"Time - the one asset none of us are ever going to get more of."
“Wayne” is an awful boss. Wayne runs a company that is severely short-staffed. As a result, it's expected that everybody works well into the evening. If that's not enough, we're expected to take our work home with us so that we can work in the evenings and on the weekends.
This was my life for a short time. I'm unable to align my energy with my tasks and projects because my day was dictated to me by Wayne. That means that the workday was a drag because I'm trying to do one thing, but I'm not in the right frame of mind for that kind of work. Nor was I able to do anything for myself, on my own time. I didn't have my own time. By the time I got home from my long day, I have more work to do at home. By the time that was done, I was exhausted. It was time for bed.
To recap, Wayne controlled how I use my time and how much free time I have. Needless to say, I was very unhappy working for Wayne.
Having control over your time can add significant value to your life.
We All Get the Same Amount of Time
A day consists of 24 hours. 24-hours consists of 1,440 minutes. 1,440 minutes consist of 86,400 seconds. This fact is true, no matter who you are. We all have a choice about what to do with this time that we have.
Time can be spent on productivity. Time can be spent on hobbies. Time can be spent on leisure. Time can be spent on learning something new. Time can be spent to rest up and recharge your batteries. Time can be spent doing what someone else told us to do. Or, time can be wasted.
For many of us, this choice is ours. We get to choose how to spend this time. For others, there's not much choice. For those people, increasing that choice will increase their satisfaction and well-being.
We Don't Know How Much Time We Have
I just said that everybody gets the same time. Now I'm saying that we don't know how much time we have. It sounds contradictory, I know. Though we know how much time we have in a day, we do not know how many days we have. There's an old saying that our days are numbered, but we don't know the number of days.
There are no guarantees. This is important when you think about how you choose to spend the time you know you have. Are you using your limited time in a way that adds value to your life or adds value to others? Are you using your time in a way that you will be proud to look back on from your deathbed?
Happiness: Experiences Versus Stuff
Many people believe that we are our stuff, that the stuff that we buy says something about us. You're happier than those people.
In psychology, there is an idea called the hedonic treadmill. This is the idea that you are on a treadmill walking towards happiness in front of you, but you'll never get there because you're just spinning your wheels. You want to get new furniture or a new theater system or a new car, only to find out that the happiness only lasted for a short time. Then you need to buy something else to get happy again. Around and around you go.
Buying stuff fails to make us happy because it's always in front of us. We have to see it constantly. Then we have to see new versions come out. We have to see our neighbors and friends get better versions. We have to see it get used and be subject to wear and tear. We never really get a good memory of our stuff because we're always looking at it.
By comparison, experiences give us memories. We get memories of going on adventures. We get memories of spending time with our loved ones. We get memories of being afraid of something and overcoming that fear. We get memories of accomplishing something we didn't think we'd accomplish.
Even if these experiences are stressful, over time, we tend to remember the good aspects of these experiences, and we tend to forget the bad aspects of these experiences. This is called euphoric recall. Do you remember the last time you went on a vacation with your partner? How often did you fight about where to get dinner? If you're like most, you forgot about that. The rest of you remember it but laugh as you look back on it. Even the bad stuff is remembered as a good experience.
Buying Time to Buy Happiness
Experiences give us more happiness than stuff does. The obvious conclusion here is that our money is better spent on experiences than things. But experiences take time. If our best use of money is on experiences, then our second-best use of money is buying time. Buying time allows us to experience more experiences.
In addition to freeing up more time for experiences, we can get rid of spending our time on things that don't bring us joy. Don't waste time doing what you don't want to do. If you don't like raking leaves, you can hire somebody to rake your leaves. It’s is a twofer. You don't have to do the chore you don't like to do, and you now have time to go on a walk with your loved ones, or have a cup of coffee with them, or work on a painting, or simply take a nap. The choice is yours.
Now for the obvious caveat. My assumption here is that you are spending within your means. I’m not giving you an excuse to go into debt, hiring others to do everything for you. To the extent you have the money to buy time, buy time. If not, there are still ways for you to find more time. You just have to be more creative. And I have confidence that you can find ways.
Control Your Schedule
It's not just having free time that matters. It’s having control of when you use that free time that really adds value to your life. This will sound like hyperbole, but doing what you want when you want to do it is one of the best things you can do. You might think of this as autonomy. If you are always being told what to do and when to do it, you are in a situation where you are unable to align your energy with your tasks. Being given the flexibility to work on what you want to work on when you want to work on it will give you a better sense of satisfaction.
Another caveat, sometimes stuff just needs to be done. This is in no way a golden ticket to not do your work because you don't feel like it. That is a short-run problem that needs attention. In the long-run, I urge you to think about ways you can manipulate your calendar so that you can better align your work with your energy.
Control of your time and having more time will bring you more satisfaction. Start small, though. Don't swing for the fences if you've never been at-bat before. What is one thing you can do to better control your time and or find more time in the day?
You only have one life. Live intentionally.
Do you want to print this or view it offline? Download the PDF version.
Related Money Health® Reading
References and Influences
Scott Adams: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
Dan Ariely, Jeff Kreisler: Dollars and Sense
Morgan Housel: The Psychology of Money
Daniel Kahneman: Thinking Fast and Slow
Joshua Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus: Essential
Jason Zweig: Your Money and Your Brain
Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.
If you like this post, consider joining the Money Health community. There is no spam, just an email every Thursday when new posts come out.