Time is the Most Important Thing You Own


Chau número tres

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t come into the world with nothing but your naked self. You’re actually already in possession of one of your most important gifts: time.

I like to imagine time as if you are given a certain amount of tickets at birth. At the end of each day, you hand in one of your tickets until they are all gone. At that point, your life is over.

Time as Something You Own

When it comes right down to it, most people probably don’t think of time as something they own. But in reality, you probably already make that association. There is a common expression to say you’re “spending” your time doing something. This implies that it is something you have.

Thinking of time as something you own is useful. Would you find it so easy to waste something if you knew you owned it? Making the ticket analogy helps. Imagining a stack of tickets shrink day after day reminds me to be careful in how I spend my time. Plus, it encourages me to take as much action as possible before they’re all gone.

Wasting Time

I look back on too many instances where I wasted time. Instead of spending time watching useless television programs or horrible movies, I could have been out meeting people, traveling or reading life-changing books. In those instances, I didn’t really value the time I had as something important.

I can see how unimportant time is for other people too. I’ve had many jobs where people are excited to get even the least important of things to do because it “kills time” until they get off work. I consider the time I have to be one of the most important and precious of gifts you can possibly have. So to see their glee at “killing” it simply saddens me.

Time is Finite

If it were simply a matter of making up the time you’re “killing” on another date like picking up a shift on your day off, I wouldn’t feel so bad about it. However, time is limited. You only have whatever you’re given. That’s it. Once it is gone, you never get it back.

Time really isn’t something that is “out there”, intangible and unrelated to your day-to-day life. It is your life.

And I think that’s the biggest reason why time is your most important possession. Everything you want to do, see, feel, touch and experience can only happen within the time you are given. Remember, that you can’t do something once you’re dead.

Your life to-do list doesn’t get done by itself. If you’re not working on doing everything that you want to do, you’re just letting that stack of tickets get shorter. One day you’ll be confronted with the realization of how much you still have to get done and how little of time you have to do it.

Pushing what you want to do and accomplish into the future is a foolish plan. Do what you can now or you might not be able to do them all. This is something you should have in the back of your mind throughout your lifetime.

Don’t Waste Time

The strange thing about all the time we have is how few people seem to appreciate it. After all, how many people do you know that work all day in jobs they hate or stay in relationships they can’t stand? I don’t know why you’d want to spend a single second doing something intolerable.

I’ve done all my busy work in grade school. I don’t want to waste any more of my most precious resource. And neither should you. Life is too short to waste it on things that don’t matter. All the time you spend in bad relationships or workplaces just isn’t worth it.

Get rid of all those time-wasters. Spend little to none of your time in situations you can’t stand. It might take a lot of time and effort to get where you want to be. But I’d say all that time was spent wisely.
photo credit: photographer padawan *(xava du)

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  1. definitely agree with you on this one.. i always tell my friends that time is my biggest leverage even in travelling… most of them dont get it though…

  2. Steve,

    Great post about the important understanding of time. I used to waste a lot of time. Now I just simply don’t have time to waste. There is just so much to do or so much I could be doing. I don’t have the time to wait around to watch life happen I am way to busy living life and waiting for my results to catch up to my actions. I am with you, time is more valuable than any other commodity that exists. We have to learn to treat it in that regard. Great post!

    • I think there is just too much to do and too little time to do it all. It doesn’t seem as if life is short, it is just that we spend too much of it in areas that don’t matter. Since I’ve thought of time like this, I’ve appreciated it more.

  3. I like the part about having time cards. My friend is a lawyer and so she has to keep track of time at work in six minute increments, she said that once she started that she got so more efficient outside of work because she had that mindset. I’ve been trying to have individual goals each day so that if I find myself kind of loss I can easily get back on track. Good post!

    • Keeping track of your time like that seems to put a new perspective on how important it is. I’ve had some friends who keep track of small intervals of time like that and they also get more efficient outside of work. It reminds me of this character I read about in a story once. The character set his watch to ring every 10 minutes so he would keep reminding himself to make the most out of the time he has.

  4. Hey Steve,

    Spot on Brother!
    One of my favorite isms is…You can’t change yesterday, but you can change tomorrow by what you choose to do today. It all starts with the first step. The hours will fill in no matter our choices. How much better though if we purposefully spend them.

    • Hey Rob, things really get better if we purposefully spend our time better. It’s so true that it all starts with the first step.

