so cleaning up your own messes and learning to fix one problem at a time without welcoming more problems into your life than you have the time to tackle. 

 

Most importantly, tell yourselves the almighty truth that life is short and time is scarce. And if time is indeed life’s greatest scarcity, how precious a thing it is that should never be taken for granted or wasted. 

Suresh de Silva is the frontman and lyricist of Stigmata, a creative consultant and brand strategist by profession, a self-published author and poet, thespian, animal rescuer, podcaster, and fitness enthusiast.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.