Do you know the saying “time is money”? Or have you ever heard someone say “What about the value of your time?”. This is a legitimate and powerful life principle, but for some reason, I only hear people use it when they want to:
- Get out of doing something
- Get me to stop doing something, secure in their belief that they know better how to manage my time than I do.
For example, when I bought my fixer upper house and began fixer-ing and upper-ing, a well-meaning onlooker strolled by to caution me about how long this would take. As I politely dismissed their concerns, assuring them that I was both young and healthy enough for the task, they rolled out the “Well what about the value of your time?” argument.
I quickly recognized that I was now dealing with someone wise and intelligent, with a well-planned out vision for their future, as well as mine. I quickly abandoned my task, asked them to allow me to study their ways, and begin my tutelage under their mastery, later retreating to the house to watch re-runs of American Idol on the Lifetime channel…
Just kidding. I went right on working while they went inside, presumably to watch the Lifetime channel (yes, I’m talking trash about the Lifetime channel). While I worked I got to thinking more about this concept. Why is it that I only hear it brought up when someone is trying to sound sophisticated about avoiding work? After all, it’s not like any of the people that have ever approached me with this line of thought were going to be paid for anything other than their 9-to-5 job.
If time is money – are you spending yours wisely?
In fact, these were often people with money problems. So if they go home and work on a project, it’s not like they are forfeiting any higher-paying option. Also, since they were using their time to caution me about the impending peril of my lost time, I think it’s safe to say they weren’t going to spend meaningful time connecting with loved ones or seeking a higher truth. If time is money, they aren’t in a position to judge how I spend mine.
I believe this is called “opportunity cost”. I know that time with kids, family, and loved ones are indeed important and invaluable. Which is why you should be working your ass off now to build a lifestyle that gives you as much free time to do what you choose and with whom you choose later on.
From what I could tell, the ‘time is money’ concept started to break down into two separate views; an argument for the monetary value of time, and a case for the emotional value of quality time, and every time I’d explore the idea with one of my time-centric friends, they’d switch between them. If it became obvious that there was no money to be gained by time, they’d just switch over to the emotional side of the argument, and vice versa.
Make your time money.
The more I examined the idea of time value, the more questions I started to come up with. What about the times of the day when there are just gaps in your schedule? 20 minutes before an appointment, 10 minutes before your next task, etc. Most people couldn’t be paid because it’s only a small chunk of an hour here or there. Most people can’t exactly jump in their car and get over to the office, do some work, and get back that quickly.
But you could do a task if you’re already home, you could use that time to organize your tasks in a way that doesn’t waste time, making that time more valuable than it would have been because now it produced something of value for your life. You can shift otherwise worthless moments in your day to free up more time in areas where it matters. Areas where you decide. After all, things still need to get done and you’ll still have to do them.
The little things are valuable in the long run.
In five minutes you could take out the trash, do some dishes, sweep, do some squats, cut a few boards (if you’re into that sort of thing), move building supplies around your back yard (ok, maybe that’s not your thing, but you get the idea), water your garden, make a dent in clearing out some clutter, send an email, build a list of supplies, strategize for next week, or look up the answer to a question that would improve your life.
With a few hours on the weekend, you could take care of some car maintenance, run some errands, cook meals for the week, and still have plenty of time to play in your day. What about time when you’re stuck waiting? In airports, in cars, on buses or trains, or waiting for the plumber, or waiting for the babysitter?
Every hour you spend working your day job is really spent to buy back things that cost money or time. Things that wouldn’t cost money if you did them yourself, magically making you need less money. Break the cycle! Stop trading your time during the week for money, and then pouring that money back into self-inflicted expenses, ensuring that you’ll need to work more to pay off the debt.
You have enough time, you just need to capture it better.
Time is money when you use it to:
- earn money
- save the money you already earned (DIY!)
- learn skills that will earn or save even more money
Think about it this way, for a large portion of people, this means that for the first one or two weeks of the month, you are going to work, forfeiting your time, just to make enough money to pay for rent/mortgage.
Emotionally Valuable or Financially Valuable?
All time in the day does not have the same value. Would you trade your highest energy hours of the day for the lunch-coma, drowsy hours? I wouldn’t, even if there was no money involved. Why would I want to have the worst end of my energy curve sold back to me at a premium? Most people would get a much higher return in their life by simply taking action and being better at time management.
At the end of the day, I guess the thing that bugs me the most about the ‘time is money’ argument is not so much the poor application of the principal, the un-pragmatic mentality, or the blatant attempts to avoid work. It’s that someone is trying to tell me what to do with my time, under the guise of condescending constructive criticism. After all, who knows better what value you put on your time, monetary or emotional, than you do?
Chase your goals, dreams and ambitions, and don’t get detoured by sedentary detractors and skewed logic. You can have anything in this life that you work and earn. It will take more working than playing. At least in the beginning.
Make sure you are on the right side of the time-is-money equation so that one day you can sit back and not work so hard, owning a life that’s on cruise control later because of your efforts when you were younger.