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50 Handpicked Time Quotes from Notable Thinkers Throughout History

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Time–it’s something that we create, spend and waste without even thinking about it. 

Often we think of it as an endless commodity, but in the words of Buddha, at least according to Jack Kornfield in Buddha’s Little Instruction Book, “The trouble is, you think you have time.”

Though you can’t stop the ticking of the clock, you can decide how to get the most from the hours you do have.

There are thousands of quotes about time on the internet, but these handpicked time quotes are from the most notable thinkers throughout history. 

Through hard work and dedication, they learned how to make the most of their time, and using their guidance, knowledge and wisdom, you can too!

Best time quotes of all time

As inspiring and motivational as quotations can be, they’re not all created equally!

Below, we’ve collated the best time quotes of all time from some of the best and brightest minds in history.

1. “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”

-Harvey Mackay

As a seven-time New York Times bestselling author, Harvey Mackay knows a thing or two about effective time management!

His most famous books are Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt. 

This short but effective time quote highlights the importance of using your time wisely–for once it’s gone, you can never get it back. 

2. “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

-Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy was a Russian writer who is considered to be one of the greatest authors of all time. Whether he truly is the author of the above quote remains in question; despite the fact that it is popularly attributed to him online. 

Tolstoy died in 1910, but not before producing some of the world’s finest literature, including Anna Karenina and War and Peace.

The character of General Kutuzov from War and Peace may be where the quote originated. In the book he says, “But believe me, my dear boy, there is nothing stronger than those two: patience and time” and also refers to patience and time as his “warriors” and “champions.”

To create these novels would have taken both patience and time–but as Tolstoy proves through his work, when you combine the two they are a powerful recipe for success.

3. “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.”

-Theophrastus.

When you think of value, what springs to mind? For many, it will be thoughts of houses, land, cars and other material possessions.

However, Greek philosopher Theophrastus wanted us to consider that time, though not a physical commodity, is still the most valuable thing that we can spend.

The quote above is actually from Diogenes Laertius’ biography on Greek philosophers, which attributes this attitude to Theophrastus.

4. “The most precious resource we all have is time.”

-Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and chairman of Pixar, was one of the most famous and influential entrepreneurs of all time. 

However, he of all people understood just how precious the gift of time was when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2003.

Towards the end of his life, Jobs authored many quotes about time and how life comes into perspective when you haven’t got much of it left. This is perhaps one of his most famous and powerful time quotes from before he died in 2011.

5. “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

-George Orwell

George Orwell was an English writer best known for his novels Animal Farm and 1984

This time quote is paraphrased and extracted from 1984, a dystopian novel set in a reality where the country is controlled by a single political party. 

The meaning behind this time quote is that the totalitarian government in the novel believes they can rewrite history by being in complete control of the present.

6. “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This time quote is from the novel The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. 

It was first published in England in 1943, then published later in France after Saint-Exupéry’s death as his work had been banned by the Vichy Regime.

The meaning behind the quote is that time that you enjoy wasting can never be classed as wasted time.

7. “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”

-Stephen R. Covey

Stephen R. Covey is the author behind the international best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

He devoted his life to teaching people how to become more productive with their time. The meaning behind this time quote is that time should be seen as an investment in yourself–from your happiness to education, finances and well-being.

8. “Time is nature’s way to keep everything from happening all at once.”

-John Archibald Wheeler

John Archibald Wheeler was an American theoretical physicist and the first American physicist to be involved in the conceptualization of the atomic bomb.

As is the case with many famous internet quotations, various versions of the above time quote are attributed not only to Wheeler but also author Mark Twain and essayist Susan Sontag. Wheeler himself claimed he saw the quote as graffiti in a public bathroom. 

9. “Regret for wasted time is more wasted time.”

-Mason Cooley

Mason Cooley was a renowned American aphorist who was known for creating intelligent and witty aphorisms. 

This time quote highlights the importance of not dwelling on mistakes made in the past as they cannot be changed. However, you do have the power to change your future. 

10. “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”

-Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was a famous American actor and martial artist who was best known for his roles in Fist of Fury, The Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon and The Game of Death.

This quote about time makes us consider how we are currently spending our days–if we are making the most of our lives, or if we are wasting our days.

