The Trouble Is You Think You Have Time (But You Don’t)

“The trouble is you think you have time.” –Jack Kornfield

On my 18th birthday, I walked in on my father sleeping with another woman. It was mind-bending. Tragic. Traumatic. And all things senseless and bad wrapped into one. My life veered off on a sharp tangent that day and I was forever broken. It’s something I still carry with me. It hangs heavy on my heart, weighing me down Still, to this day, I can’t look my father in the eyes without thinking about it. Forgiving him feels like an impossible feat. I put it off again and again. But then I think about this concept of time. And I realize, there isn’t much left.

For a long time, I thought I had time. We always think we have time. We constantly put off for tomorrow what we can do today. And we also base our happiness on this concept. As the years went by, my anger for my father subsided. It wasn’t just that single event. My animosity was steeped in a slew of things that occurred in my relationship with my father. It’s still something that I think about to this day and carry with me. I used to think that I had time to make amends. I used to think that things would eventually resolve themselves. But they haven’t.

Before I tell you the end of this story, I wanted to talk about this quote. The trouble is you think you have time. It truly is the inspiration for this article. And when I searched for it, so many sites attributed the quote to Buddha. But it wasn’t until I read this post that I realized that it didn’t actually come from Buddha, but from Buddha’s Little Instruction Book, a compilation created by Jack Kornfield. Yet, it’s easy to see why this would be attributed to such an iconic figure. The quote resonates with so many of us because this concept of time is so skewed in our minds.

So what does this mean? Why’s it so important? And how come this quote appears in so many places? The reason why people keep saying, the trouble is you think you have time, is because when we’re younger, time seems to move so slowly. But as we age, it speeds up faster and faster. You gain this new perspective as you grow older. You reach new and deeper understandings about how time works and why you absolutely need to treat it like the precious resource it is, and manage it the right way.


How Much Time Do We Really Have?

When we talk about time, we talk about it having an abundance of time. We say things like there’s still plenty of time to do that or there’s still time for this, that or the other thing. We think we have plenty of time in life when we actually don’t have much. In fact, time is one of those resources that are so scarce and so finite that it’s the most precious commodity in the world. It’s a commodity that can’t be bought or sold or saved or invested. You only get that time once. And as soon as it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

So here’s the question. How much time do we really have? Since we think we have so much time, what makes it feel like we have an abundance of it when there’s only so much of this precious resource to go around? The truth? Time speeds up as you grow older. It truly does. When you’re younger it seems like there’s just so much time to do all the things you want to do in life. It also feels like time moves incredibly slowly. You say things like, I can’t wait until I’m older until I can do such-and-such, or it feels like I’ve been in school forever, when will it end?

But as a kid, you also hear people say things like, enjoy it while it lasts. They tell you to slow down and don’t grow up so fast, you’ll wish you could be a kid again when you’re older. And other things. So why do they say that? It’s because, as a child, you have little to no responsibilities, no worries or cares in the world for the most part. You don’t carry the burden that most adults do. You realize this more and more as you age and grow up and it seems like the months and the years just fade away, dissipating quickly.


How To Use Your Time Wisely

There are days when I wish I could go back in time and unsee what I saw. There are days when I wish I could forget what happened. But I can’t. The truth is you can never go back. You can only harness the time you have now. I can’t really sit here and complain because I grew up wanting for nothing in life. In fact, my father spoiled me rotten. It was probably the only way he knew how to show his love. Because he was so broken as a human being himself, he just didn’t know any better and I understand that today.

At an early age, my father’s mother died while she was caring for him. He was sick and she had to go up to the roof to fetch water. Granted, this was Turkey, circa early 1950’s. He was 5. And she fell off the balcony and died. I know he still blames himself for it. I know he can’t forgive himself. He beats himself up over it again and again. He’s flawed. I’m flawed. We’re all flawed human beings. It’s hard to forget. But it’s even harder to forgive. Though, writing this, I realize that none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. It’s called being human.

And as I grow older and wiser, I come to deeper realizations and uncover profound insight into life. One of those things that I realize is that time is running out. The clock is ticking down. I don’t have much time. Neither do you. As ominous as it sounds, we’re all hurtling towards our ultimate demise and death as physical beings living on this planet. How much time do we really have? Not much. A blip on the radar of time. An infinitesimal occurrence. Just 24 hours in a given day. That’s 86,400 seconds. That’s all. Nothing more nothing less.

