Do you have time to draft a brief?
Can you take on another client?
I have nothing but time.
Meet me at the boys’ basketball game?
I’ll be there.
Fix the fridge?
Sure. Okay. I’ll do it.
Don’t forget to take out the garbage?
Yeah. I’ll get right to it.
Demands, demands, demands. They come screaming from every direction, require our attention, our commitment. In a world of seemingly endless requirements, of round-the-clock communication (whether by phone, text, email, Facebook messenger, Twitter, Instagram, Voxer, Slack, or Farmer’sOnly.Com) our time has become a commodity. It’s always in demand. Always on the block. It can be purchased by anyone with two thumbs and access to a keypad. It’s sold like stocks, like bonds, like cereal, beer, or fake-plastic-thingies. Time is oil, wheat, pork bellies, sugar.
The commodification of time is no new thing. In the good old days, my grandfather complained of his own time constraints, his ever-expanding to-do list. (Hasn’t man always filled his time with the stuff of earth?) But with the proliferation of digital communication, we are traceable, trackable, and findable. We are always on. We are always for sale. And when your time is in demand (and when demand produces dollars) who wants to say no?*
As I wrote yesterday, this business of commitment is a tricky thing. I’m an accommodating fellow, one prone to yes ma’aming and sure thinging every request. I sell, sell, sell my time. I sell future time. The commitments pile up. I sell and sell until the reality of choking down my one million item to-do list (or excusing the one million other commitments I failed to put on said list) sets in. I’m over-committed. I’ve oversold my most valuable commodity. And as any over-committer knows, broken promises are occasioned by over-selling time.
Here’s the truth: my time can be purchased by anyone, but I don’t have to sell it to everyone. Here’s the corollary truth: following through on my commitments requires that I trade the immediate “yes” for the occasional “no.“
*See “8 Things Successful People Do That Lazy People Do Not.” (“Nobody likes being told no. That’s why so many people say yes to things. They don’t want to make others feel bad, or they don’t want to sever current or potential friendships, or they don’t want to be excluded from future possibilities, or they don’t want to be looked down upon, etc.”)
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