Would you stand in line to buy a little time?

A few days ago, I asked our web developer what I could do to help him meet an important deadline.

“All I need is time,” he replied. “Can you get me some more of that?”

It seems that time is on everyone’s mind. Even Bill Gates, who has nearly everything, recently announced that if he could have a super power it would be the ability to create more time. He’s doing the next best thing by inventing technologies intended to save us time (

Some countries appear to have more time than we do in the United States. This winter, I was on vacation in Puerto Vallarta where a waiter asked whether I was willing to wait “one Mexican minute.”

He made the request with a smile and shrug that made me realize there are, in fact, different measurements for time. One Mexican minute sometimes exceeds the duration of about 15 American minutes. They have learned to expand time.

By comparison, a New York minute, in my estimation, is about the length of a heartbeat. New Yorkers think fast. Talk fast. And walk even faster.

In Costa Rica a year ago, we learned to think of time in “pura vida” terms. Literally translated, “pura vida” means “pure life,” but this all-encompassing message has become the mantra of the world’s happiest country.

For Costa Ricans, “pura vida” reflects their totally peaceful, uncluttered lifestyle and their deep appreciation for every minute.

Time is one of our most precious commodities; it is also the hardest to measure. When we are rushing to catch a plane, the minutes fly by quickly. When we wait for news in a hospital, the minute hand on the clock barely moves.



I was complaining to my friend Maggi about not having enough time to get things done, and she quietly reminded me that everyone has the same amount of time in a day.

“It’s important to remember we can only live in one moment at a time,” she said. “It does absolutely no good to worry about the past, which can’t be changed, or the future, which is still ahead of us.”

I appreciate her advice. At 96, she’s had some time to think this through.

“This moment,” Maggi said. “This one, right here and now, is the only one that we have the power to do something about.”

I repeat it after her: “Focus on now. Live in this moment. Got it. Thank you, Maggi.”

In a business environment, we use time management techniques to increase our productivity: Multitasking when we can, organizing our day, making priority lists for tomorrow. All good ideas.

But nothing works better for me than taking a deep breath and repeating a simple chant: “Pura vida. One Mexican minute. Focus on now.”

Until Bill Gates can create more time for all of us, this will have to do.

Still, to be clear: If someday Bill Gates is able to produce parcels of real time we can buy like little vitamins or bottled water, I will be on his doorstep in a New York minute.

Susan Armstrong is president and CEO of Armstrong Chamberlin Strategic Marketing. Contact her at

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