I’m glad it didn’t take me too long to learn that time is more valuable than money.
Unfortunately, I see many people go through their lives without this realization. I hope to teach some of what I learned to you.
Time is more valuable than money because it is a non-renewable resource. Unlike money, once you spend it, you don’t ever get it back. You can always make back lost money but you can never make back lost time. It’s for these reasons that I treat it with more respect and value than dollar bills.
Once you realize that your time is valuable, you no longer waste time doing things that don’t bring you joy and fulfillment. You cut any tasks you dislike and only focus on your top most priorities.
The below list are several strategies I use to manage my time more efficiently and do more of what I enjoy doing.
1. Use a Personal Calendar to Manage Your Time
Think of a personal calendar like a personal budget for your time management. It removes the mystery of what you did last week. It creates accountability for changing where you spend your time if that’s desired. It also teaches you to be present in that current moment of time and it protects it against any ad hoc tasks or distractions as they arise.
2. Analyze Where You Spend Your Time
I encourage you to at least try this for a couple weeks, a month or longer. Record every 30-minute block of time and categorize it into the various key areas of your life (see an example list below). Then, at the end of each cycle (week, month, etc), put all the data into a spreadsheet and make a pie chart. I guarantee you that the exercise will provide some key insights on where you are spending the majority of your time. If you are spending a lot of time on low returning tasks, things you dislike, and only little time on high returning tasks, you may visualize the root cause of your problems.
Here are some of the categories I use to organize my time:
- Family, fun and relaxing activities
- Eating, exercising and other health related activities
- Miscellaneous activities
- Self-Improvement, reading, and writing
- Active income work
- Passive income work
- Networking and new business generation
3. Put a Dollar Amount to Your Time
I know what you’re thinking – putting a dollar amount to your time contradicts the philosophy stated above. Yes and no. For me, it helps make decision making quicker and simple. Let me explain.
Say you bought a shirt from the store that didn’t fit right. If you value your time at $100 per hour, you may find that spending an hour to travel to the mall and return the shirt no longer is worth the time to save a few dollars. Or say you are considering installing new windows in your home. You may find that it makes more sense to outsource that task instead of doing it yourself.
4. Avoid Multitasking and Work in Discrete Chunks
Some people may disagree with this but I find it tremendously effective at staying focused and productive. I’ll typically block out my calendar in 30-minute chunks, and only work on what I agree to work on during that block of time.
What I will do is combine similar tasks together, such as working on real estate related items. Then I only work on those items for the next hour. Then, maybe I’ll work on writing blog posts and I’ll do only that for the next hour. The point here is to not multitask, or switch between multiple different items often during a chunk of time.
Every time you switch between different tasks, there is a several seconds to a minute delay that causes you to refocus in on what you were previously doing. Often, if multi tasking goes un-checked, you will find that adding all of this time up ends up consuming a surprisingly large chunk of your day. Often when I multi-task, I find myself far less fulfilled than when I work in productive blocks of time.
5. Eliminate Distractions and Inefficiencies
This one is critical and often find myself breaking this unconsciously. Avoid mindless checking of your phone, facebook, email, snapchat, and all the other countless number of distractions. Turn off all notifications on your phone except the critical ones that are important to you. An appropriate time to check these can be pre-blocked into your day if you must use them.
Batch similar tasks together such as checking email or processing mail. Consider pushing out these tasks until you have enough email or mail to process that it’ll fill up an entire chunk of time (such as 30 minutes or an hour). Then block this into your calendar or read on to the next step – outsource.
6. Automate, Outsource or Eliminate Low Return Tasks
If you’ve completed step 2, you may notice that a portion of your time is doing low returning activities. If these are greater than you would like them to be at, consider looking into new ways to use that time more efficiently.
First look to see if the task is worth doing. Can you just eliminate it without too much harm? If not, can you automate it with a system or a software? If you can’t do any of those routes, how much would it cost to out-source the task? As I mentioned in bullet point 3, if that cost is less than your value of your time, consider it a dollar well spent.
In closing, imagine yourself at the end of your life for a moment. Look back at how you spent your time in those past years. What would you have done differently? What would you have done less of? How about more of? Answer those questions to help guide your decisions of today.
Bill Womeldorf is an energy efficiency consultant and real estate entrepreneur in Boston, MA. He’s typically the one with the reusable water bottle in business meetings. When we all work together, he believes, it’s possible to solve the climate crisis. You can follow Bill on twitter @BillWomeldorf and read more about self-improvement and sustainability on his blog.