What if We Viewed Time as a Gift?

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of. —Benjamin Franklin

Time is a finite resource and we only have so much of it to harness and share. As I encounter other busy professionals, I am always struck by the common struggle we all have when it comes to finding enough time for work, family, friends, relaxation . . . you get the picture. Learning how to share time wisely is also about having our priorities in order. I recall a relevant story a client of mine shared with me about his five-year-old daughter and a conversation they had on the topic of time. He had been traveling constantly for work over the last several years and had missed a lot of family time. Feeling guilty, he had always tried to take his family on big vacations every year to fun destinations around the world as a way of making up for missed time at home. When he shared the plans for one such vacation trip with his young daughter, she responded not with excitement as he expected, but with a sigh and a sad face. When he asked what was wrong, she replied: “Daddy, can we just read a book together? I don’t care about the trip. I just want to be with you.”

After my client shared this story with tears in his eyes, he walked me through all the changes he planned to make to his travel schedule to spend more time with his family. He recognized that his priorities were out of whack and that he had a distorted view of how and where to invest his time. How do you consider the topic of time? Do you have stories like the one my client shared?

In this post, I would like to narrowly explore time as a gift, applied through a spirit of generosity. If we look at our time as a gift to share and not simply a resource to manage, we open up possibilities for transforming time into something more noble and worthwhile. Acting with generosity . . . seeing our time is a gift . . . creating something more noble—think about the positive difference we could make in the world if we all thought this way.

In my opinion, there are four primary beneficiaries of your gifts of time:

  1. Yourself. Yes, time can be a gift you give yourself. There is an ever-growing need for all of us to practice better self-care and invest in addressing our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Remember, when the plane is going down, you should always put on your own oxygen mask first.
  2. Your families, friends, and neighbors.Every precious and distraction-free minute I spend with my wife and children is a priceless and irreplaceable investment in our family’s well-being. Investing time in my friends, neighbors, and extended family helps me stay plugged into a larger world of meaningful relationships that enriches me beyond measure.
  3. Your work colleagues.A struggling co-worker, a younger colleague in need of development, or a team in need of your energy, ideas, or expertise can all benefit from the gift of your time. Instead of looking at your busy daily work calendar as a nuisance, look at each scheduled hour as a way to generously invest your time in the service of your fellow team members.
  4. Your communities and great causes.Rather than allowing your generosity to be restricted to online donations, how might you give more of yourself (and your time) to your local community, your faith community or the nonprofits you support? How can you show up and involve your family and friends in your efforts as well? Is there a job seeker who needs your help? A student you can mentor?

As you read this, I encourage you to look at the various roles and responsibilities you have as wonderful opportunities to be generous and share your time. I see the responsibilities from my own numerous roles as blessings, not burdens; they are valuable ways to connect with people I care about and truly wish to serve. In my experience, every investment of time we make signals to the recipient that they are important. They matter. They are worth the time and are valued.

The best way you can help, serve, and enrich your relationships with the people in your life is to be fully present and make quality time for them. This is one of the most valuable gifts you can share, and I hope you will discover new ways to offer your time in the years to come.

By the way, the story I shared earlier about my client happened about four years ago. He did reduce his travel considerably, while still doing a great job for his company. He changed his priorities and how he viewed time. He now understands his more intentional time investment in his family is a precious gift that he is grateful to provide. And he reads books with his daughter every chance he gets.

How will you share the gift of your time this week and beyond?

*Adapted from Chapter 17 of Essential Wisdom for Leaders of Every Generation

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