  5. Well said Steve. As I’ve grown older you come to appreciate it even more. As you say, it’s something you own, but loose a little of it each day. Another point I’d like to add is that, although we have no idea on the time we shall spend upon this earth, we are all able to slightly extend that time to it’s maximum potential by remaining healthy.

    As you point out, we’re all given a set number of tickets at birth. These tickets are based on our genetic inheritance. If we do not remain as healthy as possible through out our life, instead of handing back one ticket per day, we may be giving back a small piece from the next days ticket.

    Your tickets will run out allot sooner if you dont remain healthy as well. Another inspiration post. Thanks mate…

    • Hey Jason, you’re very right about extending the time you have. You can always get more time if you live well, eat healthy and exercise. It’s for that reason that I try to do all three as much as possible. If you can do all these then your tickets won’t run out as quickly.

  6. I rarely watch television nowadays. I don’t think I even do. For me, there seems to be more important things I’d rather focus myself doing that will be more productive for me in the end.

  7. Oh.My.Goodness. This post is like a slap on my face now. I’ve been ‘wasting’ my time for like two weeks now and it’s not even funny. I am going out of town by Friday and i hope that will somewhat push me to do what i should be doing and be productive. I’ve been waking up late and eating unhealthy food. In a way, i was sick but it’s not a good excuse. Haven’t updated my blogs and even my resume. I’m not yet sure if i want to go back to the corporate world because i feel like i’ll be wasting my precious time there, but what am i doing now? 😐 In my personal blog (http://www.micamyx.com), i mentioned that i will venture into a full-length film this year. Haven’t started yet. Oh man thanks for this 😀

    • There are some days when I don’t really feel like doing anything either. I think having those days are good every so often. So you might not really be wasting your time, especially if you’re trying to figure out what you want to do next. It sounds like you have a lot going on. Being in a full-length film sounds like it would be fun.

  8. I’m a long way short of being good at organising my time but it doesn’t worry because we spend all of our time doing the things we want to do – there’s just too many things we want to do. :) It’s a great position to be in, though and you’re right; everyone should take more action to make proper use of their precious time. It’s not difficult, once you make the decision and get the ball rolling.

    • I’m in the same position as you are. I’m not the best organizer of my time, but that’s because it is so hard when I have so many things to do. On the plus side, many of those things that keep me busy are things I want to do. You’re right that it’s a good position to be in.

  9. I definitely don’t think I’m wasting my life because I’m making good use of it and delving into areas of the world where other people usually don’t go. It’s amazing, though, how much time I can still waste, though – for example, by surfing the web for far too many hours when I should be doing something, anything else.

  10. I talk about this all the time. I actually was just saying to a co-worker today “We only get one life! Why do people squander it!?” Everyday I feel like I’m not doing enough to take advantage of all life has to offer.

    • I ask the same question to co-workers. Some people just don’t seem to understand how precious time really is. And some days I also feel like I’m not doing enough to take advantage of everything in life. But I imagine that you’re similar to me in that we both push ourselves really hard to do everything we want to do.

  11. Too many people don’t realise how precious time is. And even if it is passing slowly for you right now, utimately it slips away too quickly.

    Some of us have more time to live than others. We owe it to them to really LIVE our lives and make the most of every moment.

    Great post Steve.

    • Yes, that’s the problem with time. It passes too slow to really notice, but ultimately slips away too quickly. That’s why I like using my ticket metaphor. It makes it easier to notice time passing.

