Discover more from Dr Paddy Barrett
All We Have Is Time
There is no resource more valuable than time yet we consistently squander it.
Stanley Druckenmiller is one of the greatest investors of all time.
He is also noted to be a very committed family man working in a business that often leads to excessive work hours and broken families.
He has changed my views on how I spend time with those I love.
When asked how he spends ‘quality time’ with his wife and children, he responded:
“There is no such thing as quality time. There is only time.”
Of course, there is time we spend with loved ones that could be better spent as we doom scroll on our phones, paying far less attention than we should, but it is time.
I have memories of ‘quality time’ spent with loved ones that I cherish, but when I think back on the most important time I have spent with those who mean the most to me, it didn’t involve doing anything very special at all.
I have framed photos of graduations and birthdays.
But what I remember most are:
Random walks by a lake.
Autumn evenings in a park.
A day spent mostly doing nothing.
I think the temptation of wanting to spend ‘Quality Time’ with those you love means you try to concentrate all of your efforts on these particular events but often lose sight of the real relationship building that happens between them.
Just like a comic book, the real story happens between the panes.
The special moments in life most often happen between those big events that we often think of as ‘Quality Time’.
I am not suggesting we shouldn’t build those special times into our lives, but more so, I am advocating that we might gain more by simply just spending ‘Time’ with those that matter most to us.
The Clock Is Ticking
Tim Urban writes captures this idea brilliantly with the illustration below.
The average life expectancy is between 70 - 80 years, but he is generous and maps out what a life of 90 years might look like.
If you are over 50 years of age, it’s an unnerving exercise.
Mapping your life out like this highlights the fact that “All We Have Is Time”.
And much of it has already passed us by.
Most of us will not get to the end of that chart and live to 90 years of age.
Most of us will have a chart that gets cut off far earlier.
How We Spend Our Time
But how we spend our limited time is even more concerning.
As children, we spend almost all of our time with family.
With the arrival of our teenage years, we spread our wings and fly.
But we never really come back.
By the time we reach our 20s, we are spending a fraction of the time we used to spend, and that time spent with family will likely remain low for the rest of our lives.
But what about time spent with kids?
As the father of a two-year-old, it can sometimes feel that all I ever do is run around after him, failing miserably to get him to do what I need him to do.
Whoever thought that moving from downstairs to upstairs at bedtime would be such a herculean effort?!
But although he occupies a huge percentage of my time now, that will likely change sooner than I think.
It won’t be long before that peak of time passes, and I get to spend far less time with him than ever.
Free time is something I long for, but I will end up with far more of it much sooner than anticipated.
At least I will have my friends.
Or maybe not.
Those childhood days felt like they would last forever, but they sadly don’t.
I try but spend far less time with my friends than I should.
Life somehow got in the way.
“We must catch up soon”.
But we don’t.
At least not as often as we should.
So how will I spend my time?
Thankfully I have my wife. My partner in crime.
There is no doubt that our time together will be a constant feature throughout both of our lives.
But pay close attention to the far right of the graph.
It will go to zero for one of first us inevitably.
But that’s not who I will spend most of my time with.
The person I will spend the most time with?
And just me.
When we are in the midst of midlife, things just seem hectic.
We are all busy with work consuming large parts of our lives. And for most of us, that is necessary to provide for our families.
But sometimes, we go too far.
As a business manager famously said:
“Twenty years from now, the only people who will remember that you worked late will be your kids.”
When it comes to friends, family, children and loved ones, we all tend to fool ourselves into thinking that we will make up for the time we know we should be spending with them by making sure we spend ‘Quality Time’ with them.
And we should do that.
But we should not forget the priceless value of ‘Just Time’.
The reason I work so hard at trying to live a longer life with a higher quality is simply to give myself more ‘Time’.
Not necessarily to do amazing things.
But to do very simple things.
A very glamorous and super social widow once said to me:
“I have loads of people to do things with. I just have no one to do nothing with.”
All we have is time.
And it is passing us by much faster than we think.
Some of that time will be ‘Quality Time’.
But always remember the value of ‘Just Time’.
It’s all we have.