As humans, our average life expectancy is roughly 80 years-old. That’s roughly 29,200 days of life. We can live our days out however we choose. But if you have real goals and desires and wishes, then you can’t squander that time away. You have to harness it and leverage it and use it wisely. If you think you have time, the truth is that you really don’t. That much should be clear and obvious to you. How are you using the little time that you have in any given day? Granted, it could all end tomorrow. If it does, will you be happy and sated? Or, will you be resentful for the time you didn’t spend with those you love or the chances you didn’t take in life?


The Trouble Is You Think You Have Time

Clearly, we have less time than we think. It’s a precious resource. So why squander it? Why not embrace the little amount of time you have in this world and do something extraordinary. Help others and add value to the world to create a sense of true contribution. It doesn’t mean you need to be a millionaire and give away your fortune. Just ensure that whatever you’re doing is being done in the sense of the greater good. We are all interconnected here and if you’re not helping others in some way and adding value, then you truly are wasting your time.

So how do you use your time wisely? How do you invest it rather than squander it? There are some ways. But these might be a massive departure of character for you. It might make you cringe and feel uneasy. But that’s okay. Because, there isn’t much time. Don’t worry so much about feeling uncomfortable. Worry more about not living the life of your dreams because you were too afraid of not making the sacrifices required of you to live your best life. But if you’re serious about not wasting your time, here’s what you need to do.


1. Audit your time

Audit. That word is a nasty one. It makes some think about the IRS and the potential pain that could befall them if they try to game the tax system. But when I talk about auditing your time, it means you need to figure out what the heck you do with the time you do have. Do you use it wisely? Do you waste it? Are you binge watching Netflix series day in and day out? Or, are you doing something wise like investing your time into the things that will eventually pay off months or years down the road?

Here’s how this works. It’s simple in fact. All you need to do is take a calendar or a notepad and split your time up into 30-minute windows. During the day, record what you did during every 30-minute window. At the end of the day, go back through and assign each window with a number based on the traditional time management technique called the quadrant time management system (originally known as the Eisenhower method that Stephen R. Covey popularized in his book, 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People).

This technique categorizes everything based on two factors: urgency and importance. Things are either urgent and important, one or the other, or neither. You want to stay away from the latter. Those are your time-wasters. And you want to gravitate towards doing things that are not necessarily urgent, but important in the long run. Things like long-term goals or anything related to passive income or self-education and the like. Those are quadrant 2 activities whereas the time-wasters are quadrant 4.

Quadrant time management system


At the end of the day, tally up each 30-minute window and circle a number next to it. Figure out where you spent most of your time. Was it quadrant 2 or quadrant 4? Or maybe even quadrant 3? Then, at the end of the week, take an average. If you want to figure out where you’ve spent your time, there’s your answer. You should be spending a large part of it in quadrant 2. Don’t waste it away on quadrant 4. If you think you have lots of time left, you don’t. But this should tell you where the little bit of time you do have is being spent. Use it wisely.


2. Manage your time wisely

Once you’ve audited your time, you should implement a time management system that works for you. The Eisenhower method (or matrix) works great. It helps you manage your time by categorizing where it’s spent. If you audited your time and you see that you’re spending a large part of it on things that don’t move the needle in the long run, then you need to make some serious changes. It just takes a bit of focus and effort. But once you start seeing where your time is going, you’ll make the changes needed if you’re at all serious about achieving big and lofty goals.


3. Put away your screens

Yes, screen time is something we’ve all become accustomed to. We always have a screen in front of us. That’s good and bad. A Catch-22, if you will. On the one hand, it gives us access to the world’s information and connects us to people instantaneously. On the other hand, it’s a big drain and a draw. Don’t spend too much time with screens. Do the things you you love. Go out for a walk and enjoy life away from screens. Why? Because it’s so true. The trouble is that you think you have time. But you don’t. So don’t spend your time staring at screens. Go out and do something else.


4. Tackle your fears

Over the years, I’ve realized that there is one thing holding me back from living the life I know I’m meant to live. And I can only describe it with one word only. Fear. For a big part of my life, I was always so afraid of what other people thought about me. I was afraid of their opinions and what they might think. But you know what? Life is too short to care. Go out there and do something to conquer your fears. Rush into the fear. Embrace it. Make it your friend. Because, I assure you, it’s the one thing that will propel you and take you furthest in life.