“The supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up. There is no price for it and no marginal utility curve for it. Moreover, time is totally perishable and cannot be stored. Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back. Time is, therefore, always in exceedingly short supply.” Peter Drucker: The Effective Executive
The money value of time is a concept that is worth pondering for the time starved, over worked, over scheduled individual. I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t fall into that category. Even friends who are retired or work part time, don’t have children, or are recent empty nesters. We are all starved for time. Every time I near the end of a big project I am working on, I start to yearn for the free time that will be created by the dozens of hours that will no longer be devoted to the task at hand. Invariably, those hours never materialize as they are quickly absorbed by new projects or existing life demands. In particular, in the era we are in, where we are constantly connected, there is no shortage of emails and texts that need to get responded to.
I recently had to take an extended vacation. Now I know that sounds extravagant, but in fact, it caused me great anxiety. I was going to be on the road for three weeks. Ten days of the time away was a true vacation where I would force myself to check out for periods of a day. But the other ten days was time spent caring for a family member. My first instinct when I was asked to help out my sister in law (who lives across the country) for a week was to say no. The time would be right after our family vacation and I would be needed back at work. But a sub conscious piece of me, and one that operated more instinctually than deliberately, ended up saying yes without hesitation. In the days that led up to this time away, I downloaded document after document onto my laptop, determined to make the most of airplane time and late evenings to work. I brought chargers and back up chargers, triple checked that my phone would work while we were overseas, and did everything I could to ensure that I would not be disconnected from the responsibilities back at home.
Ultimately, I had a wonderful vacation, and more importantly, felt endlessly fulfilled for helping my sister in law out when she needed me. I had to let go of the anxiety that typically plagued me while away, knowing that in the three weeks away I’d be in five hotels and one house, and not have control of my sleeping and eating schedule – things I usually regimented back home. Once I let go, I felt more at peace than I have in a long time. Work went on and I did keep up – with what was important, and what needed to be responded to. The rest I learned to prioritize and eventually did respond to all the emails; but it didn’t all happen the same day I received the inquiries, and that was ok.
I learned that vacation time, and time helping family members is time you can’t skip. You can’t get it back, and oftentimes, it happens at a time that isn’t necessarily convenient or even scheduled. But you can re prioritize that time that is otherwise operating at max capacity for the things that matter most in life. For most of us, that happens to be spending time with the ones we love.