The trouble is, you think you have time.

- Buddha

We often think of life in terms of years lived. I’m 35 today; considering the average life expectancy is about 80 years, the illusion is that I still may have a lot to look forward to. But Tim Urban, author of the blog, Wait But Why, has introduced me to a new uncomfortable reality: despite not being at the end of our life, we may very well be nearing the end of our time with some of the most important people in our life.

It turns out that when most of us graduate from high school, we have already used up over 90% of our in-person parent time. During our first eighteen years, we spend some time with our parents during at least 90% of our days. But once we move away for university and then later for work, we probably see them an average of two weeks a year—or about 4% of the days we spent with them each year of our childhood. Let’s assume we’re lucky and that we have twenty more years of coexistence. If the two weeks a year thing holds, that’s less than 300 days left to hang with mom and dad.

I work from home and live with my parents (quite common in our culture). This insight thus helps me to appreciate the uniqueness of my situation and to make the most of our remaining face time—not just with my parents but also my children. Zaynab is 4 and Fatima is 2. Doing the same math gives us about 80% time together over the average lifespan.

Tim also got me thinking about two of my brothers. After living in a house with them for fifteen years, we now live in different countries and I spend maybe 10 days with each of them a year. That leaves us with only 15% of our total hangout time left. The same goes for my old friends. In high school, we did everything together. Now, even though we are scattered around the same city, we all have totally different lives and schedules. The four of us are in the same room probably once a year. The group is in its final 7%.

There are a few takeaways here, as Tim points out:

First, realize how much time has already passed. Otherwise, we will continue to live life unconsciously. As Seneca wrote, “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it... Life is long if you know how to use it.”

Second, focus on priorities. Everyone hustles life along but make a list of how you spend your time—and make sure it is how you want it. Time is, after all, the least thing we have of, to quote Hemingway.

Third, quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as special.

Fourth, if you desire to spend more time with the most important people in your life, then make it happen. Putting things off is the biggest waste of life. As Napoleon Hill said, “The time will never be just right.”

Spend wisely.

Photo: Unsplash