What is the cost of time?

Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back

– Harvey Mackay

When we break down our day, we find that we have certain blocks of time. Some are big, and some are small. Some we fill with exercise, work, and cooking. Others we fill with social media, TV, and baking. When you look at these two sentences, do you get the feeling that one is “good” and one is “bad”?

I beg to differ. Neither is good, or bad. I know many people addicted to exercise in a way that harms their relationships. They need a good movie night with a partner. I also know many addicted to social media. They would be much better off to call a friend and walk around their neighborhood for 30 minutes, chatting with their friend about real life, not just what other people want us to see.

At the end of the day, we often discuss our time as “spent”, as if it is a currency. Time can be well spent, poorly spent, or simply spent. The good and bad, black and white approach doesn’t suit me for the life I want to live. However, with this information in hand, we can most definitely alter our approach to how we spend our time. We can spend our time in a way that overall brings greater joy and richer experiences into our lives. While there may not be a “good and bad” approach to spending time, I do believe you can use this dichotomy to develop a more meaningful and fulfilling existence.

So, what is the cost of our time? Furthermore, how can we invest it in a way that ensures the greatest returns?

If I decide to spend every night from 8pm – 10pm lying on my couch eating a tub of ice cream, then I am likely spending my time in a way that does not produce much fulfillment, does not give great returns over time, and is therefore trending towards “bad” in our brains. Now, keep in mind that the OPPOSITE is not necessarily good. Before you continue, write down or imagine what “the opposite” scenario of this is.

If you imagined meditating on the floor, fasting overnight, and performing 100 push-ups before bed every night, then you might want to step back into reality. The problem is, I am not offering you a black and white solution. It is not a “if not this, then that” scenario.

Going back to our first example, the cost of such a behavior(s) over time could be detrimental to our health. In dollars, this could range from $50,000 to $100,000+ in medical costs, in addition to a shorter life by up to 10 years.* Where could that money be spent instead? So, being realistic, I should probably limit the time I spend doing these activities. I can spend them elsewhere and get a better return. Still, be realistic. Everything in moderation.

For example, I like to bake with my family around the holidays. We have a “cookie bake off” each year with the best cookie winning our imaginary competition, though no one loses because of the memories made and delicious treats enjoyed. This time is spent in a way that develops relationships, a crucial part of our lives that has major impacts on our stress levels. Poor relationships often accompanies poor stress levels.

Let us now imagine spending our time on an activity such as walking at a brisk pace. This is accessible to almost everyone, has immediate and long term returns on cardiovascular health, and helps to mitigate any future health care costs. Spending time here has tangible benefits.

While I hope to impart to you the notion that it is not about choosing between “good and bad”, I do want you to examine the time you “spend” and ask yourself the following questions from time to time.

  1. Is spending my time here a good investment? What return can I expect?

  2. Am I spending TOO much time here? Am I out of balance? (Is my portfolio diversified?)

  3. How could I adjust my time budget to improve my quality of life?

Enjoy the introspection that comes with such questions, and if you ever need help please reach out to us. We are ready to welcome you into a community of growth minded individuals, looking to help each other live better lives.

The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.

– Stephen R. Covey

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