In his excellent book, Do Purpose – Why Brands With a Purpose Do Better and Matter More, David Hieatt – founder of Hiut Denim and The Do Lectures – highlights the inescapable reality that our time is finite. As he puts it:
Your time is limited. Remember that.
Each day you’re given 86,400 seconds from the ‘Time Bank’. Everyone is given the same. There are no exceptions. Once you make your withdrawal, you’re free to spend it as you want.
The ‘Time Bank’ won’t tell you how to spend it. Time poorly spent will not replaced with more time. Time doesn’t do refunds.
I’ve been thinking a lot about time of late, thinking about putting it to good use, and – most importantly – not wasting it. Like everyone at this time of year, I’ve put a lot of thought into my plans for the new year. Like everyone I have a list of resolutions.
My thoughts are squarely focused on time: when it’s spent, it’s spent; you can’t get it back; don’t waste it, make it count.
A Return to Writing
One of my resolutions for the new year was to return to writing. Though I’ve been fortunate to write elsewhere – for Offscreen and 8 Faces, amongst others – my writing has lacked a home since I called it a day at The Standardistas.
I’d planned on reigniting my writing at fsck in 2014, but with my teaching commitments I’d struggled to find the time. I had also hoped to get a journal published, finally, at Monographic, again… time.
I’d missed writing, so I resolved to address the situation by doing something about it. On New Year’s Day, here and at Monographic, I set about doing something, not just talking about it.
After a couple of hours and a few strong black coffees, I’d settled into the groove once again. Everything was ticking along nicely, until….
One minute I was fine, the next I could hardly move. I had just published a post, 2015, and was about to celebrate with another coffee, when I was hit with the most intense chest pains imaginable. I was in agony, as acute pain radiated from my chest, outwards.
Try as I might to shake off the pain, I couldn’t. Everything I tried to do to find relief was futile. Every movement brought pain.
After half an hour I began to worry. I’m 45, I live a relatively unhealthy lifestyle, I’m frequently under stress… and now I was experiencing acute chest pains. I’m sure I don’t need to explain just what was going through my mind.
I tried to put my increasingly concerned family’s minds at ease, stressing: “It can’t be a heart attack, it’s just acute back pain. I’m sure everything’s fine.” I was trying to convince myself as much as them.
The pain refused to relinquish.
Despite my protestations to the contrary – and wholly understandably – my wife, called an ambulance. She was concerned, as were my children, that I was, in fact, having a heart attack.
Truth be told, I was concerned too.
Outwardly I put a brave face on it, I insisted I was fine, but internally I was a mess. I couldn’t help but think, “Not now, please not now.”
I’m not perfect, far from it, but I’ve changed a great deal about my life over the last couple of years. I’m making progress, slowly, but surely, but I still have a considerable journey ahead. I’m not finished. I’m nowhere near finished.
All I could think of was the ‘Time Bank’. Perhaps I was nearly out of credit, and – if there’s one guarantee in life – it’s that the ‘Time Bank’ doesn’t do lines of credit.
Remarkably quickly, not least for a holiday and living in the countryside, an ambulance arrived. Catriona and David - two paramedics, selflessly working on New Year’s Day - were fantastic, springing into action and helping to put my mind at rest.
Fifteen minutes later, after an ECG and two successive doses of morphine, we were bouncing our way down country roads, hurtling towards the hospital.
I’ve never felt fear like it. Alone on a stretcher, a million things were racing through my mind. My wife and my children were still at home, I hadn’t really said goodbye. Trying to calm everyone’s nerves I’d tried my best to maintain a smile, telling everyone I’d see them shortly.
Now, in the hospital, I began to wonder: What if the worst were to happen…?
I’ll never forget that moment. The pain still radiating outwards, though thankfully dulled by the drugs, I wrote messages, one each for my wife and my children. I told them that I hoped to be home soon and, above all, I loved them very, very much.
All I could think of was everything I still wanted to achieve, the things I still wanted to do in life. Time had been slipping through my fingers and now I might be out of credit.
I was fortunate to be allowed to return home, later that night. After a series of ECGs, blood tests and x-rays, it looked as if the problem had subsided.
A junior doctor informed me that the problem appeared to be muscular, but insisted on a second opinion. At this point, all I could think of was the unknowing: What had caused this? Why now?
That second opinion was sobering. Although the tests were apparently clear, the doctor’s opinion was thoroughly grounded: “You’re 45, you had a sudden onset of chest pain, you’re under stress with work… you can imagine this sets off alarm bells for me.”
I left the hospital feeling lucky to be alive and determined not to waste another moment in life.
Spend It Wisely…
We only get so much time and it’s up to us to spend it wisely. New Year’s Day, 2015, was – for me – an incredibly sobering experience. I resolved, from here on, to make every moment count.
As Hieatt states:
Time is your biggest gift. Indeed, it is more valuable than money as you can make more money, but not more time. […] One day you will go to the bank and it won’t have any more for you.
Don’t waste your time. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
Ask yourself: Are you using your time wisely? Are you happy? Are you working on what matters to you? If the answer to any of those questions is, “no,” it might be time to rethink your priorities.
You only get one chance. Don’t waste it.