What Your Time Says About You


Time is the coin of your life.

It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.


– Carl Sandburg

Time is a precious resource. You get a certain number of minutes every day (1,440) and it is your right and responsibility to choose how they’re spent. Tomorrow, you get a new batch of minutes to spend. And the day after that, and after that… but eventually the days run out. There are only so many days in life.

In our fast-paced world, people often hurry through life as if they want to get to the end of their days as quickly as possible. As Carl Honoré said in his TED talk on slowness, we are “marinated in a culture of speed.” Death is not a finish line I’m in a rush to reach! I want to live my life, not hurry through it. What about you?

Others fritter their lives away. Meaningless pursuits and time traps can gobble up those 1,440 minutes before you know it. A wasted day—one in which you didn’t accomplish or learn or do or experience or nourish anything—feels dreadful! They happen sometimes… but what if that became the norm? How much worse will it feel to look back over a wasted life than a wasted day?

Overwhelmed busy-ness and mindless time wasting… You’ve experienced both. Maybe you bounce from one to the other and right back again, over and over. As a friend of mine says, “I only see the middle of the road as I jump from ditch to ditch!”

In terms of communication and presence, how you spend your time sends a message. It reveals how you think about yourself. Your use of time shows a great deal about your values, your character, and your self-worth.

Here are three common messages that your time management skills (or lack thereof) may be inadvertently sending others:


1.  “I am only worth what I accomplish.”

In the past several decades, work has turned from a means to provide for one’s needs into a source of identity, purpose, and in some cases, religion. If all you do is work, work, work, to the point that it damages your health, relationships, or emotional wellbeing, you may be expecting work (or other achievements) to carry too great a burden: your whole self.

Don’t ever let one thing be the sole source of your identity and self-worth. You do and are much more than the one thing you funnel all that time and energy into, whether it’s a job, a cause, or a role. You are bigger, broader, and more multi-faceted than you give yourself credit for. But if your entire identity rests on one item, what happens when you lose it? (Bad news: you will lose it someday.)

Who are you without the job? Or the title? Or the plaque on the wall? They only represent slim slices of you. If you’ve turned your work into your identity, how can you ever take a break?

This over-identification with work also makes it hard to delegate or accept help. Sharing the load ruins your image! Obviously, you aren’t good enough! It’s safer to do it all yourself. Maybe you’ve thought, “I’m the only one who can do this right.” Those self-aggrandizing thoughts mask an inner insecurity.

If you’ve turned work into your identity and it’s ruining your life, you can fix it. Often, awareness is all you need. Sometimes, the belief that you are only worth what you accomplish is more deeply ingrained. Acknowledge all the character traits, roles, values, and other aspects of your life and personality that you have been ignoring. Gradually, give them more space and weight in your life. In context, over-achievement will diminish and you’ll find more balance. You will convey to others that you have great worth for who you are and not what you do.


2.  “I am not worth much at all.”

I chopped off a clause from my opening quote. Here is the whole thing: 

Time is the coin of your life.

It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.

Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.


– Carl Sandburg

If your time is consumed by other people’s needs, values, or tasks, you are communicating, “You are worth more than me.” Doing what you’re told or taking care of others may be part of your job, of course. And in every relationship there are times when you give to others as a means of showing you care. Great! When you habitually subjugate your own needs, desires, values, and your time, you demonstrate a lack of self-worth and low confidence.

Saying no can be hard, especially if you’re in the habit of saying yes to everyone for everything. I have a whole blog with tips on how to say no. Even when you know how, though, that little word will be hard to spit out if deep down inside you believe you don’t deserve to spend your time on what you want, need, or care about. If everyone else is more important than you, their values will drive your life. You will end up feeling overworked, resentful, and empty.

It’s not just people who can chew up your time. Frivolous time wasters, like mindless channel or internet surfing, can reveal a deeper issue with how you view yourself. For sure, you need downtime. But if you’re addicted to an activity that doesn’t actually benefit you, it’s a sign that you don’t care very much about yourself and your true needs.

You are worth taking care of. Your time is precious, because your life is precious. Instead of spending your time on nothing or on other people’s wishes, learn to say no. Carve out time for you. You are worth investing time in.


3.  “I am worth more than you.”

Monopolizing other people’s time demeans them. Perhaps you don’t do it in a demanding or condescending way. Hopefully, you don’t treat everyone around you like they exist only to serve you. Most people waste other people’s time without realizing it. Either way, you are saying, “Your time is not important.”

We need others. We are social beings. We need to socialize (yes, even you introverts) and to talk. We need help from each other. We need to delegate, too. But if you constantly interrupt others and expect them to drop everything for you, you’re being a time hog. Whether you’re offloading your own responsibilities or you’re excessively needy, stop. Be respectful of others. Don’t be a distraction or a dictator. And when you do take up someone’s time, acknowledge the gift. Give something back, even if it’s just a “thank you.”


What does your life say about you? Do your days reflect a healthy self-worth and respect for others? Are you living your life, rushing through it, or frittering it away? Fill your time—which is your life—with what matters to you. Fill your days with the people, the work, the experiences, the development, the care, and the rest that nourish you and make you feel like your life is worth living. Because it is!


Change your communication, change your life.