Check this out. Yesterday I saved 6 minutes while gardening, 3 minutes making breakfast, a whole 20 minutes reading the paper, 7 minutes taking a shower, 9 minutes walking the dog, (by not stopping to talk to a neighbour), 1 minute vacuuming and 14 minutes checking emails (by just deleting them all unread, what the hell – time is money isn’t it?).

Today I counted up all the minutes I saved yesterday – 60 minutes! An hour! Now I’m using this time I saved yesterday to write to you today.

I’m being facetious of course. That’s not how time works is it?

I know you’ve been told, (repeatedly) ‘time is money‘. Think about it. Time is NOT money!

Time and money are two completely different things! You don’t actually save minutes like coins, do you? What is the point of “saving time”? And yet how often have you been persuaded to buy a product or service because it “saves time”?

I’m guessing – (and since I’ve written hundreds of ads with ‘saves time’ (or worse, ‘saves time AND money‘ as the number one product or service benefit, it’s an educated guess) – very often.

I do not know why we have all bought-in to this “save time” and “time is money” rubbish. Are we just easily-led? Is it a direct result of the late 1980’s financial cavalcade?

Or maybe we just thought we needed some kind of vaguely rational-sounding idea like, “it’ll save my time, my time being so very valuable n’all so I must buy it” instead of simply admitting you want it because it looks lovely, will be fun to play with, makes you feel good or any other less logical but much more truthful reason.

Nothing saves you time. No one can save time. Not even you. As Robert Burns put it 200 years ago in his Tam O’Shanter poem

“Nae man can tether Time nor Tide

the hour approaches Tam maun ride”

So no, you can’t stop the tide turning, or time passing and you sure can’t put time in a piggy bank for later or ‘save’ it for application elsewhere.

You choose what you do when. You. You don’t save time. You choose what you’ll do and when you’ll do it.

The other myth perpetrated by marketers is the idea that everyone is “time-poor”. No-one has any time any more. Argh! What are they talking about?!

Imagine suggesting this idea to a farmer in Papua New Guinea or a forester in Sweden or a Masai warrior in Africa or anyone working close to the land: “Excuse me, I know you are time-poor so would you like this tool to save time?”

While they might, being human, take the tool, they would think you were insane. Poor of time? Time is time. No more time, no less time. Day, night, season, cycle of seasons. It’s just time.

This time-poor idiocy works for marketers because it escalates the whole frantic, running-around-thinking-you’ve-no-time-at-all hysteria, oh dear! oh dear! like the White Rabbit which then has you ping-ponging straight into the arms of the first marketer saying he or she’ll SAVE YOU TIME!

Plus, I think the present theory of being “more productive” with your time and all this buzz around “productivity” is just a new spin on the same old save-time crap.

Well, screw ‘productivity’ and ‘saving time’. I wanna live, damn it, and I do not want to be counting the minutes while I do it, (which is why I’ve never worn a watch even when traveling 14,ooo miles on various modes of transport).

How about considering this kind of scenario instead – allocate an hour for something you really enjoy. Say from 3-4pm on Saturday you’re going to do a bit of knitting, dig the garden, draw a picture, make a scrapbook, watch birds, build a matchstick house, repair a machine in your house, clean your tools, read a book, sit in a café, whatever – and in fact the more banal the better.

I am amazed at how long, languid and lovely an hour can be when you have set it aside for something in particular. We spent an hour, as instructed, counting our garden birds for the RSPB’s annual bird count. Yes, I know that sounds incredibly boring and I must admit I wasn’t really looking forward to it and suspected I might resort to counting the minutes instead. However, it felt like that pot of gold at the end of the time-rainbow: floating, stolen time.

All we were ‘allowed’ to do during this one hour period, apart from talking, making notes, doing something together and ‘being’ together was watch and count which birds visited our bird feeder – and not miss any. That’s all.

It was beautiful, stolen time. It was mindful time. Weirdly, one of the best hours we ever, em, ‘spent’. And we didn’t even have to save up that time before spending it! We just spent it. See, time is not money. It’s free and it’s all yours.

Image borrowed from Rocio Montoya