The Value of Time

I’m a chronic under-estimator of time.

This plays out in a ton of ways, most of them unfortunate for the people around me.

Like, the other weekend at church, my friend asked me if I’d be up for grabbing a beer on Tuesday night. “Definitely!” I replied with enthusiasm. “Let’s do it!”

We did a cool little high-five thing to impress the people around us and confirm our commitment. Then he left, and I turned to see Alli shaking her head.

“Jon, you already have plans on Tuesday,” she said. “How are you going to have time to hang out with Zach?”

“Well… I thought maybe I could do both.” (Kind of true. Also I just hate saying no to people.)

Alli, in her wisdom, continued to shake her head.

Tuesday came.

I found myself without enough time for anything. I rushed from my first commitment to be late for the second, and both were cut short. Everyone was gracious, but, long-story-short, I was unnecessarily stressed that evening, and nothing was as fun / as relationally deep as it should’ve been.

I’m sorry, Zach.

What’s the moral of this story?

I think it’s hard to accept that we (I) have limits.

I was listening to a podcast the other day (something featuring a counselor, but I forget who and what it was) and I was struck by this thought:

Every choice has a cost, and that’s okay.

It’s kind of an obvious idea – opportunity cost and all that – but I think it scratches against the cultural notion that we can do what we want. The truth is, we usually can’t. If we’re very lucky, we can only do what we want the most.

It’s probably worth taking the time to examine what that actually is.

An example…

I have a friend who’s been working on building an audience on social media.

He’s been working at this hard for three months. In that time, he’s gone from zero followers on any platform to about 800 followers on Instagram and 1,000 on Tik Tok. That’s not a huge following, but it’s something.

And it’s come at a cost.

He told me that he’s spent 15-20 hours each week posting content and engaging with people.

15-20 hours.

That adds up to like 240 hours he could’ve spent with his wife, with his friends, or alone in his room watching Lord of the Rings 12 times.

But he’s committed that time to building an audience – and so far, he’s been satisfied to work at it.

I guess if I have a takeaway, it’s this:

You can only do so much.

Yeah, you can delegate stuff. Yeah, you can get better at your processes – more efficient at producing music, or smarter at promoting it.

But you can’t do everything. You can’t make an album and learn Facebook ads and set up Google Ads and build a website and grow an email list and set up a Patreon and start a podcast and network with producers and run a press campaign and book a tour and and and.

And good things – meaningful things – take time.

There’s a novel I really enjoyed called All the Light We Cannot See. I read an interview with the author (Anthony Doerr) and was struck by the fact that it took him 10 years to write the book.

10 years.

I’ve never committed 10 years of my life to anything.

I usually work in three-month timeframes. Most projects on my to-do list have an “expected completion” date that ends with the year 2022. But the best things take unnatural amounts of patience and perseverance.

If Antony Doerr had tried to publish All the Light We Cannot See in one year, it undoubtedly would’ve sucked.

It took 10 years, and it was beautiful.

Good things – beautiful things – take time.

So be honest with yourself and with others. Work hard and be realistic about your limits. And try your best to spend your time on the things that matter most.

I suck at this. But I think it’s important, I hope I can get better at it, and no, I can’t hang out this Tuesday.

I’ll see you next week.

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