Guest Op-Ed: Are You a Time Saver or a Time Waster?

By Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

America, a nation of time-saving fanatics. American, a nation of time-wasting freaks.

In the days of old, consumers visited the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. They chatted, gossiped, and shared community news. Timeworn traditions turned into trends to save time as busyness bombarded us from sunrise to sunset because of progress.

And you can’t stop progress. The telegraph, the telephone, the cell phone. The radio, the television, the internet. Feet, horses, wagons. Bicycles, trains, automobiles. Planes, helicopters, rockets.

Hark! The modern mega supermarket was born. The concept of convenience touted as one-stop shopping. Coffee shops, fast-food eateries, and banks inside of grocery stores—you can also buy stamps, pay utility bills, or make your own meal at the salad bar. Enter online foodie shopping. Scan, pay, and bag your own groceries. New apps let customers skip the checkout line.

The more technology advances, the busier we become—hurry and scurry. Obsessed with saving time. We wolf down meals to move on to do more: gobble, gulp, guzzle. According to World Health Organization 2017, more than $10 billion is spent worldwide each year on antacids. We eat stress and disrespect the time allotted to daily living.

“Extreme Time Cheaters” was a reality TV show about people who go to ultimate lengths to optimize time. Washing dishes in the shower, ironing shirts with the underside of a fresh brewed coffee pot, shaving legs while in the pool. Won’t hair clog the pool filter?

Being more organized in order to find shoes, coats, gloves, backpacks, purses, and other items in the morning is smart and gets families out the door quicker. Using a roadmap is about efficiency—getting lost in suburbia makes you a late dinner guest.

You won’t catch me drinking coffee in the shower to save a minute or two—not my thing. However, I do own an undisclosed number of the same black socks. Why? Because the laundry monster eats one sock of the matching pair. So, I outsmart this sock-stealing fiend. Piling instead of filing can be a time waster for writers. Musing and rushing is counterproductive.

America, a nation of time-wasting freaks. Too much TV. Too much social media. Too much partying with mood-altering drugs. Zombified brains waste time and energy. Too much shopping—buying more and more dust-collecting stuff.

A 2016 study (download the report at followed the device usage of 100, 000 people over a five day period. By tracking taps, swipes, and clicks, participants made on their smartphones, researchers concluded that the average user touched their phone 2,617 times every day. Shazam! That’s over 2.42 hours of phone usage for the average user and most is spent on either Facebook or Google. Read more about the heavy users.

And guess what? We still only get 365 days per year, 12 months, and 168 hours per week. An hour still holds 60 minutes. And one minute is still 60 seconds. Time doesn’t change. The sun comes up and the sun goes down. Each morning you get 86,400 seconds.

“You may delay, but time will not.”—Benjamin Franklin

Why are humans so illogical? We try to pack more and more activities into the same amount of time. Employers overwork and overwhelm employees. Workers skip lunch, lose sleep, and give up family time. Parents overschedule kids with too many activities. Or over summer, while both parents work, they allow kids to lounge at home and binge on videogames and social media.

Time isn’t the problem. What people do with time is the problem. Setting too many goals in one year. Unrealistic expectations of achieving in a short period of time. Not saying no to another event or activity. Making the daily list too long. Worrying and dwelling on past mistakes gets you nowhere. Fear of failure that keeps you stuck is a time stealer.

“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. an alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out,” surmises Mitch Albom in his 2012 book, “The Time Keeper.”

In reality, you can’t save, waste, or cheat time. You can only manage or not manage thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions about daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly activities. Time is neither good or bad. Time is neutral. It’s what we do with our time that counts. And time is subjective because what matters to me may not matter to you. It’s impossible to control time. We can only control ourselves and our activities.  

“Man wants to own his existence. But no one owns time.”—Mitch Albom

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Ohio. Contact her at [email protected].

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