11. “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

-Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was the founder of the theory of evolution by natural selection and one of the most famous biologists of all time. 

In this time quote from his autobiography, he discusses how precious the gift of time is – and how those who willingly throw even an hour away have not yet discovered its value.

12. “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste much of it”

-Seneca

Seneca was one of the most famous Roman philosophers of all time and is widely known for his contributions to Stoic thought.

The Stoics were known for their commitment to living life purposefully–wasting time was not part of their daily routine. 

In order to live a meaningful, productive life the gift of time was one to be cherished, not wasted away in fruitless tasks and other anxious thoughts. 

13. “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

-Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was one of the key artists in the pop art movement of the 1960s. 

People often say that things will change and to “just give it time.” However, this time quote forces you to take back responsibility for your life and how you want things to go.

14. “We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.”

-John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States of America and the youngest to be elected to office.

How many times have you said the phrase “But I don’t have time!” as an excuse not to do something? The meaning behind this time quote is to not use a lack of time as an excuse–as doing so will only hinder your own personal progress.

15. “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

-Bil Keane

There are millions of quotes about time but out of them all, this is one you’ve probably heard before. 

Bil Keane, the American cartoonist, is often credited with authorship, although as with many popular quotes there is some debate about the true origins.

Whatever the case, this quote beautifully describes what a gift the present day is and how we should appreciate it at all times.

16. “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

-Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was a South African revolutionary, activist and former president of the nation; however, his influence is known across the world. 

He devoted his life to fighting for justice and was passionate about changing the institutionalized discrimination of Black people in South Africa.

He was living proof that the time is always ripe to do right.

17. “…Old Time, that greatest and longest established spinner of all!…His factory is a secret place, his work is noiseless, and his hands are mutes.”

-Charles Dickens

Author Charles Dickens is responsible for the creation of so many of our favorite characters– from Oliver Twist to Ebenezer Scrooge. 

This time quote is excerpted from the internal monolog of a character from one of his lesser-known novels, Hard Times. 

Time is personified in this time quote as a spinner or weaver, but one whose workings are mysterious–just like the workings of time and fate.

18. “Don’t wait. The time will never be ‘just right.’”

-Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill was one of the first self-help authors of all time. In 1937 he published Think and Grow Rich which is still among the bestselling self-help books of all time. 

We are all guilty of using the excuse that “it’s just not the right time”. However, if you put off doing things in life because it’s not the right time, you’ll be waiting forever–as the right time simply doesn’t exist. 

19. “Time expands, then contracts, all in tune with the stirrings of the heart.”

-Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is a Japanese novelist with a powerful talent for engaging and immersive storytelling. 

He’s the author behind bestselling books A Wild Sheep Chase, Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. 

In this beautiful time quote from his novel Kafka on the Shore, the character ponders the fluidity of time and how it is entwined with our hearts and desires. 

20. “There is not enough time to do all the nothing we want to do.”

-Bill Watterson

Bill Watterson is a famous American cartoonist and creator of the beloved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes”, a daily comic strip described as the “last great newspaper comic strip.”

This time quote is from a single panel comic featuring the eponymous characters of the strip, and can be read as a comment on how there is never enough time to enjoy doing nothing. 

Time quotes that will make you appreciate the scarcity of time

When you’re a child, summers seem to stretch on forever and you can’t wait to grow up. Yet the older we get, the more time seems to pass us by in a flash. 

Before long, we’re left wondering just where all the time went. But fear not! These handpicked time quotes will help you appreciate the scarcity of time. 

21. “Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.”

-Robert Orben

The passing of time is inevitable–and this is something that Robert Orben, the American comedy writer, knew all too well. 

Orben has led a rich and varied life, from writing his famous newsletter of one-liners, Orben’s Current Comedy and books for magicians to speech writing speechwriter for former U.S. Vice President Gerard R. Ford. 

He wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of this without learning how to become the master of his own time.

22. “But meanwhile time flies; it flies never to be regained.”

-Virgil

Virgil was a famous Roman poet and author of the Eclogues, the Georgics and the Aeneid–three poems that are often described as some of the very best in Latin literature. 

Virgil’s time quote serves as a poetic reminder that regardless of what we are doing, when time has passed it can never be regained.

