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Running into time

Opinion & Analysis
Do you feel like you may have just squandered the first dozen days of the year? That you are already running out of time, even as the race is just beginning?

Do you feel like you may have just squandered the first dozen days of the year? That you are already running out of time, even as the race is just beginning?

By Thembe Khumalo

Are you starting to feel a little of what Gretchen Rubin meant when she wrote, “The days are long but the years are short” ? When your children are little and you are straining under the many demands, they and other aspects of your life make on you and your time, you are never short of people who give advice.

And the one piece of advice that has annoyed me over the years is when people say: “Enjoy these years, kids grow up so fast.” As anyone who has young kids knows, kids can grow up very slowly indeed. When they are running a fever all through the night, and when they are dawdling painfully over a piece of weekend homework they hate on a Sunday evening, and when they are stubbornly sitting over a bowl of oatmeal porridge that they simply refuse to finish, and you simply refuse to budge on the matter, and when you are reading over and over again the invoice for school fees, convinced something must be terribly wrong — well those are all times when children grow at a painfully slow pace.

But yes, I do get the point. What people really mean when they dish out this unsolicited advice is that although the days (and nights) are long and painful— the years seem short when you are looking back on them. And this is the eternal puzzle of time.

We often talk about saving time, wasting time and making time, but of course time itself is the one resource that we cannot save, or make.

Unlike money, we cannot accumulate it for use at a later date, and we cannot generate more of it, as the number of hours and days are fixed for all of us.

What we can do though, is decide exactly how we will employ time in order to get the best value out of it.

So instead of living a life in which we are running out of time, and constantly panicking about how scarce the supply of time is (which it really isn’t, as we know), how about we try to run into time instead?

In spite of the hardships of this life, you and I and many other puzzled people like us, still want to prolong the experience as much as we can.

It’s a mystery that no one can unravel. People simply want to live longer. Even if they spend a vast majority of that life complaining about how tough and life is. Go figure!

The first question I would ask anyone who feels like they keep running out of time is whether their time is properly accounted for.

Of the 24 hours allocated to you in a day, do you have a clear picture of how you are spending them? Which activities take up the most time?

Many years ago a doctor told me (after diagnosing me with stress) that the 24 hours in a day are divided into three sections: eight for work, eight for play, and eight for sleep.

I’m sure your account of time doesn’t look anything like this, and mine doesn’t either, but it’s a good place to start in terms of seeing which segments of your pie-chart are eating too much into other segments.

Another important aspect of employing our time wisely and fruitfully is through relationships with other people.

For most of us, that starts with family. It is often when we are faced with the loss or potential loss of someone we love, that the meaning and high value of family really sinks in.

The meaning of family seems to have evolved somewhat over the years, but what we can all agree on is that “a family is people, and a family is love” (wise words from Barney, the purple dinosaur).

In studies on the topic of prolonging life, one thing that seems to stand out consistently is the aspect of community engagement.

In each of the places where the life expectancy is higher, the individual is a part of a bigger picture.

The ancient Japanese formed “moais” which were groups of four or five friends who loaned each other food or money, and this practice still persists in Okinawa, where the modern-day moais meet just to bond.

Another interesting nugget about longevity is that people who have strong religious beliefs and practices seem to live longer (notice how the beliefs are underscored by the practices).

The link between religious and spiritual beliefs and habits and an individual’s physical and psychological health is one that comes up over and over again in material about prolonging life.

The Journal of Gerantology: Medical Sciences, published a study in which it was concluded that people who attend religious services at least once a week were 46% less likely to die during the six-year period of the study.

Apparently people who feel they are spiritual in some way experience lower levels of depression and anxiety, they have lower incidences of high blood pressure and strokes and say they generally feel healthier.

It is also possible that churchgoers benefit from the social networks formed in such communities and these help with caring for the sick and elderly. (www.webmd.com)

New research suggests that men’s health improves when they join a gym — not just because they are more likely to exercise and attain physical well-being, but also because they are more engaged socially; because they have a regular exchange with other men in a safe space, and that the psychological benefits of those interactions have a positive impact on mens physical health.

So maybe gyms are the new and better bars!

So, as we look ahead to 2018 and the 365 days it holds for each of us, and as we acknowledge the that number is fixed and cannot be extended or accumulated for future use; and as we consider that we will not get the next 353 days back ever again; let us agree then, that the best way to run into time (instead of out of it) is by running into meaningful relationships, by living what we believe and by accounting for the time we have.

Have a happy and productive 2018

Thembe Khumalo is a brand builder, storyteller and certified life coach