The days are long but life is short

3 min readSep 26, 2023

There is a saying ‘The days are long but the years is short’, often used in the parenting world, about how life seems difficult throughout the day, but if you don’t enjoy it, it passes by before you realise it.

This article is on the same lines, but a little different. This article talks about the perceived availability of time.

The Days are Long…

We go about planning and living life as if there isn’t enough time available during the day. This is a fallacy. If we are able to fix aspects of work that suck time without adding any value (do I hear unproductive meetings?), get rid of social media / news / other time sucks, there is more than enough time.

There could be weeks, or even months (or a couple of years in case of parents), where we are really really busy, but in the long run, a standard day job can be done well within time to allow other pursuits.

We like the thought of less time because it keeps the day busy and gives us the illusion that we’re hustlers, doing something great all day long. It also prevents us from tackling boredom, and gives us an escape from thoughts about aspects of our life that we don’t like.

…But the Years are Short

On the other hand, thinking from a long term perspective, there really isn’t enough time. This is not motivational jargon, this is actual reality.

This is because there is only a short period of time when all 3 meet — availability of opportunity, interest, and availability of bandwidth. In bandwidth here I’m including time, money, and also enough energy / health to be able to do something.

For example, I’ve worked in the UK only once, for 5 months from June to November. I was quite young at the time, and did not have too many savings. But my travel presented my parents a golden opportunity to come and visit the UK. But there were a few constraints — they would have to make sure their passports are renewed, they get the Visa, book the tickets in advance, I apply for leaves and save enough to plan a few trips, and all this gets done before daylight saving ends so that they’re not seeing the dark and depressing side of UK. As you can see, they only had a small window of time to start the process, or else they would miss the chance. Fortunately for them and for me, my sister kept pushing them and made sure they made the trip. Looking back 14 years later, that was the only UK trip they’ve made in their life so far. They might visit UK again, or may not. But I’m glad my sister pushed them to make that trip.

There are so many cases when we think we want to form a habit, or take a big decision about life, but feel that we’d do it ‘sometime later’, or when we’re less busy. That later never comes. This is because the future self also faces the same friction in taking that action. This is just an easy way for us to pass the burden of expectations from our current selves to our future selves, just like a credit card.

If you want to try something in the next 10 years, do it right away. The window of opportunity is shorter than you think it is. Otherwise the status quo will continue, time will drift away, and life will pass by.