Sunday Guest Post Series: How Not to Kill Time

Have you ever heard or read this quote before?

‘Life is like a toilet roll
The nearer you get to the end
The quicker it runs out.’

I can’t remember where I first heard that quote, but it has stuck with me ever since.

Before I retired in 2012, my life was hectic, and time was often my enemy. With deadlines to meet and places to be, I was forever rushing around like somebody who was too busy to tell anybody how busy I was. I’ve always been a good timekeeper and will often arrive at appointments with lots of time to spare. However, for me, that can backfire because I then start questioning myself about the time I am wasting when just sitting in a waiting room or window shopping along the high-street. I don’t like the thought of ‘killing time’ because, usually, I don’t have enough of it to get everything done in a day.

When I think back to my early years, time seemed to go slowly. I can remember the school summer holidays and how those six weeks of freedom seemed to last forever. Long warm summer days that were filled with plenty to do and with plenty of time. I never complained about time then, because the thought of having to go back to school was a rather horrid one. Even the two-week Christmas school holiday seemed to last forever. Time was my best friend.

Then came my first job. Not so bad to start with. but as the years went by, I began to find myself fighting for time. The days would go quickly, and I was often told that it was a sign of being busy. On a Monday morning, I’d arrive at work dreading the full week ahead, but it would often pass me by like an intercity express train. Before I knew it, Friday afternoon would arrive, and the thought of all that free time over the weekend would put a big smile on my face.

When I retired, the thought of all that spare time on my hands was one of the benefits of retirement. I had no thoughts about what I would do with all my spare time or if I’d find myself bored and going out of mind with nothing to do. I looked back at the past 32 years of working full-time and wondered how on earth I managed to fit everything in. Where had I found the time to do what I had been doing, as well as finding all the time I had spent enjoying a full social life that often took me away on holiday or long weekend breaks? It’s a question to which I have never found the answer.

Fast forward six years, to 2018, and I often find myself asking “where does my time go?”. Unlike during my early years, days, weeks and months seem to fly by much more quickly. I find myself comparing my life to the toilet roll I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Now that I’m retired, how can that be when I have so much spare time on my hands? The mathematics doesn’t add up, does it?

From Retirement Reflections: Thank you to Hugh Roberts for agreeing to Guest Host on Retirement Reflections a second time. It is a pleasure having him back here again. I join Hugh in wondering “How did I ever have time to work?”. It surely is a mystery! There are two Guest Posts remaining in this series. Up next week will be Molly from Shallow Reflections with an update on her ‘Plans for Semi-Retirement.’ Please join us there…and be prepared to laugh!

84 Replies to “Sunday Guest Post Series: How Not to Kill Time”

  1. Hello Hugh – I haven’t heard of that quote before but now it will be in my mind. So true about how our perceptions of time change and the maths do not seem to add up. These days I try my best to savour time spent on activities that I enjoy, not to kill time. Thanks, Donna, for featuring another wonderful guest and guest post.

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    1. Hi Natalie, thank you so much for your comments. My Grandmother once told me ‘savour every moment of life. It’s so precious.’ From what you say, you seem to be doing just that. Time may go by quickly, but we should never forget to savour every moment of it. Keep on enjoying it.

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  2. I need longer days and more of them, especially in the summer. Summer also goes faster than winter! I remember the first day of freedom when school was done. It seemed like I had all the time in the world. Now I’m more conscious of my time and I try to savor every morsel! Love the quote!

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    1. Living in the northern hemisphere, it’s strange on how summer (and its longer days) seem to go quicker than the winter, Kate. You’d think the days would go by slower, although they did when I was younger and enjoying those long summer holidays from school.
      I remember my last day at work before I retired and how I felt when I went through those doors for the last time and into retirement. It was a wonderful feeling. One I will never forget.

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  3. Thank you so much for asking me to write a second post for this feature, Donna. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by time. I call myself a ‘time traveller’ but we’re all time travellers. I like the idea of you living in my past (because you’re 8 hours behind me) and that somebody in mainland Europe is living in my future.
    Enjoy your Sunday and have a great week.
    Best wishes,
    Hugh

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  4. The toilet paper roll analogy is spot on. But, the upside of retirement is definitely never feeling guilty about doing nothing, even if time seems to be speeding away.

