Turning Old Clichs into New Maxims:
There’s a Time and a Place for Everything
By Richard Eyre

Note: This column appears every two weeks . with an old clich replaced by a new maxim each time.  Click here to read the full introductory column.

The problem with this homey homily is that neither time nor place, nor the people and circumstances that occupy them, is completely within our control. Thinking they are ? thinking we can control everything ? leads to frustration and insensitivity.

Commercially, our delusions of control are called “time management” and include all kinds of products with tiresome names like day-timers, Filofax, time-extenders, and ? worst of all ? “Dayrunners.”

Bad as these terms are, they’re not as dangerous or as subtly deceitful as their computer-age clich equivalent: “program your time.”

Time programming seems to imply that time is like some sort of quantifiable data that can be manipulated, exactly and precisely located or stored, and used with precision and total control.

The problem is that we don’t live in a vacuum and time is not ours. We move through it and while we have some control over what we do with it, it also has considerable control over us.

Of course we should take an active role in how we use our time and a deep interest in where we are going. But we should be more realistic about what we can and can’t program.


Early in my career I took the time-programming approach to everything: work, family, even recreation. Two hours for this, fifteen minutes for that, all planned beforehand, all in “control.”

I was frustrated quite often (more accurately, my plans were frustrated, which in turn frustrated me). I was frequently irritated that circumstance, and particularly other people, didn’t always go along with what I had programmed to happen. But I assumed that these difficulties were occurring simply because I had not yet perfected the science of time management.

I had a simple experience one week that started changing the direction of my thinking. I’d been too busy at the office to spend time with my six-year-old son, Josh, and I was beginning to feel guilty. Still, I’d found that guilt is easily relieved, or at least postponed, if you have a good day planner. I just found a free evening a week from Tuesday and penciled Josh in.

Alas, when next Tuesday rolled around, a minor crisis at the office kept me in the city late. But no problem, I hadn’t told Josh of my plans anyway. I just crossed him off and put him down again for Thursday.

What I forgot was that Thursday was the last day of the month. As I prepared to leave the office to “carry out my goal” with Josh, the accountant rushed in with the monthly reports. Oh, well, shift Josh to the next Tuesday ? at least I was planning something.  At least my heart was in the right place.

The next Tuesday came and I did get away from work early. I even stopped at the toy store and got a model airplane that we could work on together. I bounced enthusiastically into the house and yelled for Josh. He didn’t answer because he was engrossed in a TV program. I said, “Josh, come on, I’ve got a model airplane, and we’ve got an hour to put it together.” “Maybe later,” he said. “I’ve got to see this show.”


We can’t program our children. We can’t program other people. We can’t program our circumstances, and we can’t program our time.

What we can program is our attitudes. We can learn to respect and to respond to the unexpected twists and timings of the day. We can understand that there are teaching moments when our children are asking for our time and attention. We can realize that joy and insight and opportunity all come in moments and that those moments are not always convenient or pre-planned or exactly where we would like them to be.

The new maxim is:


Especially in terms of relationships, then and when are important, but now is what really matters.

Join me in two weeks for the next column, which will debunk

(or at least modify)the old clich that “we are what we eat.”


2005 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.