23. “When you get a groove going, time flies.”

-Donald Fagen

This time quote is popularly attributed to Donald Fagen, an American musician and lead singer of the 1970s hit band Steely Dan whose hits include “Reelin’ in the Years”, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and “Peg.” Fagen later went on to release four albums as a solo artist.

He’s spent his whole working career getting a groove going–and as we know, time flies when you’re having fun! 

24. “Life is so fast. And I still remember when I came up to the big leagues and played as if it were yesterday. Time flies.”

-Asdrubal Cabrera

This time quote is from Asdrubal Cabrera, a professional utility infielder for the Washington Nationals of U.S. Major League Baseball. 

You may often hear famous sportspeople describe their glory days as if they were yesterday. But time moves on, and time moves quickly.

We must always remember to appreciate the present because before you know it, it’ll be gone. 

25. “Time flies, whether you’re wasting it or not.”

-Crystal Woods

Crystal Woods is one of the co-authors of two self-published e-books, Write Like No One is Reading and Write Like No One is Reading 2. This quote about time (which she attributes to herself) is featured in the second. 

The fact is, time is always ticking. Whether you’re lounging on the sofa binge-watching Netflix, reading a book, or cooking a meal, it’s important to really make the most of your time and partake in activities mindfully. 

26. “Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.”

-Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist who wrote about mortality, history and religion in the 19th century. 

This slightly sinister quote about time is from his gothic fiction novel The Marble Faun, and it reminds us that although time flies, you carry the weight of your past experiences around with you long after the event has passed.

27. “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

-Michael Altshuler

This quote about time is attributed to Michael Altshuler, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker who began his entrepreneurial journey at 22, starting what would later become a multi-million dollar copier business. 

He managed to break into an extremely niche and competitive sector, so if anyone knows how to be the master of his own destiny, it’s him!

28. “Time flies so fast. Day by day left us. With or without smiles, the new days will come.”

-Nunki Artura

You don’t have to be famous to have something important to say about time. This beautiful time quote by Nunki Artura, a Goodreads user, serves as a reminder that no matter what happens, a new day will always be upon us before we know it.

With this in mind, we owe it to ourselves to really make the most of each and every day and not take our time for granted. 

29. “It is impossible for me to remember how many days or weeks went by in this way. Time is round, and it rolls quickly.”

-Nikos Kazantzakis

Nikos Kanzantzakis was a Greek philosopher and writer, known for his contributions to modern Greek literature. 

His most famous novels include Zorba the Greek, Christ Recrucified, and The Last Temptation of Christ

The above quote about time is from his novel God’s Pauper: St Francis of Assisi.

30. “It seemed time flies when you aren’t having fun.”

-Jason Medina

Contrary to one of the most famous time quotes, “time flies when you’re having fun,” author Jason Medina seems to believe the opposite–that time flies when you aren’t having fun. 

This time quote is from The Manhattanville Incident: An Undead Novel, a collection of short fiction stories about a zombie apocalypse.

Time quotes for taking things one day at a time

The modern world is busy and hectic and now, more than ever, it’s important to take time out from our busy schedules to appreciate the important things in life.

To tackle this, we’ve got a selection of time quotes to make you step back, think and appreciate the joys of taking everything one day at a time. 

31. “I try to live my life one day at a time, and if I look too far in advance, I get really stressed.”

-Hope Solo 

This time quote, attributed to American soccer player Hope Solo, is one we can all relate to!

Though planning your schedule is crucial if you want to achieve your goals, it’s important to remember not to get too hung up on things that are ultimately outside of your control. 

32. “I’m just taking it one day at a time. Actually, that’s a total lie. I always think about what’s in front of me.”

-Julianne Hough

Julianne Hough is an actress and dancer who is probably best known for her appearance on the hit show Dancing with the Stars, whose thoughts on time are featured on her IMDb page. 

This quote about time is a great reminder to take things one step further than just focusing on one day a time–focus on every task at hand. Do one thing, but make sure you do it mindfully and without distraction. 

33. “I never have planned a whole lot of future. It’s one day at a time.”

Darrell Royal

Darrell Royal was an American football player and Head Coach at Mississippi State University, among others, and the above time quote is one of many sayings popularly attributed to him during his storied career. 