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    1. I never seem to have the spare time to do nothing, Suzanne, but I totally agree with what you say. I’ve always been a ‘busy’ person, so am in my element when I’m doing something.

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  5. So totally true. I have less demands on my time than ever and yet, still not enough time.
    The worst is when someone asks, “So what did you do this week?”
    I have no idea… the days are just gone.
    Quick, get me another toilet paper roll 🙂

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    1. I know that feeling very well, Aimer. The clock may ‘tick tock’ slowly, but somebody seems to have put it on ‘X16’ fast forward for me. It feels a little like me watching my life on fast forward on a TV screen. It makes me wonder if I’m missing any good bits.

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  6. Hi Hugh, we’re right there with you! “Retired” in 2011. Or did we – sometimes it seems like we have so many irons in the fire that we are just as busy as before. As Donna said, “How did we ever find time to work?” The great difference is that now we get to decide what to make of the day. And that makes all the difference. Great post. Thanks again, Donna! ~ Lynn

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    1. Thank you, Lynn. Of course, what I’ve also done since I retired is to fill most of my spare time with writing, blogging and social media. I soon realised that I was spreading myself too thinly, so something had to give in order for me to get back some of that time. Finding the perfect balance can be difficult, but I think we know when we’ve found it.

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  7. I’ve never heard of that quote, Hugh. I like it! I’m not retired, but I feel each year goes faster than the previous one. I do remember those endless summer days, now they are gone in a blink of an eye. It’s been years since I’ve had to “kill time.” I want more!

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    1. Hi, Jill – I said that quote to Richard this morning and, thinking that I had made it up on the spot, he complimented me on my ‘brilliance’. I did admit that it was a quote that I read here, but it did make me wonder who comes up with these creative quotes?!
      BTW – I totally agree with you — I want more!

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    2. I think most of us would like more time, Jill. That’s why I remember a quote my Grandmother said to me many years ago, ‘Life is precious. Saviour every moment of it.’ I do wonder if our time is actually ‘life’, but then I remember the well-known quote ‘life goes on after death’.

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  8. I love that toilet roll quote. It is so accurate! I used to say “The older I get, the faster time flies”. How could that be, when a day still has 24 hours, for everyone. Even for me throughout my whole life. I have to agree with the arithmetic not adding up.

    I think, as we get older, we realize more how precious time is and we have way more hobbies, responsibilities, doctor’s appointment and social contacts than when we were younger. Our priorities are so different and llife is every more multi-faceted. We want to do everything, and above all, not waste time. How stressful!

    Another characteristic of the human being is that, when one activity falls away, we easily fill up the “gap” in time with two other things. We always manage to reman busy, no matter at what point in our lives. There are people who are bored, but I truly don’t get that. Ever!

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    1. Nope, I don’t get ‘bored’ either, Liesbet. There’s just so many opportunities that life offers us, it’s definitely time that can be the problem and not having enough of it to get everything done. However, I’ve heard it said that ‘time’ is not the problem, it’s the way we manage it that is the problem. I do like some kind of order and routine in my life, but I’m not one that wakes up every morning and plans my day. I seem to allow time to slot the pieces into place for me and, if they feel good, I enjoy each and every moment.

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  9. I had never heard that quote before either but I love it! I’m tempted to get a little sign made with the quote and hang it just above the toilet paper roll, although I’d add at the end “And if you are sitting there when it runs out, be sure to replace it with a new one.”

    Unfortunately, we can’t do that with life.

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    1. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could replace time, Janis? It’s a very nice thought. That’s why we should savour every moment of the time we are given. Once it’s gone, there’s no way of getting it back unless, like me, you learn the secrets of time travel. That’s another story, though.

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  10. Hello Hugh every time I look at a toilet roll now I will think of the quote and you 🙂 I know what you mean about time. Sometimes I wonder two things: firstly, how did I manage to fit in everything when I worked full time? and secondly, am I filling in time with things to enrich my life or just filling in my time?
    Thanks Hugh and Donna for another great Sunday Series post.

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    1. These are good questions, Sue. I think we all wonder about that first question. As for filling in time, I’m a firm believer in that whatever we chose to do, it is enriching us. Even sitting down for ten minutes and not doing any activity is enriching because we can take in what and who is around us, and if we close our eyes then we are enriching our brains with thoughts. I don’t know about you, but I’ve even found some of the dreams I’ve had when asleep to be enriching. I think the ones we remember are trying to tell us something. I’ve even solved a few problems with some of the dreams I’ve had.

