How to be Generous With Your Time

By Kay Carter | 20 December 2016 | Comments (1)

My nine-year-old daughter is doing a maths problem for school: “If the average person in the UK lives to be 81 years old, how many hours will they live? In your calculations, don’t forget that some years are leap years.”

 

Since you ask: 710,040. “I wonder how I will spend them all,” she mused, as though somebody had given her a huge windfall and now she got to choose what she would like to buy.

 

I realised I don’t often think of my allotted time in that way—as a lump sum to be invested—but it’s a useful exercise in helping to prioritise day-to-day decisions about our diaries. It made me consider the parallels between wise stewardship of our money and our time. At Christmas I want to be generous with both money and time, but it’s often my time that becomes a casualty of the season.

 

There are no shortages of resources out there on how to deal with debt and stick to a spending plan, so here are some thoughts as to how these might help to shape our calendars too.

 

Track

Debt counsellors often begin by asking clients to make a note of their daily expenditure for a month.  What people actually spend, as oppose to what they think they spend always comes as a surprise. As an experiment, take a typical week and look in detail at how the time is spent—don’t forget to include what happens in the ‘white spaces’ in your diary. Do your commitments match your priorities?

 

Eliminate

On to the next stage—get rid of things that don’t match your priorities, just like cutting out unnecessary weekly expenditure. For example, I’ve recently looked at the amount of time spent travelling to meetings, and weighed up the benefits of the meeting against the hours spent sitting on a train. There are times when a Skype meeting works just as well, my clients are happy and I can spend the time differently.

 

Budget

The single most-offered piece of advice by money gurus is to make a budget, and our time similarly benefits from intentionality. My diary tends to fill up on a first-come-first-served basis, but if I had a rule of thumb for how many hours in a month I’m prepared to spend doing different activities, my life would be more in balance.

 

The biggest item in any budget is normally housing.  So what’s the equivalent when it comes to time?  Your job/role as a parent/carer?  Whatever it is, it may or may not be negotiable in terms of the commitment but is there any flexibility within it to spend time more generously?

 

Save

This one is a bit counterintuitive, but debt counsellors generally advise clients to squirrel a little away each month in savings, to cushion them from the unexpected. While we can’t ‘store up’ time, we can try to build in flexibility so that when the unexpected happens we are able to respond generously.

 

Another valuable lesson I’ve learned: to occasionally say no to good things so that I can concentrate on better things. This might also mean letting something go after prayerful consideration.  What we can do is not always the same as what we should do.

 

It’s not easy to change the way we do things but an intentional step in the right direction is enough to start the process.  So as Christmas approaches, if I find myself too caught up in making lists and making deadlines I’m going to ‘press pause’ and make time for generosity.


 

Read more like this:

Christmas messes with my money-mind

Strengthening your generosity after a rough year 

The voices of Advent

comments:

John Scouller

December 22, 2016 8:47 PM
Reminds me of a time I was stuck on a train with an economist and a maths teacher. Whilst waiting for it to move, we calculated that by repeating that commute until we retired, we would spend a massive 25,000 hours of our allotted time on earth doing that journey (much of it together, perhaps more than our waking time with our families). In terms of distance we would have commuted about 450,000 miles, being the equivalent of 17.5 times round the equator or a return journey to the moon. In the darkness of our crowded train, we concluded this was utter madness: NOT the right use of our time! Then we all found new jobs much closer to home and to the people we really wanted to spend our lives with.

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