As I’m getting older, I’m becoming more and more fascinated by the concept of time.
I’m writing this post on Sunday 14th February 2021, and unless you’re reading this on the day I published it, that day (along with its infinite number of opportunities) has gone.
With each day that passes, our personal resource of time becomes fractionally more scarce.
(…which is probably why my interest in this subject is increasing with my age!)
Reading, measuring, and valuing time
One of the first skills we all learn as children is how to read and tell the time, both via an analog clock and a digital display.
We also learn how to measure the distance between time, whether that be in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years.
…but we are never taught how to value time.
This is where things get interesting because the value of time – for example, the value of one hour – varies greatly. Not only to the individual in question, but by the time of day (morning, afternoon, evening, or night), by the time of year (autumn, spring, summer, winter, national holidays), by the economic climate, along with a myriad of other factors.
Teaching someone how to value time is a lot more complex compared to deciphering the hands on a clock. The answer is almost never the same for two people and it’s always open to interpretation and change.
There is no formula for applying a universal value to time, but since it’s the most important resource we have, let’s discuss it anyway.
How do you value currency?
Okay, so let’s step away from ‘time’ for a moment and talk about applying a value to currency – something that you and I do every day. After all, a £10 note has a value of £10, right?
Well, not so fast…
It’s important to remember that the trading material of currency is man-made. No other creature on this earth values that piece of paper.
Give a £10 note to a dog and it won’t have the foggiest idea what it is or understand its value. And that’s because, in some sense, it has no value. It’s nothing more than an I.O.U.
We, as humans, give it value and the amount of value that we apply to it at any given time is relative to the economy that we are currently living in, as well as our own personal economy.
- Location economy – £10 in the UK is worth a lot less than £10 in Thailand. After you exchange your currency at the current market rate, you’ll be able to buy a lot more in Thailand than you would in the UK.
- Past and future economy – In 1966, £10 was worth more than what £10 today is worth, thanks to inflation. And that same £10 today is going to be able to get you more than the same £10 in 2066.
- Personal economy – If you are a high-earner, then £10 probably doesn’t mean a great deal to you in terms of value. However, if you are a low earner and live paycheck to paycheck, then £10 would mean a whole lot more to you, therefore, you will give it more value.
And yet, in all of the above examples, we’re talking about the exact same piece of paper.
So, as you can see, money is simply a tool we created to help us easily trade with one another, and the value of it will differ from person to person and economy to economy.
The difference between time and money is that we can (to some extent) control the amount of money we have and how much of it we spend or save. We do not control time; we cannot stop it from being spent, and we can’t tuck it under the mattress for a rainy day.
Time is an intangible asset that we try to to make tangible by giving it price.
How do you value time?
The first thing to understand about time is that is not infinite to you and me. Yes, time will continue going on without us, but the time that each of us has as an individual will eventually run out. It’s not a never-ending pot; eventually, the lights will be switched off.
It’s also important to note that although we all have a different unknown length of time on this planet – some may live to 45 years, whereas others may live 100+ years – we all have the same amount of time in a day.
- 24 hours.
- 1440 minutes.
- 86400 seconds.
No matter who you are, how much wealth you have or do not have, whether you live in a first-world country or a third-world country, we all have the exact same amount of time per day.
Theoretically, this should make time easier to value than currency since on a day-to-day basis we all have the same amount of time and we all expend our time at the same rate. Yet we all sell our time for different amounts.
Selling your time
In any job role, you are effectively selling your time; giving up numerous hours of your life in return for a paycheque.
Some people will get paid more per hour of their time than others. For example, a Shop Assistant may get £9 per hour whereas a Sales & Marketing Manager may get £15 per hour.
Why is this?
Well, there are a lot of things that play a part in determining the value of an hours work, some of which include the level of skill/knowledge required, the location, the supply and demand of applicants compared to available jobs, the industry sector, and many other things.
What people sometimes forget is that it is YOUR time to sell, and as the seller you can set the price.
Of course, that doesn’t always mean someone is going to pay the price you want. As the famous estate agent quote goes, “A house is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it”, but you shouldn’t let others dictate what an hour of YOUR life is worth.
Side note: One of the secrets to entrepreneurship is understanding that you do not trade your time for money since you only have a finite number of hours for sale. Instead, you create value. The more value you create, the more money you are paid. (If that sounds confusing, don’t worry, I plan to write another post explaining this concept so make sure you’re subscribed!)
Spending your time
You have £86,400 paid into your bank account at midnight. You have one day to do something with it. When the clock strikes midnight the following day, anything you haven’t spent will disappear and will be gone forever.
What would you do?
Would you go and watch TV, read gossip magazines, or stay in bed all day?
Of course not! You would be out there trying to make the most of every pound and every penny – whether that be spending, giving, investing, or a combination of all three.
Well, you have 86,400 seconds a day (see above) and once they’ve gone, they’ve gone. We mistakenly kid ourselves that we have ‘tomorrow’ when our bank account will re-fill to £86,400 and we can start again. But that isn’t the SAME money. Yesterday’s money has gone, and you may have to admit to yourself that you wasted it.
We take careful consideration as to how we spend our money; forever trying to make it go further and get the biggest bang for our buck. Why don’t we give the same level of consideration to how we spend (or sometimes waste) our time?
Investing your time
People often make the mistake of thinking that investing their time is the same as selling it or spending it.
As with any investment, you want to get a return.
Think of it in monetary terms; you want to get more out than what you put in. So, when it comes to investing your time, you want to be able to get more time back than what you put in.
A simple example would be spending time organizing all the files and folders on your computer. This is an investment of time because it will save you time in the future when you need to locate that one document amongst hundreds of others.
Where possible, always choose to invest your time rather than sell you time.
Another side note: Investing time can be applied to creating passive income streams. You need to put in a lot of work and time upfront, but once that investment is complete you can reap the rewards over and over again.
You can stand perfectly still, not move a single muscle, and time will still ebb away from you. The clock never stops! But you can effectively buy more time.
You obviously can’t extend your day from 24 hours to 30 hours, but you can leverage your time by paying other people for their time and/or buying machines to do the job for you.
- You have a jam-packed day and not enough time to get everything done. You can pay someone else to complete a few of your tasks on your behalf.
- You hate doing the gardening. You can pay someone else to mow your lawn and trim your bushes whilst you spend your time doing something else that you enjoy.
- Rather than spending hours hand washing and scrubbing clothes, you buy a washing machine that will clean your clothes for you whilst you go off and do other things.
Last side note: Leveraging time is very common in entrepreneurship. Spending money this way gives you the extra time to make more money; it’s a never-ending cycle.
To wrap things up…
This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.
Although most people may wish that they had pounds instead of seconds, time is by far your most precious resource and trading tool, so pay attention to it!
Make the most of your 86,400 seconds and spend, invest, and sell it wisely.
- The Truth About Passive Income
- How to Be More Productive and Get Stuff Done
- The TWO Value Exchanges of a Book You NEED to Know
- My Thoughts on Happiness