Time Management

Today, I was trying so hard not to waste time that I almost lost it. As I do before every trip, I spent the time before my flight busily taking care of business. My bags were packed. My travel bag with travel documents was sitting by the door along with my travel shoes. The plan was for Curtis to come home at 3:30 so I could leave for the airport at 4:00.

Leaving at 4:00 was not my idea. It is only an hour’s drive to the airport (45 minutes on a good day) which meant that I would arrive at the airport by 5 pm for my 7:15 flight. Why should I get their so early? I didn’t want to “waste my time” waiting at the airport when I could be using it “wisely” here at home.

I have a good friend who likewise doesn’t like wasting time. And so she fills every second—over fills them. She is usually so busy getting things done that she is late to everything. And so while she “uses” her time, those of us she has arranged to meet wait—some might call it “waste” our time waiting. My mother calls the “Hurry Up and Wait Syndrome,” we hurry up to be on time and then wait and wait and wait…

This notion of time—wasting it, spending it wisely, using or losing it—baffles me. We start with a set amount of time: minutes in an hour, in a day, days in a week and so on. So how can we waste it? No matter what we do, time will pass, we will use it. If we pass time doing what we want to do rather than what we should do, are we “wasting it”? Conversely, if we spend our time always doing what we are “supposed to do” or “need to do” when the tally is taken at the end of our days of time, will we better for it? Do we get a prize?

What does it mean to spend time “wisely”? If I watch out the window while Jakarta passes outside rather than read or text message or talk on the phone am I spending time wisely or wasting it? If I pass that car ride “doing something productive” at the end of the ride, I’ll have stuff done, however I will have missed the glimpse of life whizzing past; the jamu lady pouring green elixir for an old man, the baso seller stirring up a bowl of soup, the toddlers sitting on the bench, the beggars strumming guitar on the street corner, the trees sprouting from a wall…

Today, I chose to use my time getting everything that I wanted done before traveling done. As a result, I left at 4:20 rather than at 4:00. And in the car on the way to the airport, I spent the first hour wisely—reading. I spent the next hour of what should have been no more than an hour’s ride watching out the window. The scenery was wasted on me though because I spent it glaring at the heavy traffic, willing cars to move, worrying, fretting, hoping I’d get to the airport before the gate closed, because if I didn’t get to the airport on time I’d miss my flight, and so my connection and then I’d miss the Vermont College Alumni workshop I planned to attend.

In the end, who decides what exactly using our time “wisely” means?

Every moment we need to weigh how best to use the time we have, to determine what is wasting time and what is using it wisely. But that takes time…