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THE BALANCED LIFE | Making every minute count

D o you spend much time thinking about what lies ahead? How you might maximize every minute of your remaining time on this planet? Not in the “Time Management, Proven techniques for making every minute count,” by Richard Walsh sense, but more in the

Do you spend much time thinking about what lies ahead? How you might maximize every minute of your remaining time on this planet? Not in the “Time Management, Proven techniques for making every minute count,” by Richard Walsh sense, but more in the nature of Spanky & Our Gang’s “Making every minute count.”

If you find yourself pondering, “What else can I jam into my future, what can I change?” Spanky’s lyrics nail it:

While you're hung up on yesterday

You got nothing going today

While you're hung up on tomorrow

All the good times are slipping away

Life is right now.

Deciding on the important stuff can be daunting. Is it time to change my hair style to the spikey and scattered, hint of rebellion and adventure style of the late Anthony Bourdain? Should the peak on my baseball cap be worn forward or backward? Is it time to start putting toonies in my piggy bank to save for the dreaded e-bike that I know is on the horizon? Who’s going to care anyways?

Worse yet, at some point I’ll have to admit I’m deluding myself. One’s 70s are a bit late to be resolving midlife crisis issues.

Of course, as a result of living with the internet, I now have difficulty thinking for myself. Let me correct that. I don’t have difficulty thinking for myself, it’s just so much easier to search, “How should I feel about aging?” or “What should I value in life now that most of it’s too late to change anyhow?” then decide which of the 8,390,000,000 responses I like best, and adopt that one as my new personal philosophy.

Turns out it isn’t that easy. I was shocked as I read through a blog piece titled, On aging: “There is no prime, every moment is your prime, there is no peak, it is just getting better,” by Daniela Beer-Becker, a Montreal psychologist.

I expected the blog to glamourize pop icons like Dolly Parton or Mick Jagger, still going strong in their 70s and beyond. Turns out it was a personal piece in which Beer-Becker reflected on the aging she saw in her own body and life at 47 years old. Really—at 47 years old?

How could this possibly relate to me, someone who just last week responded to a friend complaining that he was getting old at 66 by replying, “You’re still a pup.”

Here are relevant 2021 census statistics for Pelham. More than 30 percent of us are over 65, and Pelham residents’ average age is 46.5, the exact age, give or take a few months, that Beer-Becker was when she shared her personal feelings about aging, and whether she had already passed her peak. Does this mean that in 2022 at least half of Pelham is thinking about how they might ensure their own aging is fulfilling and satisfying?

Throw in our daily bombardment of images of Covid, Fort Myers or Port aux Basque, and Ukraine, and I suspect the number of us who are doing the life evaluation thing would be surprising.

There’s a reason our eyes are in the front of our head rather than the rear. Understanding and figuring out where we’re going is much more important than seeing where we’ve been. Yet psychologists offer no common guideposts for how to make such important and emotional decisions, with some suggesting that excessive time spent considering your personal future can be counterproductive.

They argue that if we don’t know what we want, haven’t defined what we value or what is important to us at any particular stage in life, it’s impossible to make every minute count. Unless our minutes count toward a desired goal or outcome, they will provide no enduring satisfaction.

A blog entitled, asks, “So which abstract values or guiding principles do you want to base your life around? ... You can find lists of values on the internet to help you identify your own.” Whoa. Glad it’s not just me that needs Google’s assistance with life’s big questions, but using a multiple choice internet list to pick personal values sounds a bit risky.

Others espouse the “Just do something—anything,” theory. They say we can get bogged down or overwhelmed trying to plan the big picture or grand adventure. If future plans are always a work-in-progress they frequently become unactionable, causing us to dither away our precious minutes. When doubt arises, we believe there’s lots of opportunity in our uncompleted big picture to shuffle things around, so we make excuses and postpone action.

Conversely, if we get up with a plan for the day, or morning, or even the first hour, commit to it and just do something, we will be taking a step forward. This approach mandates that we differentiate between urgent and important activities. Checking emails and texts first thing in the morning may seem urgent and time-sensitive, but such tasks are not always the most important to achieving our goals. It’s scheduling sufficient time for important things that will advance us, even when our long-term plan might be hazy.

For most of us, tasks generally take less time than we expect them to. When scheduling time to do this or that, wash the car, call a friend, do the laundry, I would block an hour or two or whatever seemed sufficient. If the tasks got completed early, the extra minutes were generally frittered away. I’ve recently come to recognize that thinking in terms of minutes and moments rather than hours or blocks can significantly increase how much can be accomplished in a day.

How does all this align with our desire to make every minute count as we age?

It is clear that regardless of which process we choose to achieve our goals and dreams as we age, it is seldom a matter of finding time for what we want to do. We have to make time.

How we make that time will play out differently for each of us, but recognizing the truth in Brian Tracy’s famous motivational speeches, “Time is your most precious resource; make every minute count,” is where it begins. We may be in the stage where we’re honing our direction by selectively choosing more satisfying, stimulating, and value-aligned activities to fill our time. For others who have already decided their direction, making every minute count can mean filling their calendar relentlessly.

Don’t over-think it. Welcoming opportunities, marking them in your calendar, and committing to them increases the likelihood they’ll happen.

Or maybe you do need to think it through? Chill, sit down with a mirror and a shot of Bailey’s, and search your heart and mind. Ask yourself, “Am I satisfied with where I am?” If you answer yes, enjoy the Baileys, be thankful, and count yourself as very lucky. If you’re not sure, pour yourself another shot, and quietly investigate how to take ownership of your future so you can make every minute count.