Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Most Valuable Commodity You Possess

And talk like no one is listening, because they aren't. No, they aren't. They're on their phones.

Did you look around your house over the holiday? I did and it shocked me. Fortunately, the whole week wasn't like that and we had a really good time. But it got me thinking.

I remembered holidays when my family was living at home. We talked, watched parades, football, played games, cooked and ate together amid conversations. We might even go see the Christmas lights together and actually look at them.

We didn't sit around with an electronic device in our hands, hunched over trying to see what the latest gossip was with our friends and extended family. If we were lucky, much of the extended family was with us and carrying on live conversations, playing with the children, or each other.

On November 2nd I downloaded something called Rescue Time. It is a computer app that tracks how much time I spend doing things on my computer. I tell it what is productive and what is distracting. My results are disturbing. Of 333 hours logged since I started using it, 74.30 have been considered productive and 200 have been distracting. That is horrendous to me. That is time I can't ever put to use.

That is more than two weeks of my life spent doing nothing constructive. I've got my settings very strict so there may be a few things in there that you'd consider productive. It wasn't. I like reading blogs but there should be limits to the time spent doing that. I like Facebook but even I can see I'm wasting time.

Since December 28th I've spent 9 hrs watching shows or movies online. I've spent 13 on social networking of some sort. I've spent 8 on writing related items, mostly blogging. That's 30 hours, the equivalent of some jobs, in less than a week.

Because I live alone and have very few local contacts outside of my writing group, I spend a lot of time on the computer. But computers are opportunity thieves, as my results show. Time is a commodity that you control more than anything else in your life. Really. You can't stop it but you can direct it. We live in an age where there are amazing things that allow us to be creative and productive. And yet, we're spending unlimited time on our phones? Why? So we can send meaningless messages? Think about what you're texting and how long it is. Seriously.

I find text so impersonal and pointless that I don't bother to read them most of the time. They're either demands for something or instructions. I rarely text. If you get a text from me it will be to ask a question or answer one and sometimes, I will call rather than answer a question via text. Ask my family.

I also don't always answer text messages right away. More than once family have gotten annoyed and called me to ask, "Didn't you read my text message?" No, I didn't. One of my most recent text messages said, "Are you awake?" Another one asked for a ride. Isn't that so warm and comforting? So, what's my point?

Look around the room where you are and actually think about what is going on there. Are you reading this from a phone? From your computer? Right. Are there people in the room? What are they doing? Did you text them to ask them?

Most people are letting a wealth of time slip through their fingers, literally. Once gone, that time will  never come again. You can't recover it and you can't replace it. It is gone. And sometimes, unexpectedly, the person you could have shared that time with disappears forever.

My house is empty today. There is no one to talk to, have lunch with, play games with, read a book with, or watch a movie. I'm sitting here wishing Jerry was taking a nap in his chair. If he were here, we wouldn't be on our phones, I can promise you that.

Most of the time I have no one to share my time with, particularly at this time of year. I've started getting more involved with my writer friends, doing lunch or just meeting up to chat. However, I decided when I saw the Rescue Time reports that something more should change. Life is not confined to a 3x5 or 15 in. screen. 

Starting today I'll be scheduling Facebook time rather than just getting on and mindlessly staring at the screen. I'm considering removing the app from my phone but will wait until I see how my scheduling goes. It is not because I don't like checking on friends. It is also the only way I  hear from some of my family. But while I'm staring at the screen, life is happening in front of me. 

Sometimes, when I'm out I just sit and watch what is going on around me, like I did during Christmas. When was the last time you sat and just watched what was happening right in front of you, without looking at your phone for half an hour. When did you visit a restaurant with someone and not use your phone? When have you attended church and not looked at your phone for some or most of the service? When have you attended any function, a party, a wedding, a hospital room, a funeral and not played on your phone?

