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How many more times will you see…?
Make time for the people we cherish
There are lots of reasons to timebox. The six big benefits I see, in order of how useful I’ve found each, personally, are:
To feel less stress throughout the day.
To lead an intentional life.
To think smarter and more deeply, with focus and flow.
To get more done.
To keep a record of what you’ve been up to.
To collaborate more efficiently and harmoniously.
I’ll focus here on the second of these — leading an intentional life — and in particular who we spend our time with.
We may not have many more opportunities to see some of the people we love most. Specifically, we can count too easily the number of times we’re likely to see our parents before they’re gone, as described by videos like this and articles like this. I find the video persuasive; less than 10 feels like really very little. Parents get the attention here, understandably. They gave us life, we love them, and they’re now older. For those of us at around the halfway mark of our own probably life span, our parents are already elderly. The calculation and the reflection are worthwhile.
But what about some of the other people we care about? If you have kids who still want to play with you, for how much longer will that be? A couple of years? That’s just 100 weeks or weekends. A statistic doing the internet rounds this year and upsetting parents around the world says ‘by the time your kids are 12 years old, parents have already spent 75% of the time they will ever spend with them’. A little while ago, I saw a friend whom I like very much. We don’t see each other often — once every few years — which we remarked on, extrapolated to a life expectancy and concluded that, realistically, we’ll only have five or six more encounters. I loved that conversation. And it made me think.
What about you? Take your partner or a sibling or a best friend — how many more conversations will you have with them? Lots, perhaps. But how many really good conversations? How many belly laughs? How many unexpected adventures? Or campfires or walks in the woods or moonlit swims or passion fruit martinis & apple juices? Not so many.
All this sort of thinking brings our finitude into an uncomfortably sharp focus. And finitude is a concept central to Oliver Burkeman’s sobering yet ultimately uplifting Four Thousand Weeks. His suggestion is to accept that we won’t ever get around to everything, while selecting carefully and savouring consciously the precious little we can.
I’d add one thing to this advice. The wisdom of intentional quality (accept, select, savour) is unarguable. But what about intentional quantity? Perhaps the number of visits, meet-ups and time we make for certain people is just too little? Even as I wrote the previous sentence, people from my own life came to mind. Does anyone occur to you? The months and years slip by so very easily. So, set a timebox or two and make some good things happen.
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