Lately, I am amazed how much of our lives are spent tracking and celebrating — and dreading and regretting — the mere passage of time. It controls our lives in a way that nothing else does.
In my work life, lawyers and consultants mostly peg their value to the measure of time: “My rate is $500 per hour” or “My day rate is $5,000.” Certainly, in the legal profession in the past few years, there has been a significant push to drag lawyers kicking and screaming away from the billable hour and move toward some other “alternative fee” model, whether it’s value-based billing, task billing or something similar.
The irony is that no matter how “alternatively” the legal services are billed, no matter how much emphasis is placed on the quality and value of the service provided — and NOT the time it takes to do it — the lawyers are almost always still keeping track of their tasks by the amount of time they’re spending on doing things. And you can bet that they’re being evaluated and held accountable, in large part, for the length of time they took to do something or other. Probably that’s one of the reasons that rumors of the billable hour’s demise have been widely exaggerated.
In my home life, the devotion to tracking time is even more pronounced, and pernicious. Of course, we note the obvious: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. We celebrate time passing as if it’s a judgment on our relative worth instead of a simple measurement. Birthdays can make us feel old. Anniversaries of any type, whether a first date, a wedding day, a last drink, a relative’s passing or whatever, can bring feelings of great joy or deep sadness, often tied to how much time has come and gone.