I recently encountered a new marketing tactic. Maybe you have seen it. It's called a "countdown timer." Marketers use it increasingly to build anticipation for an upcoming webinar or web page or other event launching soon.
As a new business owner, I embarked on a massive educational journey this past year. I noticed these countdown timers appearing in confirmation emails for some of the webinars to which I had subscribed. I found them uncomfortably compelling, and a little irritating. Marketers have discovered that this tactic is highly effective. The visible "in your face" reminder of remaining time apparently provokes people out to move of inertia and into action. It creates a sense of focused urgency that compels them to take a different action than they otherwise would when the concept of time is more abstract.
Wise ones counsel us to pay close attention to that which triggers any kind of "reaction" in us. So I wondered, what was it about this "in your face" tactic that disturbed me? A seasoned triathlete, I have a timer in my head. I am accustomed to breaking an available unit of time down into segments, seconds and milliseconds – be it to make the most of a training session, or every moment in a race. It's satisfying to feel every moment being spent in its highest and greatest potential. That's my barometer for victory - did I make the most and best use of every available moment? As a professional facilitator, this ability helps me help a group of people make the most of scarce time they have together to form the foundation for critical agreements. I help them remain acutely conscious of their time together so that they do not squander a moment of it on anything that does not contribute to what matters most to them. They frequently express gratitude when they reflect on how their time was spent.
So what was it about this that bothered me so? Familiar questions pierced: What if I applied this acute level of awareness of the finiteness of time to life? What different choices would I make? What different actions might I take?
The Bible tries to warn us that our time here is short. It goes so far as to describe us as “quick” or dead (this grim description of “quick” being far less welcome here than in a triathlon).
Last year, a cherished colleague received a dire diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. You could say the family was given a countdown timer. He was dead within months. A husband and father of a beautiful child, they made the most of every possible millisecond until their countdown time stopped.
One of my best friends lost her father without warning. There was no countdown timer. Today, as I contemplate the mundane question of whether I will use a countdown timer for upcoming webinars I am planning, the larger questions about life's countdown timers which exist - but that we cannot see - haunt me.
I do not want to know the exact time I have remaining. Nor the exact time remaining with my deepest loved ones. I am however profoundly grateful for the poignant, if unwelcome, reminder that we all indeed do have countdown timers. And like proverbial sands through the hourglass, they are running.
To paraphrase von Goethe ~ What do I need to see, say, hear, do, be or rejoice in... with or to whom? How about you? Whatever that is, may we both commence it now.