Think about this seriously. You spend priceless time reading a palm-sized screen and missed something important. You baby just made a face you will never see again. Your child just learned to do something and you missed the first time. I remember being in a night class when my oldest son was still crawling. My husband took care of him for me and when I got home that night Mike had started walking. It was both exciting and so disappointing. I had missed it. What did you miss today? How many days have you missed something important?

What a waste of life. I don't have many years left. In fact, none us us may have many years left. But I want those that remain to count for something more than a digital footprint.

Life is filled with unlimited and extremely valuable opportunities. You can't bank time and you can't have too much of it. Time is priceless. You'll never possess a single thing that is as valuable as time. Stop wasting the most valuable item you own. Stop missing life. When it stops, it is forever. 


  1. Great Blog Cindy and I agree with most of it. I HATE it when people are constantly using phones even sometimes when we are in the middle of a conversation.

    However, I disagree about the waste of time. It is not necessary to be productive 100% of the time. If you ar enjoying yourself and are happy and contented then it is time well spent. I know that I enjoy my computer time.

    1. Great to "see" you, Jilly!

      I don't mean to say I don't enjoy my computer time and productive doesn't mean producing a product necessarily. Is it a constructive use of time? A walk in the park is productive. And 200 hrs on the computer in such a short time is far too excessive. There are things I could be doing that are far more productive AND beneficial than spending hours just looking online. I love reading and crochet and a dozen other things but from the logs I gathered, I'm not doing those things. And I can't say I'm having a good time because for the most part, I don't remember the time I spent, much less what I saw. I'm usually online alone for the most part, reading what others are doing. That's a bit depressing.

    2. I agree with you. However, I live alone too and use my phone as a link to others. No one seems to want to meet for lunch anymore or go for a walk with me....I spent Christmas and New Years alone in my apartment. So yes, I might pick up my phone or walk across to my computer desk...but if not I might be climbing the walls. I think I just need to find a way to make a change. Good thought provoking blog.

    3. I agree with you also Ruth. I have very few real life friends. If I did not socialize with my writing group, I don't know what I'd do. I couldn't stand staying here. I can't leave and no outside contact makes it nearly unbearable at times. So, on those times when I'm with people, it would be nice if they left the phones off. I don't understand folks who would rather stare at a screen than have a real conversation. I'm not referring to those kind of folks.

      Jilly is by no means idle. She is very busy and has a large family. What time she has for the computer is well deserved! But it is different for those of us who have little to no contacts. We can become very insulated and turn to this for all contact, to the exclusion of other things. I see myself doing this.

      I would advise you to do what I did. Whatever hobbies you have, find groups related to those that meet and get involved in those groups. It isn't easy but once you do, you'll find people just like you. I've made some nice friends and were it not for them I don't know how I'd handle the isolation at times. I've even started sending a note out to all members for lunch dates. And had several take me up on it. That surprised me. I'm not the only one cut off. Neither or you.

  2. You are so right! I hate it that no one picks up the phone to call anymore. People hold conversations through text and messenger for hours that would only take 10 minutes if spoken instead of typed.
    I went off the radar from Christmas
    Eve to New Year's Day. It was great. Sure, the first few days were awful. I often reached for my phone and tried to hit that little blue "f" out of habit. But, it got better and I spent time with my son. I read a book. I wrote.
    The digital age is ruining us. I hope we can recover.
    Happy New Year! See you on the 10th, or anytime before if your bored and want to do something.

  3. I will be honest, I spent an inordinate amount of energy trying to stay away from even having a cell phone. Finally my boss demanded I get one with my promotion and I went with the cheapest one I could find, so I do not have apps or the like on the phone, I have an almost generic flip phone so accessing the web on it is a long (by our modern standards) and arduous process so the only way my phone can distract me is if it actually rings or buzzes that I have a text and because the number of people that have my number is limited to almost only work contacts, if it does ring it is probably important. If I want to waste time online, I can come home and tinker with the iPad or the laptop, I don't need it on my phone as well, usually anything that happens online can wait until I have the time or energy to deal with it.