It's giving time

What would happen if we thought of time as something to give instead of to lose, spend, or waste? Human connections are the basis for life as we know it. And giving people time is the basis for all human connections. Last Spring, Be Clearly co-founder Colin Brine gave a TEDx talk exploring a new way of thinking about the most valuble gift we can give to one another—our time.

At Be Clearly, we work in the business of connecting the dots—both people and ideas—through facilitated conversations. And often, at the beginning of meetings, we ask people to take a moment to reflect on an experience where they felt highly connected with their organization or community, then share with a neighbor. We then ask them to consider who made this moment of connection possible—and what they themselves gave. If you could listen in, you would hear a common theme: connections happen when people give people time.

A simple but powerful idea

Giving people time is a simple idea—an idea so ordinary that it is hard to see, simply because we aren't looking at it. But it is an idea with the power to change the world.

Human connections are the basis for life as we know it. Without them we would see societal and economic collapse, misery and extinction. And giving time is the basis for all human connections. When we look at communities, what we are seeing is people giving other people time.

Giving time is essential for unifying people. It brings people together,  builds trust and makes it possible to combine effort. No time, no unity.

Giving time is essential to growth—growth in relationships and growth in people. Without time there is no growth. No time, no growth.

Giving time is essential to learning. We cannot understand someone or teach someone without giving time. No time, no learning.

Giving people time is essential to human happiness. It brings happiness for the giver and for the receiver. No time, no happiness.

There is no substitute for giving people time. Not plans or policies or money or gifts or advice or philosophies will do. Wherever you see a difference being made in lives or communities or the world, somewhere in the picture is someone giving time. Giving time is the most valuable gift any person can give or receive. And you don't need wealth or brains or charisma. Everybody can give time.

The curse of efficiency

As a society, we try to be efficient with people. But it is impossible to be efficient with people. And this obsession destroys our connections. Giving people time is often the first thing to go when we get busy. But when we get busy, we need connections more than ever.

Giving time can be hard. Many of us feel we don't have enough time. But how do we expect to make a difference if we don’t give time? That goes for parents, spouses, teachers, students, entrepreneurs, professionals, and civic leaders.

Have you ever noticed that we tend to talk about time as though we have a lot to lose? We talk about spending, taking, managing, having or not having, wasting or saving.

And we often feel like victims. As though our time is being taken from us and we must carefully protect it from threat. This kind of negative thinking is rooted in a simple fallacy. We seem to think we can hoard time. But our time will pass. It's not ours to keep.

Why do we so seldom talk about giving our time? And what would happen if we tried to think that way? How might that change our lives?

Tapping the power of giving time

The power of time is not in keeping it. The power of time is in giving it. Finding that giving frame of mind unlocks purpose and hope. One simple phrase can shift the way we think about time and that has the power to change our lives. It's giving time.

It's giving time. This is the answer we so often are seeking in daily life. And it's a reminder that now is the time to give. It's giving time. This is a phrase to remember.

What time is it when you find yourself up against a deadline or wish you had more time to enjoy something? It's giving time.

When you find yourself in a difficult situation with other people and you are looking for a resolution, what's the answer? It's giving time.

When you feel unsure of who you are, and disconnected, and unhappy with your life, what's the solution you should try first? It's giving time.

When you feel that temptation to rush your kids and your coworkers and your employees and neighbors, remember this. It's giving time.

Every one of us can be a giver of time. It makes us better choosers. Better friends. Better partners. Better connecters. Better doers.

How can we change our lives? Our communities? The world? How can we connect the dots? One answer is true for all of us. It's giving time.


Sign up for our newswire—PeopleCraft—and get articles like this one, plus useful tools and resources.

About the Author

Colin Brine is co-founder of Be Clearly, a boutique consultancy that helps leaders of organizations, teams and communities unleash the power of people.

Reach him by email at, or on the web at