I sometimes can’t believe I used to cross days off my calendar with a colorful, scented marker. I was only a child, counting down the days until Christmas, my birthday, Halloween, or summer break. Time used to feel incredibly infinite back then.
The idea of crossing days off my calendar now terrifies me. Each day crossed off is one day lived. The things I do and the people I see are finite.
My husband sent me this blog called The Tail End sometime last summer. It’s a couple of years old, but absolutely worth your time if you haven’t read it yet. In the post, author Tim Urban of Wait But Why reveals the concept of time in shockingly simple terms that punch you right in the gut.
At the age of 34, he illustrates the time he has left to do everything from eating pizza to spending time with his parents—assuming that everyone lives until the ripe age of 90. These concise graphics make you stop and think.
There is a finite number of books you’ll read…
There is a finite number of swims in the ocean…
There is a finite number of moments with your parents…
When I first read The Tail End, I devoured it. At the time I was struggling with a pretty major life decision. I was afraid to quit my salary job and run our consulting business, Superneat Marketing, full-time.
One of the main reasons Mr. H and I decided to start a business was so we could spend more time together. Most people think working with a spouse is completely crazy. We wanted to give it a shot, because we aren’t rich and we have to work to make a living. Many, many life hours will be spent working. So, why not work as a team?
In the 12 years of our marriage, most of that time had been spent apart at our full-time jobs. The reality of the 40-hour workweek was more like 50 hours for me, and 60+ hours for him.
If we account for two weeks of vacation for uninterrupted time outside the weekends, that’s 50 weeks. So, each year—if we go with 60 hours as an average—we were roughly spending this much of our lives away from each other:
- 3,000 hours
- 125 days
- 18 weeks
- Over 4 months
In 12 years of marriage, that equals this much time apart:
- 36,000 hours
- 1500 days
- 214 weeks
- 50 months
- Over 4 years
I’m not a numbers gal, I’m a words gal. Yet, seeing life as a numerical breakdown really hit home for me.
The Tail End isn’t meant to be morbid, it’s meant to be a wake-up call. Here are some ways I use it to keep myself in check that you might find useful.
Do More of the Things You Love
There’s something to be said about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if you look at what is most meaningful to you. It comes down to figuring out how you’re going to spend your finite lifetime doing exactly what you want.
For me, it’s often traveling more. To travel, I have to make it happen—it requires me to pull some strings monetarily, but also from a timing standpoint. Now that I run my own business, I don’t get paid time off. While I have complete flexibility, it’s a gift and a curse to be away from my business.
But, I also know I only have so many hours / days / weeks / months / years left to see the world. Now I’ll make the sacrifice to work harder to be able to take some time off and pay for an experience that I would miss if I grinded it out all the time.
Do Less of the Things You Don’t Love
Prioritizing time for the things you love is pretty cut and dry—I want more of this in my life, so I’m going to make time for it. What can be harder is choosing not to make time for the things that don’t serve you. Which means, you have to learn to say “no.”
The reason why this is perhaps more important is because of that whole finite time thing. If you’re spending time doing things you don’t want to do, then you have less time for things that truly matter to you.
Unless you’re well off, you’re going to have to work for income. With all the time we spend working, doing something you love—or at least…like—is crucial.
Work is work, but there are a surprising number of other things that take up time in our lives as well. The little things will inevitably add up.
Now I don’t feel bad about not reading a book, because I wasn’t into it. Now I don’t feel guilty if I skip blogging for a month, because I was busy living my life instead of writing about it.
See More of the People You Love
This is the tough one. Not all of us will live to be 90-years-old. Future health-related technological advances might grant some of us a longer lifespan, but who knows?
When I traveled to Texas last October for my nana’s funeral, I realized it was the third time I had visited my family for sad reasons over the course of seven years. I went for my mom’s breast cancer, my dad’s heart attack, and my grandmother’s funeral. Not a fun time for anyone, obviously.
So, I made it a goal this year see my family for happy reasons by booking one family vacation. “Vacation” means that everybody is on vacation. Nobody is visiting, which is usually distracting since someone is working, hosting, etc.
In July, Mr. H and I are meeting up with my mom and my sister and her family for a road trip around Yellowstone and Jackson Hole. My sister’s family had the trip planned and my mom decided to join them. We found out about the trip and decided to crash their vacation after that.
Seeing more of the people we love…we’re making it happen.
See Less of the People You Don’t Love
This one can seem harsh and it’s not always possible. You probably don’t love all of the people you work with. Unless you have big plans to run your own business with the love of your life, you need to make the best of it.
One area worth looking at is who you are hanging out with during your free time. This can be tricky though. We have a lot of acquaintances that we see more than we see our own family. These acquaintances are good people who we share plenty of good times with. I wouldn’t say that we love them, but we certainly like spending time with them.
