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Time: Kairos and Chronos

Time: Kairos and Chronos





My entire life, I feel like I’ve been in conflict with managing my time.  It feels like an odd place to be since I am striving for ways to become a better version of myself.

Despite being actively aware there is a better way to behave, I have been woefully unable to create lasting change. I even bought a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen, and naturally, put off reading and implementing it.  I’m what you might call a lifelong procrastinator, so I’ve prioritized better understanding time and figuring out ways to create change that works for me.

The Greek language has a few different words that refer to time, Kairos, and Chronos.

Chronos is measured and counted, while Kairos is lived and experienced. Simply, Chronos is quantitative, and Kairos is qualitative. Kairos is identified at the right moment, the opportune moment.

Kairos is mindfulness, maintaining a beginner’s mind. Happiness comes with mindfulness, and I want to be happy. I recognize that life comes and goes fast, and it’s key to be present in the moment and know what’s important.

So is Kairos good and Chronos bad?

Not exactly. We need to start by reframing how we think about time.

Chronos is what we refer to when we say there isn’t enough time in the day. It’s how we spend our minutes – or what we do at a specific moment. Kairos is what we plan to do with our time and how we intentionally spend it.

When thinking of how we spend our time, first get the future out of your head and into a task list or checklist. When task planning, determine what’s essential; what’s important right now vs. important but not right now? What must you do to be able to sleep peacefully?

I love the old analogy of a busy pier. Any given day, there are numerous boats all trying to dock in – yet there are only so many spaces. Many things and people are vying for our time. We must be mindful of our capacity – and aim to minimize willful disruptions.

One technique I use is a scorecard to help minimize the amount of information I need to see a clear picture. I use this as my personal evaluation of my life. In business, I employ a scorecard to see our business’ financial health – both forward-looking and from past key metrics.

When it comes down to it, it’s not necessarily more “time” we all need but rather more reflection on how we treat the time we spend. What low-value activities am I doing that should be delegated? What do I need to say “no” to? What must I make more time for?

How do we create more moments of Kairos in our lives?

I love the old Japanese idiom “Ichi-go ichi-e,” which embodies the concept of treasuring the unrepeatable nature of a moment. Every moment is a unique opportunity.  Any moment in life cannot be repeated; even when the same group of people get together in the same place again, a particular gathering will never be replicated, and thus, each moment is always a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Food For Thought

How often are you watching a movie or TV show with your significant other, kids or friends – and one (or all) of you are also on your phone? How about “multitasking” while you are on a zoom call, or worse, sitting in a meeting?

Great attention should be given to every moment of our day. I’ve been reflecting more and identified a few experiences where I intentionally enjoyed the moment more, including trips with kids, playing in the backyard, teaching my kids to ride their bikes, date nights with my wife, playing team sports, tackling high-value work projects, team parties, family reunions, gym workouts. 

Maya Angelou rightfully said, “People won’t remember what you said; they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” This leads me to ask myself the tough question: how do I make others feel?


Reflection is key in every aspect of life. This allows us time to write, think, and be quiet to look for the opportunities we may have missed. We must proactively find ways to stay engaged rather than get distracted by technology. Reflection takes time, and I’ve met very few people who aren’t regularly busy. And what do we all have so little of? Thyme?

Learning requires change; if we don’t change, we don’t learn. Change is hard; if it were easy, everyone would do it.

In what ways can you better spend your time? What things are you doing that you shouldn’t be doing? What habits will you have to give up to create this change? How can you be more present during meetings, conversations, and moments with others? What small step forward can you take today that will help you remember your commitment to living a more memorable, meaningful Kairos life?




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