A calendar is a tool that lets you peer into the future or revisit the past by way of milestones. With a quick glance, you can plan for graduations or remember anniversaries.
A clock is a more forward focused tool. It keeps unrelenting track of the minutes that pass between commitments, obligations, passions and sleep. If used wisely, it can help you meet those events with an implied deadline, which is just a way of signaling the end of the event prior.
I’m all for time-based metrics, and believe they’re crucial when planning a goal. However, there’s also a way to measure perspective, which may clarify what’s important to you.
Don’t just measure time, measure times, as in the number of times you’ve done (or not done) something. Or, estimate the number of times you have left to do something.
- Instead of measuring your wait time in line, count how many times you’ve had a cup of coffee or bottle of beer in the last week.
- Instead of measuring how long it will take you to write a book, measure how many times you sit down to write.
- Compare how many times have you planned a dream vacation versus how many times have you taken one. If you take one trip a year, how many more times will you make it to Tuscany, Singapore, or Rio?
- How many times have you said you need to shed a few pounds versus how many times have you exercised this week.
- How many times have you meant to call your parents and just say hi, but didn’t.
Life isn’t only about our time. It’s about our times.
My kids each have a nightly ritual about their blankets being placed just so, lights being turned off in a particular order, and all sorts of other quirks, which depending on my mood, can be exhausting and annoying. One aggravating night it hit me; the whole routine takes, maybe five minutes, if that. Eventually they will both tire of me tucking them in at night. Eventually they will leave, for college and goals not yet imagined.
Quick math tells me I have a finite number of times to participate in this sometimes-maddening nightly ceremony. Divide that in half, for the nights I don’t tuck them in, and suddenly the number gets very small and my exasperation quickly evaporates. Now I care where the corner of the blanket with the tag on it is just as much as they do. The number of dinners we have together, the laughs we share, the arguments we have, all take on different meaning.
Look at your passion, the thing that you love more than yourself, and make an educated guess as to how many times you have left with it.
How many more fishing trips, or book club meetings, how many sales calls or speeches? How many times do you have to make a customer smile, or think, or recommend you? How many ideas will you help with Kickstarter, or businesses with Kiva? How many more times will you be able to tell someone you appreciate them, show gratitude toward them, or let them know that you love them?
We can estimate how many times, but we can’t ever be certain, so make every one of your times count.