The Gift of Time

Back to 2010

It was barely a few months after leaving my job. I helped with the divestitures of two major business units of a company that was once great. My process and systems knowledge and experience gleaned from years of business transformation programs was useful. But it was time to hand the reins over to another. My spirit needed a refreshing.

I was walking home, past the shops across the train station. A train arrived. Business people came pouring out, arriving from a day’s work. I sighed. I missed the hustle and bustle of work. The buzz of solving problems. The energetic discussions. The conference calls. Even the global ‘meetings’ in the middle of my night! For a moment, I wished I was one of them. No! I caught that thought and put it to one side. “I am thankful. Very thankful. I am thankful for this gift of time.”

Just the other day, I walked my child to school. In the rain. By the time I walked back home, I was soaking wet.  I enjoyed it. I was singing a tune when I reached our gates and turned in to the path to our home.

Tomorrow I will join new friends as we study the writing of John the Apostle. I am reading lots of books again. I even have five books that I am reading all at the same time. Well, almost all at the same time.

Last week, I tried my hand at baking cupcakes from scratch. As the Aussies would say, “Not bad!” The children were delighted to come home to the fragrance of baked goodies. And they heard me play the piano again.

Later, it’s off to help my new friends at a not-for-profit. To facilitate a workshop for the leadership team on how to lead business change. Then some time to mentor leaders on personal and business leadership.

In between all these, I am meeting with business people, so that I can start considering my next steps, career-wise.

What a time it was in 2010. I learned then how to enjoy the gift of time.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to die; 
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal; 
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; 
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; 
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose; 
a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 
a time to rend, and a time to sew; 
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate; 
a time for war, and a time for peace.*


A friend recently wrote about enjoying the gift of time, as part of the long recuperation process.

So did Josh Bersin (Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte), who wrote a piece on LinkedIn titled “The Importance of Quiet”, as a result of a bicycling accident.

In the business world, the term ‘gift of time’ is often equated to taking time off work, whether due to illness, a job loss or vacation time. But is that really the only time that we can enjoy the gift of time?

Time is given to all of us in equal measure.

There is no rich or poor in time. No privileged or underprivileged. We all start with the same 168 hours a week, no more, no less. Yet we, in the developed world, have coined the term ‘time-poor’, as if we had less to start with or to use.

There is a story circulating online about a college professor who used an empty glass jar to illustrate a lesson in prioritization. First, he placed rocks inside the jar. He asked the class, “Is the jar full?” The class said it was full. Then he poured peebles into the jar, followed by sand, each time asking the same question and getting the same answer. A variation to this story is that the professor added beer in the end! The simple lesson is that if we prioritize the important stuff, then it’s easier to fit in the others.

How do you know what’s important to you? It goes right back to your values.  You can reflect on your values when you make big decisions. You can apply this in everyday decisions, too. The small decisions in your normal day can crowd out the important ones.

 (Read a related blog How Do You Choose? How Do You Decide?)

Here are some ways I have treasured and enjoyed this gift of time in my daily life:

  1. Reserve quiet time during my day and schedule it in my online calendar. Whether that’s 30 minutes waking up ahead of the household or the 30 minutes of walking around the office block, as part of a mid-day break at work.
  2. Reserve months ahead for learning and development activities, such as a refresher course, a seminar, conference, networking event or simply a ‘personal refresher day’.
  3. Schedule meetings at work for 15 minutes, especially if it is a follow-up meeting only, so that I can use the rest of the time for the more important items. I have also tried standing-only meetings while I was in the US. It worked for my team.
  4. In the moment, as required, make judgements on how I spend time even if that means upsetting my carefully planned schedule. Last night, I paused from drafting the next blog and took time to listen to my child. Pre-exam concerns. Then we prayed together.
  5. I add the school events schedule (and other family and work commitments) to my online calendar at the beginning of the school year, then agree with my children how I would be involved.
  6. I am mindful of the season I am in. What worked last year may not go well this year.
  7. Share my plan with others who can hold me accountable for my commitment to live life to the full and enjoy this gift of time.

We start the week with the hours that we need to enjoy a full and meaningful life. We should not fill it to overflowing with everything that clamors to get done. Instead, we can choose wisely what to fill it with.

How are you going to spend your gift of time this week? At work? At home? In your community?

Do you use other ways to enjoy the gift of time? Can you share them with us?

*Ecclesiastes 3:1-8  This passage is generally ascribed to King Solomon, the son of King David of the Hebrews. Ecclesiastes is one of the books in the Old Testament (OT) of the Bible.

A piece of trivia for you …

Did you know that there are thousands of ancient manuscripts that corroborate the Old Testament Bible? These are housed in various museums and libraries around the world. Compare with only five copies of Aristotle’s writing, the earliest dated around AD 1100. Aristotle taught in the fourth century BC.

13 thoughts on “The Gift of Time

  1. I want to thank you for the gift of YOUR time yesterday, and for the advice. Your story and your example are such an inspiration. God bless the coincidence of timing (and your beautiful niece) who led me to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was reading Bill Hybels yesterday, and he reminded me (exactly like this piece) of the importance of time. He states: “Does anyone know for sure how many monthly or annual calendars they will get to assemble in this life?” – he was specific about scheduling, but it got me thinking more broadly about everything!

    It reminds me of that great poem: 86,400 seconds

    Liked by 1 person

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