Considering Royal supposedly hadn’t planned his future, he achieved some incredible things in his life–a stadium in Texas was renamed in his honor.

He’s proof that sometimes, working hard and just winging it can get you exactly where you need to be. 

34. “My philosophy is to take one day at a time. I don’t worry about the future. Tomorrow is even out of sight for me.”

-Bobby Darin

Tomorrow is a brand new day–which can be both a good and a bad thing! 

To keep focused on the day at hand is a sure-fire way to feel like you’re in control of your time. American singer and songwriter Bobby Darin had the right idea!

The time quote above, attributed to Darin on various quote aggregators, is about exactly that.

35. “Everybody is looking for instant success, but it doesn’t work that way. You build a successful life one day at a time.”

Lou Holtz

Right now, we live in an instant gratification society. When it comes to things that take time–like building a career or a solid, loving relationship, people struggle to work hard and have patience.

Lou Holtz is a successful American football coach whose career has seen him become the Head Coach for North Carolina State University, The New York Jets and the University of Notre Dame–to name but a few.

As suggested in the time quote above, for which he’s credited on multiple quote sites, Holtz knows better than most the hard work, graft and tenacity it takes to build a successful life and career–and that all starts with showing up and giving your all on a daily basis. 

36. “Big things are built one brick at a time. Victories are achieved one choice at a time. A life well lived is chosen one day at a time.”

-Lysa TerKeurst

You’ll often hear people say that you can choose to have a positive mindset and the same is true when it comes to living a good life. 

This inspiring time quote from Christian author and speaker Lysa TerKeurst serves as a reminder that each journey begins with a single step.

37. “One day at a time is all we do. One day at a time is good for you.”

-John Lennon

John Lennon of the Beatles was one of the most famous musicians of all time and hardly needs any introduction.

This quote about time is actually from the lyrics of Lennon’s song “One Day (At A Time),” one of his many lasting musical legacies. It urges us to enjoy life, one day at a time. 

38. “Live one day at a time and make it a masterpiece.”

Dale West

Some credit the Dalai Lama with this quote about time, others credit musician Dale West. 

Whatever the truth of the matter, what holds true is that if you’re going to live one day a time, the least you can do for yourself is make that one day exemplary.

39. “I believe in one day at a time; you’ve got today, that’s what you’ve got.”

-Al Pacino

Al Pacino is an American actor and famous filmmaker who is best known for his roles in Serpico, The Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon and Scent of a Woman. This quote about time is from a book by writer Lawrence Grobel, in response to Grobel’s question, “Do you have a philosophy?”

As an actor, Pacino has had a career where it’s easy to get caught up worrying about the future of a film or role. However Pacino’s approach to take things one day at a time sounds like great advice for remaining focused and relaxed, even when you’re in a stressful career.

40. “Always remember that the future comes one day at a time.”

-Dean Acheson

Dean Acheson was the former United States Secretary of State and played a pivotal role in American foreign policy during the Cold War. 

He credited an old lady for giving him this advice, which he admitted was wise advice, but not the full truth.

In any case, Acheson’s career demonstrates that taking things one step at a time can benefit you, no matter how high-powered or stressful your career is. 

Time quotes for better time management 

When you’re busy, it can feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day.

But instead of wishing for more time, why not do some work to make your time more productive instead?

Good time management is the secret to thousands of peoples’ success. And the good news is, you can learn to be more productive with your time. And you can start today

These inspiring time quotes for better time management are a great place to start. 

41. “He who every morning plans the transactions of that day and follows that plan carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.”

-Victor Hugo

Planning is a key element of good time management. Without a good plan in place, you can’t possibly hope to manage your time efficiently. 

Victor Hugo was a French poet and writer whose career spanned more than 60 years. Hugo is the author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Whether he is also the author of the above time quote, or whether the credit belongs to a book of English grammar remains in question.

But as you can see from this time quote, it does seem like it would have been hard for Hugo to navigate his busy life without practicing good time management.

42. “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24-hour days.”

-Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar was an American author, businessman, and motivational speaker who was passionate about helping others to achieve their dreams in life. 

