We’ve all heard it: time is money. But time isn’t just money. It’s relationships. It’s influence. It’s health. And it’s running out. Are you just going to watch it go?
What do you value the most in this world? Is it your relationships? Your money? Your health? There are plenty of things we believe we can’t live without. The fact is, though, that most of these things can be earned back, if not replaced.
When you lose a relationship, you can put in the work to repair it or you can begin a new relationship. When you lose your money, you can work hard to earn it back—or maybe scratch a lucky lotto ticket. When your health is on the fritz, you undergo treatment until you get better.
The real trouble comes when you don’t have time.
Without time, there’s no way to earn and preserve the things we want. See, make proper use of time and time can afford you the things you value most. Spend your time recklessly and you’ll be lucky to not be left loveless, sick, and poor.
Time as a Resource
When we think of resources, we think of physical things: oil, precious metals, natural gas. But resources don’t need to be tangible. In fact, some of our most valuable resources aren’t things that we can touch or hold at all.
WealthFit defines wealth as an abundance of three major resources: money, influence, and time. Time is a particularly valuable resource. Without it, we cannot achieve the other two.
Time has value. Time can be spent or it can be saved. Time can be invested and, done wisely, investing time can give us more time later on.
Calculate the Value of Your Time
Somebody who puts time into their friends and family is going to create stronger relationships than somebody who spends most of their time alone. Likewise, somebody who puts time in at the gym is going to have a healthier body than someone who spends their time sitting on the couch eating potato chips. Everything comes down to how you spend your time.
Since time is a resource, it’s important to know how much your time is worth.
Luckily, you can calculate the value of your time. There are two calculations you can use: realized income calculations and expected value calculations. Realized income calculations will help you determine the value of your hour while expected value calculations will help you prioritize your tasks by value. Let’s calculate your time’s value using something with concrete value that virtually everybody cares about: money.
Realized Income Calculation
The most effective calculation you can use to discern the value of your time is a realized income calculation. Realized income calculations are pretty cut and dry. They’re based on the income you already make and the time you already spend. To calculate realized income, you need to look at just two things: the amount of time you spend earning money and the amount of money you make during that time.
Time you spend earning money
You need to consider how much time you’re working. The time you spend working is made up of the hours you spend at your job, on your commute, reading books to familiarize yourself with industry concepts, your side hustles, and any other work-related time investment you can think of.
It’s easy to figure out the exact number of hours you dedicate to work a year. Just multiply the average number of hours you dedicate to work every day by the number of days you work each year.
If you need some help, here’s a frame of reference—the average worker works roughly 251 days a year, and dedicates 10 hours to their work per day. That’s 2,510 hours every year. Most people dedicate between 2,000 and 3,000 hours to work each year.
Your take-home pay.
Again, there’s room for confusion here. Your take-home pay is not your salary. Your take-home pay is your salary after taxes.
If you receive a salary or hourly wages, just check out one of your average paychecks—preferably one with no pay deducted for time off—and multiply it by the number of paychecks you get in one year. If you’ve held the same position for multiple years, you can look at your tax return from last year.
Let’s say you dedicate 3,000 hours to work every year. After taxes, you’re making roughly $36,000 of take-home income.
Divide that $36,000 of take-home income by your 3,000 hours of work.
An hour of your time is worth $12.
Expected Value Calculations
The second calculation to look at when determining the value of your time is the expected value method. The expected value method should be used when you’re trying to prioritize tasks. It will help you to organize the work you have to do from most valuable to least valuable.
Let’s look at it in steps.
- Chunk your time out into tasks. The more specific, the better.
- Choose a unit of measurement that connects your tasks to your income. If you work in finance, you may want to measure in “leads.” If you own a shop, you can measure in the number of people who walk through your door.
- Estimate the value of each task. If each lead generates an average of $3, then add the number of leads you expect to generate by doing this together. This should tell you how valuable your task is.
- Perform this equation with other tasks and compare them against each other. Whichever task will generate the most value should be your main priority.
3 Hacks to Spend (and Save) Your Time
We would never treat physical resources the way we treat our time. Can you imagine dumping a bowl of precious diamonds down your sink drain?
We treasure our resources. We keep them close. We protect them. We wear them as a badge of honor.
It’s time to start giving time the respect it deserves.
Be Mindful of the Present
Being mindful of the present moment is one of the most helpful habits you can develop to maximize your time. When you divert your focus from the “now,” you’re actually robbing yourself of your present seconds. Focusing too much on the past regrets or future worries can lead us down the rabbit hole of emotional exhaustion.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan for your future or recognize the mistakes of your past. It only means that you should use your future plans and past mistakes to inform your present decisions.
Know Your Worth, Maximize Your Time
Let’s say you need to wash your car. You’re not sure if you should drag a soapy bucket out to the driveway or pay to have it professionally cleaned. Washing your car will take you about an hour, but getting it cleaned costs $75. So, which do you choose?
If you know that your hour is worth $90, it makes more sense to pay to have your car cleaned for you. That’s because the value of your hour is worth more than the cost of the service being rendered. It may seem more economical to suck it up and wash the car yourself but you’d actually be underpaying yourself for the hour.
If the value of your hour is closer to $45, washing your car yourself is the better call. You don’t want to pay $75 when you could perform the exact same service for $30 cheaper.
Knowing the value of your hour can help you make informed day-to-day decisions that save you time and money in the long run.
Change Your Habits
Use Public Transportation
On average, roughly 26,376 hours of your life will be spent commuting to work. Maybe less if you work from home. Maybe more if you live in Los Angeles.
Public transportation might take the same amount of time as driving. Heck, it might even take a little bit longer.
But when was the last time you saw somebody reading on their morning drive to work? Hopefully never. Time spent driving is spent doing just that: driving. You can use your time on public transportation to do something productive—read a book, finish a crossword puzzle, stay updated on current events by reading the news.
Taking public transportation allows you to optimize the time it takes you to get to work, strengthening your mind on your way. If the difference is only a few minutes, take the bus.
Relax in Productive Ways
When we’re relaxing, it can feel like we’re wasting time. But that’s not true. Sometimes switching gears or changing pace can have dramatic results on our work.
On average, people spend the equivalent of 2,676 days of their lives watching TV. Watching TV can be a fine way to unwind after a long day, but it’s important to know when to cut back. Watching TV is a passive activity—meaning that it doesn’t do much (if anything) for your brain.
Here are some alternative ways to take a break from work stress that also keep your brain active:
- Read a book
- Do yoga
- Write some bad poetry
- Play an instrument
- Take a hot bath
- Finish a puzzle
Multitasking might seem like a fantastic way to save time, but in reality it’s a giant waste of time. One of the most important lessons we can learn to combat wasted time is the value of time management. There is no room for multitasking in time management.
When we multitask, we’re pulling our brain in different directions. Even if you’re just switching between tabs to work on multiple projects, you’re robbing each of those tasks of your full attention. This means that you’ll probably spend longer on each of them than if you would if you’d buckled up and completed them one by one.
So, take the task that has the most value according to your expected value calculations and give it your full attention.
How Much Time Do We Really Have?
The short answer? Not a lot.
Roughly one-third of our lives is spent sleeping. That means even if you live to be 90 years old, you only have 60 years worth of waking hours to spend—from birth. Throw in the amount of time you’ve already spent and your time left becomes even less.
When you understand the value of time, you have the power to control it. Make better choices regarding your hours and start spending them how you want to.
Kayla is WealthFit’s Associate Editor. She previously worked with Teach For America and is driven by her belief in an equal and excellent financial education for all people.