How We Use Time: Investing, Enjoying and Giving

Tracking Time

I recently wrote about plans I have to tweak a time tracking system I’ve been using for close to a decade.

I’ve been breaking down time spent into the things it consists of rather than the physically observable action. Similar to how a nutritionist might break down a meal into its elements; carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, sugars, etc.

This is the second post in the series where I look at various elements of how we spend our time.

The Beneficiary

The second batch of elements I will write about is who the beneficiary of our current actions is. As I’ve observed how I spend my time, all of it consists of; enjoying the now, investing in the future, giving it for the sake of others or wasting it. The beneficiary is either me right now, someone (possibly me) in the future, someone else or no one.

Each time block we spend will consist of the four of those in some combination. Unlike our first set of elements though, I don’t think the ratio is very fluid, I think one of these will dominate the lions share of any segment of time.

For example, on example of enjoying the now is walking on a beach and watching waves break while being fully present. It might also be a night out with friends, a movie, etc. The goal of the time is the time itself. In fact, you might have spent considerable amounts of other time to make this time possible – working to be able to afford the flight to place where you are, coordinating to be with the people you are with, researching to make the logistics work, etc.

Investing in the future is a common thread that crosses many areas of our personality. Taking classes that help with your career is a way to use what you have now to make the future better. Perhaps you enjoy the class, but I’ve found most investments eventually become difficult. Physically, running to train for a race is another example of an investment – it is an immediate sacrifice of comfort in the present with the hope of achieving a desired result in the future. But even if there isn’t a race, running or other exercise are an investment in health. We can also invest in our minds, our relationships and any other aspect of our being.

Another intention that we can have with our time is giving it to others. I think of mentoring, charity work, and even parenting as prime examples of ways to give time. There is even some research that shows this might be the most effective way to use resources if our goal is our own happiness.

Finally there is wasted time. Time that has no intention or fails to achieve what it was used for. The common example I see and have fallen into myself at times is not enjoying time where the sole purpose is enjoyment. It is too easy to become distracted by things that were supposed to be a means to the end, to let work creep into our vacations, bills creep into our family time or enjoyable activities become laborious for no reason. If this is designated enjoyable time, let it be enjoyable.

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