Did you know we have a relationship to time? We often think of time as an entity or a commodity, but as something to relate to, not usually. And yet, if we did think of time as something we relate to, we might find more time in our day. Yes, that's right. I said we might find more time in our day.
How can that be?!
We give our energy to what or whom matters to us. How we relate to time has a profound effect upon what and whom we give our energy to. I recently read a fascinating article that points to three ways people relate to time and how that can improve their productivity: time as a non-renewable resource, a currency, and a gift. (Click here to read the article.) I want to propose those same three ways of relating to time can also transform how we relate to ourselves and others. Keep in mind there is no one right way of relating to time; there are simply different perspectives so consider which one resonates with you.
If your view of time is as a non-renewable resource, every relational interaction becomes precious because we can never get the moment back. Time as a non-renewable resource invites us to make every moment a quality experience. It encourages us to take advantage of every possible relational moment no matter how big or how small meaning a 2-minute conversation asking the barista how their morning is going could significantly turn the tide of their day or even yours. When we relate to time as a non-renewable resource, we seek to make every moment count, especially relational moments with those we love.
If your relationship to time falls more into the commodity perspective, you see time as something to spend and invest. Relationships become an investment of love, growth, experience, joy, etc. Relationships also involve spending time together and that time might be intense and it might be relaxed, regardless, the time spent relating to others is important. This means sitting in silence with someone you love is significant even if no words are spoken or activity engaged in. Each time you spend time with others, you are investing in that person and the relationship you have with them.
If you see time as a gift, you also see your time as something you give to others. Time from the gift perspective is not only limited, but it is precious because you are choosing to share it with others. The sharing is what is significant about seeing time as a gift, thus it is the experience of that shared time together that becomes what really matters.
There are dangers to each perspective too. Viewing time as a non-renewable resource may cause a person to cut off relational time or self-care time for their career or commitments. People who see time as a commodity may struggle with resentment in their relationsh
ips if they feel others don't appreciate the investment they are making relationally. If the gift of time is not reciprocated, relationships can be damaged for people who view time as a gift.
Understanding your relationship with time can support you in making better choices with where, how, and with whom you use your time. This understanding can also support you in realizing moments are just as valuable as long stretches of time spent in relating to others. Just like the 5 love languages proposed by Gary Chapman, when we understand how we relate to time, we provide space to honor how others relate to time as well. We can speak in the other's time language! What is your relationship with time? How will it change your approach to your relationships and your schedule?