Time does not discriminate. Regardless of your age, gender, occupation or race, we all have the same amount of hours in the day and a choice over what we do with those hours. 

Ziglar believed that it was a lack of direction that prevented people from achieving their goals–not a lack of time. He too preached the benefits of planning to use your time in a more efficient way.

43. “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

-Abraham Lincoln

This quote by Abraham Lincoln is one of the most famous quotes about time in existence, and exists in various permutations online.

The origins of this time quote, too, are somewhat murky. According to Quote Investigator, the quote should not be attributed to Lincoln. However, the meaning behind these words are fairly clear: Adequate preparation is key when it comes to doing a task efficiently. 

If one started trying to chop down the tree straight away, the axe wouldn’t be sharp enough and the task would take longer and be harder to do. 

The point is to think about the most efficient way you can approach a task before getting started. 

44. “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”

-George S. Patton

George S. Patton was a man with a celebrated military career. As one of the most highly regarded generals in the U.S. Army, he played a pivotal part in the defeat of the Nazis in Germany.

It therefore is reasonable to presume that Patton was used to thinking on his feet in order to survive. This time quote suggests that it’s better to execute a good plan with conviction now than to be a perfectionist and wait until the following week before taking action. 

45. “Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.”

-Lord Chesterfield

This quote about time, which can be found in  a volume of letters that Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (better known as Lord Chesterfield) wrote to his son.

As Chesterfield writes in his letter, this is a riff on the familiar saying about money: “Take care of the pence; for the pounds will take care of themselves.” However, the same principle can be applied to time.

46. “It’s not enough to be industrious, so are the ants. The question is, what are you industrious about?”

-Henry David Thoreau

We love to tell people how busy we are. But actually, being busy isn’t inherently good–what matters is what we’re busy about, and being productive.

Thoreau wrote the above in a letter to his friend, according to Thoreau scholar Jeffrey S. Cramer, but the quote lives online in various forms, with the word “busy” sometimes taking the place of “industrious.” 

Whatever the word, busy and industrious imply a state of constant worrying– rushing around from one task to the next.

On the other hand, people who are good at time management may have a lot going on, but are able to cope with it in a calmer, more manageable way. 

47. “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door”

-Coco Chanel

Famous designer Coco Chanel was known for her quips, but this quote about time is one of her most poignant, even if, as some sources claim, the words were actually said by American radio personality Laura Schlessinger.

Either way, the meaning behind this quote is that you should not waste time on fruitless activities.

In the same way that you will never turn a wall into a door, spending time on tasks that won’t give you the outcome you desire should be avoided if you want to remain productive. 

48. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

-Chinese Proverb

Chinese proverbs are known for their wisdom and this one is no exception. This one means that if you want success and prosperity in the future, the best time to start is now. 

It’s never too late to plant the seeds for your future, but the more you delay the longer you will have to wait for those seeds to grow.

49. “Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today.”

-Wayne Dyer

We’re all guilty of procrastinating. When you procrastinate, you busy yourself with thoughts and tasks that are anything other than what you know you should be doing.

This time quote was adapted from the following passage in author Dyer’s bestselling self-help book Your Erroneous Zones; Dyer gives humorist Don Marquis credit for the first part of the quote.

“Donald Marquis called procrastination ‘the art of keeping up with yesterday.’ To this I would add, “and avoiding today.” 

Dyer is often called the “Father of Motivation.” He dedicated his life to helping people become more productive and better at managing their time.

This quote reminds us to not busy our minds with the tasks of yesterday and instead focus our time, and energy, on the present. 

50. “You may delay, but time will not.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Our final quote is from Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. 

This short and sweet time quote serves as a reminder that although we may delay and procrastinate, time will not. It is forever ticking by and we owe it to ourselves to make the most of it!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this extensive list of inspiring, motivational and uplifting time quotes from some notable thinkers throughout history. 

If these quotes have inspired you to become more productive and really make the most of your time, we can do even more to help.  

Our simple, effective time tracking software can revolutionize the way you and your team work. 

At the click of a button, you can quickly and easily see where you’re spending (or wasting) time at work and ways that you can be more productive. 

Find out how we can help you to wave goodbye to distractions, and say hello to productivity.




July 29, 2020