The Time Paradox

Everyone is equal in time.  Just we happened to actually manage to forget that a lot which causes all sorts of interesting side effects in our lives.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Despite all the time management tips in the world you can’t add time to your day, week, month or year.  Time is one of the great things in this life as it is completely fair playing field for everyone.  Time doesn’t give a crap if you are worth billions or don’t have a dollar to your name: you still get the same amount each day.

Yet oddly enough people will often perceive their time as being more valuable than yours.  This often done on a basis on how much income you make thus your boss who makes more than you will consider his hour long meeting more important than your meeting so you are asked to reschedule your meeting. Or a person will cut you off in traffic as they are under the illusion their time is more important than yours thus they need to be that car length in front of you to get to work an entire three seconds earlier than you.  Yet that perceive monetary value of time is purely an illusion (most of the time). Since people can’t often sell there additional time at will (unless perhaps your a consultant and can choose to pickup more work), instead for people on a salary they can’t sell an extra hour to earn even more (unless you have  a second job or side business).

So this particular idea thinking your time is more valuable than others  leads people consider themselves time starved when in fact they really do have the same amount of time as everyone else.   This belief around their time makes results in them doing entirely stupid things in order to ‘gain more time’.  For example a common one is hiring someone to do something you can do yourself: like cleaning the house.  They justify the action by saying their time is more valuable than then cleaning staff thus when they ‘buy’ that extra hour a week.  Yet what people often fail to realize that how long you need to work on an after tax basis to earn the money to pay for the cleaning staff (or the fact as I previously mentioned lots of people can’t sell additional time easily).  So it is entirely possible that paying someone to ‘gain’ an hour a week may in fact cost you 1.25 hours of work time.  Net when you do the math you actually be behind.

Another problem of considering the dollar value of time of your time is the fact you ignore the fact that your time can not be replaced or exchanged.  Exchanging time for money is common as dirt now a days, but time itself is actually fairly priceless as you can’t get it back.  Once you sell an hour of your life you can never get it back, so in fact on a monetary basis time’s value to can be infinite.  It just depends on what part of your life  you are selling that time from.  For example, if you are referring to as waiting for an appointment is perceived to by a low worth period of time while the last hour of your life to say goodbye to your love ones is literally priceless.  Yet in the end, you can’t get a refund on your time spent and you can’t go back and swap out part of time for other parts.  Each moment is literally a priceless piece of your existence that you will never get back.

So how do you mange your time to extract the most value from it?  I personally like to think back to your happy  memories and consider what you were doing at that moment.  Likely it was spending time with friends, doing something enjoyable to you, or accomplishing something meaningful to yourself.  The odds are your happy memories likely have nothing to do with taking out the trash, brushing your teeth or attending a staff meeting.  Then if you consider the fact if you are sleeping eight hours a day you are blowing through a third of your day being unconscious.  So if you add up the happy times versus everything else you would likely find a 80%/20% split over even 10%/90% where the majority of your time isn’t doing things that make you happy.

Once you see that you can notice to make better use of your time you should focus on making the happy times a priority in your daily life.  Forget about your times perceived monetary value but in fact consider how rare it is to actually feel joy in your life.  Then if you can increase your happy time by just 5% of your year you will likely be significantly more satisfied with your life.  So make time for that which you enjoy, stop worrying about work and actually take your lunch hour to do something you like: reading a book, go for a walk, or visit with a friend over a coffee.  Make the opportunities for being happy in your life more frequent and you will get better value from your time than worrying about how busy you are.

So how do you make being happy a priority in your day?  What do you like to do?

4 thoughts on “The Time Paradox”

  1. Couldn’t agree more.

    With your household cleaning help example:

    I work a lot but I actually enjoy cleaning as well only because it gives me a chance to do something physical.

    If I didn’t clean or cook or do things that are physical, all I would be doing is literally be sitting on my butt all day working or being on the computer and sleeping.

    Of course I have a toddler so there are things that I do physically with him like run around, tickle him, play with him and so on.. but it is not the same.

    Anyway, the way I see it is that cleaning takes me at most.. 3 hours to do the entire apartment (we don’t have much), and that even includes dishes after heavy cooking.

    Then other things like a washing machine for laundry (how much easier could THAT get) has totally changed our modern lives, and I make it a game with my toddler to put away clothes and diapers. We spend time together, I get stuff done, I don’t have to pay anyone.

    Win.. win. win..

    My happy memories are all to do with my family thus far.

    My favourite memory from this mornin was watching my son ride his rubber donkey with such gusto he almost fell off giggling.

    It wasn’t from the 9 separate different emails that came to me from different people, asking for exactly the SAME THING all at once (source? One person setting off panic in a chain reaction).

  2. Some, consider not doing anything, a waste of time. I don’t. My time is my own, and doing what I want, is priceless. Which is why I retired at 38; my time is more valuable than money. Yard work, working in my shop, walking the property with my dogs, afternoon naps, eating out. These are just some things that I enjoy. Pull the pin when you can. Being a slave, sucks.

  3. Some, consider not doing anything, a waste of time. I don’t. My time is my own, and doing what I want, is priceless. Which is why I retired at 38; my time is more valuable than money. Yard work, working in my shop, walking the property with my dogs, afternoon naps, eating out. These are just some things that I enjoy. Pull the pin when you can. Being a slave, for money sucks.

  4. @Rick

    I consider doing nothing an excellent choice. I can relate to you – I started a new job but think I am going to exit in the New Year, just can’t do it anymore and need a break. Maybe forever, or maybe just a change. But I need a good few months off at least. I would love to chat with you to share ideas on earning side income and thriftiness ect

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