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Indulge in time, the ultimate luxury

(MoneyWatch) Ashton Kutcher may not seem like a philosopher of time management, but in a recent Esquire profile of the actor, I came across this little gem:

"True luxury is being able to own your time -- to be able to take a walk, sit on your porch, read the paper, not take the call, not be compelled by obligation."

It's an interesting observation. Time, we know, is the ultimate limited resource. We all have 168 hours a week, and no one -- not even someone with Kutcher's riches -- can buy a second more. Time is also non-renewable. Those three minutes you spend waiting in line at the grocery store are gone, never to be reclaimed.

Faced with such knowledge, many of us become semi-militant about how we spend our time. We schedule agenda items in 6-minute increments, try to unload the dishwasher more efficiently, or even hit the same digit on the microwave multiple times because it's faster to hit 2:22 than 2:30. But such militancy contributes to a feeling of scarcity. Time is in short supply. Better hurry up!

So there's something to be said for indulging, occasionally, in a deliberate sense of abundance. How would it feel if you approached a day thinking "I have all the time in the world"? What if you were consciously generous with yourself when it came to time? You call an old friend and don't look at the clock. You run a leisurely errand in the middle of the day. You spend hours thinking about a perplexing work problem just because you find it fascinating -- letting the inbox fester because you'd prefer to do other things.

If you got over the panicky feeling many of us would feel at first, you'd soon uncover a different feeling. Not worrying about how you spend your time -- feeling off-the-clock, as it were, uncompelled by obligation -- feels very luxurious. Indeed, it is the ultimate luxury. Luxury goods cost money, but in theory, you can always earn more money. No one can make more time.

To be sure, few of us can spend all our time uncompelled by obligation. But even a few hours can feel quite nice. A few weeks ago, my husband took our three kids to New York on a Saturday on a whim, thus leaving me at the house all by myself. I hadn't planned to catch up on work during that time and so I realized I didn't have to do anything. I did some of my usual leisure time pursuits (reading, running) but I made a special point of shopping inefficiently, looking at items I had no intention of buying because I owned my time and I was curious. I was wasting time, and it felt great.

When did you last indulge in this ultimate luxury?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user
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