Have you ever heard someone say they had some “time to kill”? (e.g. “We got here early, so we’ve got an hour to kill before the doors open.”) Whenever I hear this, I wonder why we use the word “kill” in this context. We each have a limited supply of time, and we can’t replace it once it’s gone. It seems the last thing we’d want to do is simply “kill” it.

Wouldn’t it be better to think about time in regards to how we’re going to “spend” it or “invest” it? These kinds of words remind us that although we can’t hold onto time, we can still get something in return.

You may think I’m being much too particular in focusing on this little phrase. And perhaps you’re right. But my concern is this idea of “killing time” may signify a lack of intentionality in our use of time.

If we tell ourselves we have an hour to kill, the implication is the main goal of the next hour is to get through it, not to use it well. But if we end up having an extra hour due to a cancelled meeting or arriving too early, and we ask ourselves how we want to “invest” that hour, our focus immediately shifts to how we can make the most of that hour, not simply how we can get through it.

This doesn’t mean we should always be working or producing. Sometimes making good use of our time means doing something markedly non-productive, like choosing to take a nap, or to play, or to talk with some friends. There are all kinds of valuable things we can do with our time—and on occasion we may even choose to do nothing at all. But the key is making these choices with intention.

There’s a saying, especially in business, that “time is money.” Time is valuable, and organizations are always looking for ways to save time and be more efficient. But time is also more than money. It’s the canvas for our lives. And although we cannot determine how much time we’ll have, we can choose how we’re going to use it.

Saying we have some time to “kill,” makes it sound like time isn’t that valuable—like it’s expendable. And we all know that’s not the case.