THE BLOG

Don't Waste Your Time (It's Precious)

06/02/2015 10:06 am ET | Updated Jun 02, 2016

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Please, don't waste my time! If you do, don't expect me to hang out with you for very long. And don't expect me to spend time with you in the future.

I confess, I discriminate against certain people. I don't hate these people; most are quite decent and likeable. Though I do avoid them as much as possible. And when I meet these people, I'm not mean to them. But I do plan my exit as soon as I can (without appearing to be a complete jerk).

No, I'm not a racist, sexist, or ageist. Rather, I'm a 'timeist.' What, you may wonder, is a timeist? Okay, I made the term up, but it has real meaning to me. A timeist is someone who discriminates against others who waste their time. And I really hate it when people waste my time!

As I have moved well into middle age, I hoard my time like misers hoard their money and animals hoard their food. Time has become truly precious to me and any second not spent with people or activities I care about feels like time stolen from me with no chance of return.

Many might argue that money is our most valuable resource because it enables us to survive. I would suggest otherwise because most of us can almost always make more money. But time is an entirely non-renewable resource; once time passes, it is gone forever. No matter how much we wish, we simply can't get more time.

Time also doesn't discriminate. Whether you are rich or poor, the clock is ticking and more time can't be bought. However, I admit that affluence may improve how that time is spent or how long one's time on Earth is (think life expectancies and medical care).

I'm sure this relationship I have with time is a result of my being on the backside of my life with fewer days ahead of me than behind. Like most people, when I was young, I thought I was immortal (not to mention invulnerable). So, I wasted my time with people who didn't have any real value to me and engaged in activities that didn't do much for my life in the grand scheme of things.

Admittedly, this wasted time was due partly to the fact that, when you're young, you don't necessarily know what you value or what will bring benefit to you long term. But early in your life, much like having a lot of money in the bank, it doesn't seem to matter because you, at that point, have plenty of time to spend.

Yet, once you reach a certain age and look back on your life, you ponder (and perhaps regret) the immense opportunity costs of your past relationships and things you did. But, as we so painfully learn, not only is time nonrenewable, it is also not reversible. Such, as they say, is life.

I realize that being a timeist doesn't make me the most popular guy in the room. Timeism can cause me real impatience. For example, if I'm in a meeting going nowhere (or at least in a direction that doesn't interest me), I can abruptly intervene and attempt to get the meeting back on track. Or, if I meet someone who I don't find interesting or worthy of my time, I can, rather suddenly, end the conversation and move on.

Don't get me wrong, I do everything I can to not come across as some sort of snob, but I admit that I might be perceived as a bit curt and, okay, snobbish. But I'm willing to accept the blowback because, well, time is a fleeting and I have better things to do with my time.

I also recognize that, in making judgments about others' time-worthiness, I might judge unwisely and miss out on an experience that might literally change my life. For example, that really boring guy I just ran away from at a cocktail party might want to hire me or triggers an idea that I want to write about or introduces me to someone who is worth spending time with. Of course, I would never know what I had missed out on, so at least I wouldn't kick myself for the lost opportunity.

But, in every experience or encounter, we implicitly or explicitly conduct a risk/reward analysis of time-worthiness and then act accordingly. Perhaps it's just me, but I would rather cut my losses too early and take the chance of a missed opportunity than stay too long and burn through even more time that I will no longer have.

I accept that every moment can't be lived fully and every second can't be savored; that's just not realistic and would probably be exhausting. We waste time waiting in line at the grocery store. We sit in traffic. And, yes, we sometimes endure people and activities that don't interest us because it is the polite or compassionate thing to do (or your spouse will be really mad at you if you don't). As with most things in life, time isn't an either-or proposition, but rather a matter of degree. If I can say that I have spent most of time wisely, I figure I'm winning this game called life.

Given that my time is no more special than yours, I would recommend that you too join the ranks of timeist. Though it's not something to parade around about, I don't think there's anything to be ashamed about either.

So here's what I recommend to you if you choose to release your inner timeist:

  • Cherish and protect your time as it was the last food on Earth (though, like food, share it with those dearest to you).
  • Know your values and priorities and always consider your time in their light.
  • Make deliberate choices how you spend and use your time.
  • And, yes, discriminate against people and activities who waste your time.

In the end, I want to look back on my life and have few regrets about how I spent my time on this planet. And, so far, it has been time well spent.