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    1. Hi, Joanne – That’s an excellent point. I usually sleep well….unless I need to get up shockingly early the next day (read here: early flight). On these evenings, I wake up in the middle of the night, look at the clock, try to sleep for another hour….only to discover that only 15 minutes has past. Arrrghhh! I hate when that happens!

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    2. Hi Joanne. Yes, sleepless nights can make time seem to go slowly. However, since retirement, I don’t seem to have any problems with sleeping anymore. Sometimes, though, I can be woken up when an idea for a blog post seems to come from nowhere and wakes me up. I’ve got into the habit of writing them down so I don’t forget them.

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  11. Time does go by slowly when you least want it to do so! Like waiting for the door of the washing machine to open when the clock says 1 minute to go. I mention this as I happen to be catching up on some washing as well as blog posts. Multitasking they call it 🙂 I remember my father mentioning that after 21 times flies by, I thought at the time, what does he know!! It was also lovely to read more about you Hugh through Donna. Have a good Monday everyone 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Suz. Your comment about the washing machine makes me think of another quote “A watching pot never boils.’ Have you heard of that one? Of course, it can’t be true (unless we’ve forgotten to turn the gas or electric on), but it’s strange how the kettle seems to boil a lot quicker when I’m not watching and waiting for it to come to the boil. It’s another trick I’ve learned about time.

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    2. Hi, Suz – I too have spent (what seemed like) ‘hours’ waiting for the washing machine’s ‘1 minute to go signal’ to end. Good luck with your multi-tasking today. Most importantly, congratulations on your two separate nominations for The Annual Bloggers Bash Awards. Very well deserved!!

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  12. Time is stretchable I think – if you’re busy and enjoying yourself it whizzes by and if you aren’t – well then its as long as an elastic band with no elastic. Try getting stuck at a long traffic light. Hahaha. Enjoyed your post thoroughly.

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    1. You’re right, Kalpana. When we’re stuck waiting for a late train or bus to arrive, or while in a traffic jam, time can seem to slow right down. I wonder if stress is the reason that seems to slow time down? Likewise, when on an enjoyable night out, I can remember how the time seems to go by so quickly and how I wish it wasn’t coming to an end. Maybe excitement speeds time up?

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  13. Hi Hugh!! It’s great to see you here as a guest. Great choice Donna!!
    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say Hugh – I’m also a time traveller and can relate so well 🙂 My mantra these days seems to be ‘where has the day gone?’ I am enjoying spending the time in the way that I want to but still like some structure in my day if I can manage it. No time for work that’s for sure 🙂

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    1. It’s great to meet another time traveller, Deb. It’s not the days, but it’s the weeks and years that I ask ‘where have they gone?’ More so since I retired. It’s great not having to get up for work every day, yet I still get up at the same time every day that I used to get up when I was working fulltime. I wonder if that is through habit or whether it’s another secret of time?

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  14. I’ve never heard that quote before. It’s a new thought for me.

    I’ve found in life that as long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing it doesn’t matter if time is going by quickly or slowly. I’m just pleased to have time– and don’t want to get all judge-y about how I’m using it!

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    1. That’s what I say about blogging, Ally. Keep it fun and enjoyable and you can’t go wrong. Time does fascinate me though. I think it holds many secrets and that one day we humans may even be able to control it. If that does happen, then I think it could be the end of all of mankind. Best we just enjoy the time we have and to leave it to get on with what it does.

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  15. I’m late to the party – I’ve had a week off and have not had enough time to do all I want to do! Haha! I have heard that quote about the toilet paper and it is soooo true. I’m not retired yet but the two days/week I work are harder and harder for me to fit into my busy schedule. 😉

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    1. I don’t think we ever get enough time to do everything we want to do, Molly. The problem is that there is so much most of us want to do. Unless someone invites spare time (which could be sold), I think we just fill our time with what we like doing best. On the day I finally leave this world, I’m hopefully not going to worry too much that I didn’t have enough time to scrub that toilet bowl. 😀

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  16. I’ve never heard of the ‘toilet roll’ quote either, but it is so true!! Your reflection through your life stages with time is very similar to my own, the childhood days, school days, work years & now I’m not working at the moment, I truly don’t know where the time goes, I couldn’t fit in a job now! 😊 a great guest Donna & a great post Hugh 👍

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    1. Thanks, Sam. From what other people have told me and what I hear quite often, nobody knows how we fit everything in when working full-time. I think it’s one of life’s little-unsolved mysteries that will never be solved. If anyone does solve it, they will probably become rich.

