Time is one of the few things you can’t buy.
Of course, you can purchase “time-saving” gadgets and gismos. You can pay a maid to clean your house, or a personal assistant to answer your emails. But you’ll never have more than twenty-four hours in a day.
Time is priceless. It’s also constant: you don’t have to do anything to make an hour go by. You’ll have experienced time flying past (at a great party) or crawling (at 4pm on Friday) – but you know that, regardless of how it feels, the minutes tick by at the same objective speed.
Once a day has gone past, you’ll never get it back.
In many ways, time is the most precious thing that we have. Yet most of us treat our time as though it has hardly any value at all.
How We De-Value Our Time
If a new friend asked you to give them $10, you’d probably be very surprised at the request. You might feel angry or awkward, and you might well refuse. The fact that they even asked would affect your friendship, and would make you see them in a poorer light.
But if that same person emailed and asked you for a favor that took half an hour of your time, you might well provide it. You certainly wouldn’t think that their request was cheeky or out of the ordinary.
Now, often, we do favors for friends because we like them and because we know that they’ll repay us in the future. That’s reasonable enough. But it’s very easy to end up spending your time on all sorts of requests. Because you’re being asked for time – which is hard to value – you don’t consider what you’re losing.
How Much Is An Hour of Your Time Worth?
It’s hard to put an exact value on an hour of your time, though you could start with whatever your employer pays you (or whatever you charge clients, if you’re self-employed). There’s a strong relationship between your time – the hours that you work – and your bank balance – what you get paid.
You could also consider what you’d pay for an extra hour of free time. What would be a reasonable rate to pay a child-minder to take care of your kids, for instance, or someone to cover your chores for you?
Time is, of course, worth more than just dollars. But putting a monetary value on your time can help you realize that it does indeed have a value.
Reclaiming Your Time
So, how do you take back more of your precious time? First, recognize how valuable it is. Realize that you won’t ever get back the day, week or year that’s just gone past.
- Look for a job that you find fun and fulfilling – instead of spending forty hours a week doing something that you dislike.
- Get better at saying “no” to people who ask you for a favor.
- Hang up on cold-callers who want “just a few minutes of your time”.
- Start to eliminate activities which take up time without giving you much reward.
- Avoid spending lots of money on things that you don’t really want or need. The more you spend, the more you’ll need to work.
- Conversely, don’t be afraid to spend a little bit of money to save a lot of time.
Your time is priceless. Are you treating it that way?