Time is a funny concept to talk about. It’s one of the main driving forces behind most facets of our lives; morning alarm clocks, work schedules, social calendars, they all serve to keep us on track with the important day-to-day tasks and engagements that we face. We seem to surround ourselves with countless ways of measuring time out, weighing the importance of events and invitations by whether or not we “have the time” for them – it’s become more or less a form of social currency rather than simply a meter of linear progression.
It’s odd to really consider this truth, especially considering that our modern constructs of time are all purely human inventions. All of it is a collection of arbitrary measurements that we, long ago, decided to assign value to, and thus was born the calendar, the work week, the clock. Intangible and all-encompassing, the human perception of time’s passing quickly became all the more real thanks to these established units. Time was no longer just a slow, imperceptible progression from day to day; once measurable, it becomes valuable. More than anything else in our daily lives, time is truly a commodity.
As a commodity, we seem to place value on it in a vast number of ways; our duties at work vs. commitments to family and friends vs. personal time off to relax and recharge our minds. It’s all very personal how much value is emphasized on these different slices of the time pie – what schedule commitments carry the most value for one person are not necessarily the same as those of others whom we interact with, and this more than anything is where conflict inevitably arises. Trading our time with others becomes all the more difficult when the parties involved place personal value on differing commitments. What to do?
First instinct might be a simple compromise. Meeting in the middle may not be ideal for either party individually, but under the right circumstances it’s a preferable outcome to staunchly refusing to concede anything an escalating a would-be-needless conflict. This works well in the moment, sure, but what about thinking proactively toward the future? In my experience, I recommend a bit of a different approach: empathize. It’s an old proverb we’ve had drilled into us since the time we were all children: walk a mile in their shoes. Now, though, let’s put a little spin on this common saying. Spend a week in their calendar.
I’ve said it before: your time is one of the most precious commodities that you have. Never forget to spend it responsibly and wisely.