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Hurry up and wait
The gift of the new year: 8,760 time dollars to spend

By Jo Hawkins Donovan, for SBT

As we tack up the new calendars we might stop for a minute to acknowledge that we have a gift in front of us, a gift of a year full of hours — I call them time dollars — to spend as we choose.

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More than 8,000 hours, brand spanking new, that we all hope to spend in 2003.

Looking at time this way makes it sound like a commodity, and we talk about it as if it were a commodity. We say, "When I have more time," or "I’m out of time", or I’m short of time" or, my favorite, "I’m going to make some time."

Actually time is more like a river in which we move, gracefully or frantically. The Mayans revered time and created a means to track it. They developed a 5000-year calendar that expires in 2012. Before that, people tracked time by looking at the changes in their own images in a pond, by following the cycles of the moon, notches on a stick, things like that. What a different context from the one we move around in today! It’s hard to go to Best Buy and find an appliance without a clock. Most rooms in our homes or offices have multiple clocks in addition to the ones we wear on our wrists every waking hour.

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It is easy to get our adrenalin flow attached to that constant tick-tick-ticking. It is easy to get caught up in the hurried pace around us, to believe all those words about having more time, being behind time, wishing to someday "make" time to do what we want to do.

Looking at the year ahead, those 8,000-plus hours, we might pause and consider exercising more control over how we spend our time dollars. There is a chunk we’ll want to spend on sleep. For those of us who relish eight hours per night, we’ll spend almost 3,000 hours snoozing. Most of us will spend two to three thousand of the remaining hours earning our livelihoods, in whatever form that takes. So we’ll have a little more than 3,000 time dollars left to spend as we see fit.

In coaching leaders who recognize they are caught up in the hurried, harried lifestyle so prevalent in our culture, one of the first steps is giving attention to their relationships with time. Do they feel they are squandering it? What is the perception of who’s running the time show? Is time measured in the stacks of stuff that didn’t get done while they were putting out the daily fires?

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Those questions eventually reveal the client’s relationship with time: what she thinks, feels, does and believes about time. This is a significant revelation for those hurried/harried clients. If we’re squandering our time or relinquishing choice about how we spend our time dollars, aren’t we squandering our lives and giving up control there as well? It’s possible to spend our lives sweeping leaves that are always falling, and never actually setting off on the path that the leaves keep covering.

The answer to feeling starved for time is not more time. When you decide to spend some — maybe most of those 3,000 hours this year in ways that have meaning to you — you’ve made a huge step.

I think the experience of meaning is where the soul and ego meet. Some clients want more clarity on how to get to that place, and may embark on a values clarification process. They choose to spend some time doing inner work identifying their top values, stuff they would go to the wall for. Then they begin to notice if there is anything close to a match between how they spend most of their time, and those values. They want to know if they are living their real intentions on the planet.

Guess what? Sometimes they are doing exactly that without giving themselves credit or pleasure in it. Some clients discover that they do the hurried, stressed-out act because they thought it went with the territory. Hoohah! Those are nice breakthroughs.

Others, having chiseled out their real identities, feel they’re throwing time dollars helter-skelter, perhaps trying to meet everyone else’s needs. That doesn’t work for anyone. Bringing what they do with their time into closer alignment with who they truly are, well that does wonders. They begin truly living their own lives at their own pace.

This is important work and a fresh new year is as good a time to do it as any. One of the most delicious discoveries is that the deep self within is never in a hurry.

May you be true to yourself as you spend your new time dollars in 2003.

Jo Hawkins Donovan has a coaching and psychotherapy firm in Whitefish Bay, and can be reached at 414-332-0300, or The firm’s Web site is Hawkins Donovan will respond to your questions in this column. Her column appears in every other issue of SBT.

Jan. 24, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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