  12. ……by David………….When I was a teenager I might have identified money as my most valuable resource. I dont think thats extraordinarily naive I mean it did always help to bring me the things I wanted freedom influence power comfort beer. It s so versatile you can do just about anything with it. More money meant more ease more pleasure more happiness..As I got older and busier I learned as many do that time trumps money by a long shot. One can use time not only to make money but also to build the capacity for making more money in less time by improving skills and setting up streams of income. Not only that but extra time gives you the temporal space to enjoy the privileges and powers you already have. More time means more freedom more options and less stress..Unlike money everyone is ultimately on a level playing field when it comes to time. We all get the same allowance of twenty-four hours a day. Just as there are ineffective ways of investing your money there are ineffective ways of investing your time. .If we all have the same amount of this essential resource why do some people achieve so much and others so little? Where we start from in terms of economic class skills and education certainly has something to do with it but there are just as many riches-to-rags stories as there are rags-to-riches stories so obviously there is another factor at play here..We could argue that some have more free time so obviously its those without so many commitments and obligations who would have the distinct advantage as far as how much they can accomplish..Well I think free time is a fallacy. At the end of the day there is no free time we use all of it. As I mentioned in a we all fill the same twenty-four full hours a day whether you pass your days running six companies simultaneously or eating Pringles and watching reruns of That 70s Show.. .Free time is just time in which we dont feel compelled to do a particular thing. For example you probably dont think of your work shift as free time because you probably feel a compulsion to do certain activities during that time probably activities your boss wants you to do. The long stretch between when you normally go to bed and when you normally wake up is likewise cordoned off as unavailable..But this is only a mental boundary. The truth is you always have the choice of what to do with that time. Instead of working from nine to five you could play mini golf between the cubicles. Instead of going to bed at eleven you could wander the streets in your pyjamas and bare feet. These arent necessarily the smartest or most rewarding choices but you do always have full liberty as to how you spend your time. The world will not come to an end if you do something unexpected with time that isnt previously labeled free..Obligation is really nothing more than a nagging feeling of some kind. Its guilt or self-doubt or some other emotion it isnt a real binding force. No matter what weve promised others or ourselves we all choose which commitments we will fulfill and which we wont and life goes on either way. So free time is an illusion. Its all free and paradoxically all taken..Even those who leave little time uncommitted can still experience a frustrating lack of productivity. Have you ever known someone who is constantly busy toiling on multiple projects and working multiple jobs yet they never get rich or become happy or fulfill their dreams? Most of us have felt this kind of perplexity ourselves at one time or another. Busy busy busy all day long with little to show for it in terms of hard results..Whenever I feel behind the eight ball on a project I often resolve to invest two or three straight hours on it. But sometimes for some reason by the end of that couple hours Im not much further along. Yet other times I can get incredible amounts done in twenty or thirty minutes..So it seems my time is just worth more in some instances than others. What makes the difference?.Just like money we value time only because we value the things we can exchange it for. Money would be entirely useless to us if we were unable to exchange it for something. So by itself it has no real value..Time is no different. We like to have spare uncommitted time because then we can spend it on something we actually want. We want enjoyable experiences we want our work to be completed we want our skills to be improved we want our lives to be in order. Time is the currency we spend in exchange for these rewards..But as weve learned from countless unproductive workdays and boring meetings the buying power of time fluctuates much more wildly than that of money. Imagine being confined to an empty concrete cell for one year. How much value would you place on your time then? You d probably wish you had less time because in that dismal situation there are few ways to exchange that time for something you value..So your most precious resource is not time not quite anyway. The value of your time fluctuates greatly depending on how you end up spending it. How much value you get out of it depends on your application of the real precious resource your attention..Your attention is just as finite as your time but it is the crucial ingredient that actually converts your time to something of use. If you decide spend an hour of time working on a project and your attention is only focused on the work itself for half of that hour you ve only generated a half hour of complete work with your hour..What about that other 30 minutes of attention? Where did it go? Well it was certainly spent on something probably a number of things. Devices and people grab our attention quite easily Twitter colleagues family members texts. People commonly sequester themselves from these attention hogs while they work by locking their door turning off their phone or closing their web browser..These measures are useful for external distractions but unfortunately the worst culprit doesnt need a phone to get a hold of you and it followed you in before you locked the door..

  13. Hey Steve,

    of course you are 1000% right with this one and I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Time is the most precious of things.

    The good news is, precious as it is, we are all paid the same amount.

    We all get the same 24 hours every day.

    … and everyone can choose to start again at any moment, because every next moment is a new one.

  14. It took 40 years of my life to realize this. I am not ill nor dyeing but the life I lived teaches me this and convinced me to teach others about the value of the time. It is our most valuable capital. It is the proof that we all born equally. We are only responsible how we spend this capital and how we sell it.
    But the society do not want us to realize this.
    I am happy that there are more people wake-up and conscientious regarding this.

    • Thanks for sharing, Angel. It’s true that we are all responsible for how spend time. It took me a while to figure that out too, but it’s such an important lesson.

  15. This is a remarkable article Steve. I awoke to the finite nature of time last year and the changes I have already begun to make in my life are huge.

    The visual way you have described time e.g. tickets really brings it home. It reminded me of that movie called ‘In Time’ 2011, in which people have a watch that displays a certain amount of time that they still have to live. The less time they have, the more they appreciate it, regardless of how unhappily they live.

    With love,


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