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All About You: ‘Time is life, not money’

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Time is money. No doubt you’ve heard this expression. I don’t believe it’s true anymore, at least not since a friend and mentor recently said to me, “Time is life, not money.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Hearing this made me start questioning how I was spending my time. And because the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping me home for a while, I’ve had the “time” to delve deeply into how I’m spending my life.

Unless they’re already wealthy, most adults must use some of their time to make money. I fit into this category. I don’t think working for money is a waste of life because providing for yourself and your family is necessary and can be fulfilling. It can also give you a strong sense of purpose. What I’m encouraging is that you occasionally review and question how you spend your time, even when it doesn’t seem to be under your control. This analysis isn’t about time management and efficiency. It’s about awareness of the purpose and value of what you do with your moments.

Avoiding ‘thing control’

Things can control our time. Often, I’ve said and heard others say, “I’ve got so many things to do,” or something similar. When you get a lot of things done, you feel a sense of success. A few “things” on my to-do list for today: Finish article for Safety+Health, post new talk on social media, update client list, etc. To finish every “thing” on my list will take up most, if not all, of my day.

However, because of the stay-at-home order, I’ve realized that I’ve let these types of things cause me to stop activities that are more important, such as taking walks with my wife. We used to take a walk together every night when I was home. That stopped. Probably because of my to-do list.

We’re back to taking walks, but now the challenge is to not think about the tasks remaining on my to-do list while I’m strolling through my neighborhood. That’ll be hard to do, but it’ll be worth the effort. One powerful way we can increase the value of our time or our life is to pay attention to what’s going on while life is happening. Too often, our moments are spent thinking about the future or the past.

It’s not a waste of time

A cartoon I saw online tickled me and made a point. It showed two men sitting at a bar. One asks his friend, “So, what’s your lazy son doing? Has he got a job yet?” “No,” answers the other fellow. “He’s been spending his days meditating.” The friend replies, “Well, at least he’s not sitting around doing nothing.” (I can tell you from my daily practice that you’re doing something when you meditate.)

Meditating is another positive habit I stopped regularly doing because of my perceived “too busy” schedule and the misconception that I wasn’t getting anything done while meditating.

It’s not a waste of time to sit and notice your breath. It’s not a waste of time to watch your children play. It’s not a waste of time to stop what you’re doing and look around to capture the colors with your amazing eyes. This is why it’s worth taking some time to think about how you spend your time. You may be missing out on what’s most important because you’re so busy doing things.

Although the pandemic has and will continue to cause a lot of suffering and distress, as with any challenging situation, lessons can be learned. I’ve learned that my time is too precious not to evaluate how I spend it. It’s not always a matter of what you’re doing and the results of your actions that add value to your moments – it’s more about how present you are to what’s happening. That’s when your most valuable asset – time – is a friend and not a slave driver who whips you into believing time is money.

Remember, time is life. That’s why now, since I’ve finished this article, before I move on to my next “thing,” I’m going to put on my running shoes and take a walk with my wife.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps safety professionals become better leaders through his keynotes, workshops, articles and books so they can create vibrant safety cultures. His popular “Mindfully Safe” keynote teaches employees how to focus better and improve their situational awareness, a key skill to preventing incidents. To contact Richard, visit makesafetyfun.com.

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