So, be careful about weighing relationship tiers here, like acquaintances versus family members. Family is family, and of course, we want to spend as much time as we can with them. But there are also many people who will touch your life, and you may not even know their last name.
The Tail End influences most of my actions and decisions. It started when I decided to take the leap and quit my full-time job so that Mr. H and I could spend more of our lives together. It continues with countless other things I’ve made happen or not happen ever since.
This may not resonate with you the same way, and that’s okay. I hope it does, or that something does. Because the time we have here is finite. All the more reason to maximize it for the things and people we love most, right?
27 thoughts on “Making Space for What and Who You Love With Finite Time”
This is definitely food for thought, Britt. Wonderful post. I think the part about doing less of the things we don’t love is especially important. Not even so much whether we like them or not, but whether they add value to our life. Social media falls into that category. While we may really enjoy it at times, it does take away from the “now,” and I think when our time is up, we want to know we spent as much time in the “now” as possible.
Thanks, doll face! Totally hear you on that. More and more I pause and decide how I’m spending time, especially now that I run my business. The value-add part is huge.
I’ve stepped back from social quite a bit myself and it feels really good. I check in with people and post occasionally, but I don’t beat myself up if I’m not consistent. I also don’t check social on my phone anymore and I’m planning to take the apps off my phone once I’m not managing so many business social accounts. Like you said, much better to stay in the “now.”
That’s smart to take apps off your phone. I’m not there yet, but the only one I allow notifications for is Twitter, and only for mentions so I don’t inadvertently miss something someone has tweeted to me. It would drive me crazy to get notifications for everything. That’s not healthy for the brain.
I am rather further along life’s trail than you so I just hope I’ve made some of the right choices among the wrong choices which often make it interesting !!
The wrong choices are so important too! I just crashed my bicycle yesterday, because I took a bad way home—a terrible city street with potholes and old railroad tracks. I know better, but it was too late by the time I was about to change directions. Pretty beat up now, but it was a reminder to slow down and pay attention. My mind was elsewhere, and the universe stopped me in my tracks.
I hope you are OK anyway !
Wonderful post. Sometimes death fills my thoughts more than the life I’ve had and still have ahead of me. Thanks, Britt, for helping me change the direction of my thoughts. You always do that!
I go there too, Dannie. Definitely important to stay focused on the life moments we have ahead of us and not dwell upon the ones that have already passed. Always glad to speak freely and connect with all of my wonderful blogging friends here. 🙂
Beautiful piece, Britt. I try to cherish each day, especially when I spend them with my parents. Let’s enjoy each moment, my friend!!
Thank you, beautiful friend! I hear you. I miss my parents so much and I love even just hearing their voice on the phone. Cheers to enjoying each moment! xo
You’re absolutely right!
Thanks, Elisabeth! I think the guy that came up with The Tail End is spot on.
Sorry for the delayed response on this comment…unlike me. Thanks for stopping by!
That’s pretty crazy that most people are apart for more than 4 years out of a 12-year marriage. I haven’t been blogging much for the same reasons – I’ve been trying to spend more time with my mom and my husband with as much weekend time as possible wandering around outside. I’ll have to remember those time boxes whenever I start to feel guilty about not being around in the virtual world. Your family trip sounds like so much fun – I hope you and your husband will keep cherishing every moment!
Incredibly delayed response, Miss Sheila! Tells you how crazy the past few months has been. Not all work, since there was some travel in there too. Anyway, here I go…
The Tail End concept can be tough to swallow. I couldn’t believe how much time we spent apart in our marriage. 4 years is bonkers! Especially when we love nothing more than spending time together. We were like: What the hell are we doing? If this is the one life we share, then we need to take more control of it to live the way we want.
I hear ya on the blogging front. That’s why it took me so long to respond to these comments. But, you know what? That’s okay. Like you, I was focusing on other people and experiences. That’s a beautiful thing! xo
Sensitive and inspiring piece, as usual… I find myself way too connected to social media or internet still and know I truly need to slow these addictions down much more but what with everything being connected there (from work schedule to appointments, flight searches and next vacation planning, …), I still have trouble checking out of them.
Nevertheless, you’re right in saying and realizing there comes a time when everything goes by more quickly; we need to stop and focus on what TRULY makes us happy, people, places, activities and only focus on doing/seeing/practicing these instead of those that don’t.
So, I’m sending you lots of hugs for today because I miss you and wish you the best always and will try and enjoy watching the snow fall (brrrr not easy for the beach girl that I am) while cuddling my nephews ❤
Thanks for the reminder, darling.
Enjoy it all; make it happen, make it count.