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    1. I said exactly the same thing, Ritu. However, time seems to still go by as quickly (if not faster) as it did when I was working fulltime. I still don’t have enough time to cram everything in that I want to do.

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    2. I highly recommend it, Ritu. A while ago, Hugh mentioned that he now wakes up each morning shouting “Yippee, I’m retired!” So far, that’s a perfect description of my retirement experience.
      Thanks so much for stopping by. I greatly appreciate it!

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  17. During my working years, I sometimes resented the mechanistic linear structure that we have imposed upon time — the division of time into weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds, all of them marching inexorably one after another. We have structured our lives to live by the clock, beginning with the alarm clock shattering our peaceful sleep each morning and continuing with set times for starting and stopping work each day, a certain meeting at 10AM every Tuesday, needing to pick the children up at the daycare no later than 5PM, and so on. I wonder if some of the problems we have with our shifting perceptions of time, and the sense that it is slipping away from us faster and faster, is due to this unquestioning subjugation of ourselves and our society to clock time, and the belief that we have to fill every minute of it. In retirement, we can escape this rigid linear march somewhat, and get back to the cycle of night and day, and seasonal time. I am trying to get more at ease with having loose unscheduled time.

    Jude

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    1. I wonder, though, if we didn’t do what we do with structuring time if our lives would then be chaotic? For example, if we didn’t need to start work at 9 am, when would people know we could be available? Maybe, though, that would mean we would all not be as stressed as many of us are when we’ve no time to do what we want?
      Even though I’m retired, my body clock still wakes me at the same time every morning as the alarm did when I was working. But I’m a morning person and like to make the most of my day, so I’m happy with what my body clock does. Doesn’t help when I sometimes can’t sleep, though.

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  18. Lovely post Hugh, all so relevant. When we’re younger it seems we sometimes have too much time on our hands. I can honestly say that since I began writing books I have never uttered the words “I’m bored.” 🙂

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  19. It is funny how time seems to speed up as you get older. When you retire I suppose you fill your time with all the things you longed to do, but didn’t have time for, when you were younger. Lovely article Hugh.

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    1. Hi, Robbie – Thank you so much for dropping by. I greatly appreciate it. I agree with your theory on many retirees using their time to do things that they didn’t have time for when working. I am off to visit your site now.

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    2. I always, somehow, managed to get in things I longed to do even when working full-time, Robbie. However, I still struggle after five years of retirement in getting everything in that I long to do. I think many people think that retirement means freedom, but I don’t think that’s necessary the case – well, not for me, anyway. 😀 Time seems to go even faster as I’ve got older, but maybe that’s because I’m filling it in with even more things to do?

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  20. I admire all you retired folks who manage to keep as busy with projects, writing, and those leisure choices! By the time I am finished with part-time teaching, I will be ready for true retirement. Although I had an 8-month “taste” of retirement when I retired from my day job in public recreation and parks, I quickly filled my time with establishing my blog, photography and more fitness and leisure time. Teaching at a university part-time (so-to-speak) and working from home gives me a feeling of retirement, but with hubby still working, I tend to look at both of our stretches of leisure time with more anticipation and renewed appreciation! I believe it is simply the human condition to fill up our time. Wonderful article Hugh!

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  21. Thanks so much, Terri. For me, retirement is one of the best parts of life. I know not everyone gets the chance to retire, but I can highly recommend it. However, it still surprises me that many people, who have yet to experience retirement, still think that it gives nothing but freedom. Yes, there is a certain element of freedom, but it’s surprising just how quickly time fills up with those jobs that still need doing. I enjoy getting away from my retirement routine (like at the moment), and it still surprises me how much I enjoy getting away from it. It’s as if I’m on vacation, yet all I’m doing is getting away from all that spare time. 😀

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