TIME is one of those abstract concepts that I have always struggled to rationalise. Sometimes I find it very easy to be precise; I know that the next soccer match I’m refereeing will kick off at an exact time and will be in two halves of roundly 45 minutes. I’m certain of the amount of time I need to allocate to that one task, and confident that I will be able to apply that amount of time completely to it.
However, I never seem to have the right amount of time to allocate to the work tasks that crop up routinely in the course of commercial life, and I always somehow feel myself to be up against a deadline that I will extend beyond the decent limit if I can find the slightest excuse. Similarly, I never seem to be able to come to terms with the concept of balancing time; what is the right amount of time to allocate to the demands of work-time, family-time and me-time? Even getting home from work seems to crash against these invisible barriers. Can I get home at a decent time? When I get home will I have to deal with the routine domestic chores that befall me – open the post, pay the bills – which means that I will have to use my most-hated phrase with my three-year old son: "I haven’t got time now, I’ll race you round the garden/let you beat me up later"; or can I flop in front of the teletext and catch up on news that I’m really not that bothered about on the pretence that I need to switch off for 15 minutes?
Of course, life teaches us that time is not always in our control; I hate the wasted time, especially at work, repeating tasks that if someone else had performed properly wouldn’t be needed; chasing suppliers for essential information, or even money that they promised last week but won’t deliver until next even though if we kept them waiting for a day extra for their money they would declare a fatwah against us. The only consolation is that I know that most of my colleagues and contacts both inside and outside our industry suffer from the same daily battle against the clock and the calendar, and constantly prioritise and re-prioritise to balance their own commitments. I don’t know anyone who has cracked the secret, but if you have, let me know!
Every now and then, though, we get a reality check. It might be looking at a relative or friend close to the end of their lives, or at a grandparent who somehow always has the time to drop everything and run round the garden with my son. It’s only then that you come to the absolute realisation that time is the one thing we are granted completely; it’s free, in plentiful supply yet unquantifiably limited. I don’t yet know that limit, but I am conscious that I must use it much more wisely. It is a gift, and I should value every moment as priceless.