Julie doll! Apologies for such a delayed response on this post from forever ago. As you can see, I was taking some unexpected time away from the blog again. People, experiences, and the business were my life for a while there. Here I am, returning to the creative front again!
So glad you enjoyed The Tail End! I knew you would.
Ah, the internet and social. It’s great to be connected with so many things, but also a curse that keeps us swirling around away from the present. I still struggle to find that balance and I’m always working on it. I know you are too.
These days that means taking more blog breaks than ever before, and being okay with that. I remind myself that the best writing comes from real experiences. We have to make time for them, then we come back and share them with our words.
Thank you for the hugs. xo
You know I don’t keep tabs on our commenting to each other. I’m always glad to read your words because they echo so many of my own thoughts that I seem unable to put down in words myself.. I took that break of the blog for a while and come back these days with an urge to write, I’ll take advantage of it and keep writing as long as it lasts but also because the people I love are not all nearby.
While I’m getting ready for new experiences and moments with every one that IS close by, I remember what’s best for my heart. And try to keep my focus.
Have fun, darling! And only come back this way when you truly need/want it! Xoxoxo
Great way to break time down to help us see what is really important and how to better spend our days! This year will be one of my craziest/busiest as I’m able to devote “full time” to my business. Before, it was a side hustle. Now I’m ramping things up. This means a lot of front-end work. Starting your own business is exciting, fun, but tons of work. It’s a good idea if we absolutely love what we do, but we have to be aware of the sacrifices along the way. Enjoy your family trip in July!!
Super delayed response, Kate doll, but here I go…
So awesome that you are able to devote your full attention to your business. I’ve noticed the increased social media presence. Running a business is tons of work, I can totally agree with that. But, we are both so much happier than we were before with our salaried path. It is harder to “turn off” because you’re always thinking about your business. It’s important to find that off switch to achieve a sense of balance.
As usual, your post comes at a time when I need it. I feel this a lot lately. Now that I’m working 40 hours a week, (really 46) I’ve realized so many things fall out of priority, some daily, some larger scale projects. If I have to cook every night, I have less time to go to the gym, or read, or watch shows with my family. Blogging, all social media, really, has taken a hit, fersure. I recently decided I won’t paint my own bathroom… clean my own gutters…
I suddenly feel a struggle to do things I’ve always done and time does seem more finite than it used to. Time is what matters, isn’t it? What we spend our time on it what we care about. But work, money… Always lookin for that balance.
Your recollection on times you had to go home really connected with me. I don’t want “have to” to be a reason for anything. I hope that vacation is a true one, and that you collect sweet memories.
Delayed response, Joey, but here I am nearly two months later with a response… 🙂
As you can see, I’ve struggled to keep up with my blog. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without responding to comments, but I’m working on finding my creative balance again after spending the last few months with my head down running my business.
In a way, I used to have more time for hobbies and interests with a salaried job. Even though I worked a lot and had a side hustle, there was a more defined non-working period where I could focus on other endeavors. Now, I’m always thinking about my business. Literally, always.
So, there is no easy answer…sigh. Still, no matter how busy we are, we do have to find that sweet spot in our own lives. We must make time for ourselves and the people we love, since everything is so finite and precious. And, sometimes (like blogging for me), we come and go a bit because we are making time for those other things. Stepping away and coming back is never a bad thing either.
I’m late to your late response to my late comment. It really is all about balance. I find that’s why I enjoy your blog. It’s a gestalt sorta blog 🙂
Gestalt, eh? I love that…thank you! xo
Nice post Britt, and it will resonate with many. I couldn’t agree more with your advice to ‘do less of the things you don’t love’ and ‘see less of the people you don’t love’. I feel that, in recent years, I’ve stripped back a lot. And – as you rightly say – that leaves more time for doing stuff that you like, or just for looking out of the window, or writing, or running, or doing nothing 🙂 It won’t be for travelling anyway – I leave that to you guys. Best wishes.
I’m sure the suspense was killing you from your comment on this post back in early March…but here I am (finally) with a response, Roy! 🙂
“Stripped back” is a great way to describe it. Can be hard sometimes with the things we do and the people we see, but it’s healthy to analyze a bit and decide whether or not the time we’re spending is worthwhile. If we live to a certain age, then we do actually have a fair amount of time in life. If we feel we never have time for anything, I think that’s a red flag that tells us we’re not spending our time the way we want to.
The best ways we can use the lessons that come across our paths is to make a plan – like your vacation. Like your leap of faith in business. “Oh, yeah? Could I be doing better? Then I will.” Isn’t that the epitome of growth? Beautifully said. It boils down to identifying value – and lack of value – and moving the right direction.
Oooh…I like the value identification thing. Will doing this add value to my life, or not? Good question whenever we need a gut check. Applies to humans we surround ourselves with as well.