My answer: time
The question: what is your most valuable possession or resource?
The older I get, and the more experience I gain, the more protective I am of my time. We are all marching towards the same destiny, the day we each run out of time. Time cannot be bought, but it can be wasted, it can be wished away, and it is certainly can be taken for granted. I think the most troubling thing about time is we really don’t know when we will run out of it; it could be in ten years, thirty years or tomorrow. Here goes a brief insight into how I view and manage my time and why it has become my most valuable resource and the primary driver in my life.
Selling your time
Sadly we are not all born rich. Which means that for most of us we grow-up, we go to college, then we go to work for 40 or 50 years and then try to squeeze in as much ‘life’ as possible into the remaining time we have left. I have certainly been blinded by this dogma for the majority of my life. I have been focused on the money side of the equation. How much can I earn? What can I buy with that money? How do I earn more money?
The Equations: Wage x Time = Income
Now I am focused on the time side of the equation. How long do I have to work (trade my time for money) to buy that thing or go on that trip? For example, let’s say I earn $20 per hour and I want to buy a new pair of shoes that I don’t really need, I just think they are freakin sexy. Those sexy shoes will cost me $140. So, I will have to work seven hours to pay for those shoes, which I really don’t need. Well okay, due to taxes and other withholdings I will probably have to work eight hours to have the cash for those shoes.
So now I am faced with trading an entire day of work, a fifth of my work week, eight hours of my life, in exchange for something that I do not need. While I may get some instant gratification from the purchase and how great they make my hairy legs look, those eight hours of my life are gone and I will soon relinquish those shoes to a back corner of my closet. In this example, replace the shoes for any number of things that are ‘wants’ or ‘nice to have’ items, but are not necessary for you to be happy, live, or achieve your goals or dreams.
So you see, I view financial cost in terms of my time. As I have to trade my time for money, I am actually paying with time, not money. (There is a movie that captures this perfectly – “In Time” starring Justin Timberlake, check it out!) Money is just the result of the transaction with my employer. I cannot gain or buy more time, after all, it is an endless and constant deduction from the time bank. This has made me very cautious about how I spend money, as I know further down the line, I am going to have to trade more of my time, to fill in that missing money.
Now I am not a tight ass with my money. Okay, maybe I am just on this side, of being a tight ass. I buy things that bring me only momentary satisfaction and things that don’t fit into any life plan. I mean life should be enjoyed, not endured. But that is my point, in order to enjoy life, you need to have more time to do the things you want. The less I need to earn, the more time I have to do what I want and chase the dreams that keep me fulfilled.
How I spend time
How people spend their time is a very personal and individual element of life. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. However, you choose to spend your time is your choice; my opinion on how you spend your time should never alter your course. In short, don’t compare how you spend time to anyone else….you are not them and they are not you.
I am merely providing some insight into how I spend or prioritize my time as an example. How I decide to spend my time is not a simple equation or a clear-cut path that fits every facet of life. But here are just a couple of the guiding principles I utilize when deciding how to spend my time regardless of the situation.
What feels right
Gut intuition is nothing to be ignored. It is so easy to let your brain rationalize what it wants. It takes serious practice to learn how to listen to yourself over the chatter that our minds create. But as our thought processes are affected by sleep, food, work, partners, etc., it is important to keep things loose, keep things in perspective and make decisions based on what feels true for you.
How long will I have to work to pay for this?
I don’t like trading my time for money. If I have to work a month to pay for a trip to Ireland, sold, I am in. If I have to work a month to pay for a night at a fancy restaurant, well…I don’t think so. The more I work, the more time I take away from my family, friends, and my ability to chase my dreams. The more selective I am with what I purchase, more selective I can be on how I spend my time.
What do I value the most?
The obvious answer for me is time. But digging one step deeper is how I spend my time. I would much rather spend time outside hiking or climbing with my wife, than mowing a yard or paying bills. The challenge here is to know what you want and what you don’t want. You need to be able to say to yourself, “I value my time doing X, therefore I will make an effort to spend more time doing that compared to other things I don’t enjoy.” Of course, we all need to pay bills and do other chores we don’t enjoy. The message here is to be able to place value on your time and reduce the amount of time you spend doing things you do not value. We spend a lot of time doing things we don’t enjoy, that is part of life. But it is amazing how much we can reduce that amount by paying attention to WHY we are spending so much time doing those things.
If I was going to die tomorrow
Now, this is a dangerous tool. It is VERY easy to let this thought process justify buying anything your heart desires because who cares, you are going to be dead tomorrow. The spirit of this line of thought is to keep perspective. Boil things down to their simplest forms and go from there. This isn’t needed when gauging whether or not to buy a pack of gum, just buy it if you want it. This is more about keeping the perspective that time is running out, not everything is of equal value, focus on what’s important, and don’t let other people influence how you spend your time
Comparing your life and time usage to others
No two people are alike. No two people are living the exact same lives. So do not compare your life to others. If someone is working 80-hour work weeks to buy a bigger home or to simply get by, that is there need/ want/world. There is no reason for you to match that time spend, just because they are doing it. If working 80 hour weeks is your path to achieve your goals, so be it. But just make sure they are your goals and you are not chasing down someone else, on the path to their goals.
Spending too much time analyzing and planning
It is easy to overthink and analyze how you spend your time. It is a best practice to put some guidelines in place to help you make decisions on how you spend your time. But do not create spreadsheets and break down your every hour of the day. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to identify and pay attention to wasted time or missed opportunities, but don’t get bogged down in the process. Make mistakes, learn from them, and then adjust.
Not spending enough time analyzing and planning
At the same time, a totally unplanned or unstructured venture can easily allow old habits to slide back into play. Evaluate decision and outcomes. Reflect on feelings. Discuss thoughts with others. Don’t just trust that thinking about your time is taking you in the right direction. Adjust your efforts, keep an eye on your goals, and don’t be afraid to scrap the plan and start anew.
Time at work is time away from loved ones and from you. You owe it to your family, friends, and yourself to spend as much time with ‘them’ as possible. My whole goal of this blog is to share how I approach the element of time. I find the fact that one day I will run out of time to be very motivating and liberating. Some believe that this thought process is morbid. But for me, it is a good thing I don’t care what they think.
I hope this inspires you to move “time” up on the list of things you value as well as, look at time differently. Reducing things in life that take time from you and spending more time with those you love and doing things that make you happy will never be something you regret. Tick, tock…..tick, tock….