Have you ever noticed how much people would love to do with their lives, if only they had the time?
While many of us argue that we’d love to do more with our life if we had the money, a recent Gallup poll revealed that more than 50% of us also feel as though we don’t have the time. So as it stands, Americans–despite being one of the wealthiest people in the world–can’t find the time or money to enjoy their lives. Time–as the saying goes–is money, and we seem to be running a deficit in both of them.
So what does a time deficit look like? Much like a financial deficit, a time deficit prevents us from spending our time doing things that we love now, but also limits our happiness in the long run because we never got to invest any of our time to develop our careers or retirement plans. Simply put, by mismanaging our temporal resources, we not only destroy our current happiness, but also our future potential.
Luckily, a lot of the knowledge that we use to manage our finances can be directly applied to our time by creating a simple time budget that accounts for the most important things: time we want to spend enjoying our life, time we want to save and invest for the future, and time that we should stop wasting.
Get Clear: Are you Spending, Wasting or Investing Your Time?
A lot of people are unclear between the difference between time spent and time wasted. One could easily argue that binge-watching Cosmos on Netflix is time wasted, but if it brings you true joy, wouldn’t you argue that it was well spent? Chances are if you are doing something that really makes you happy, you’re on the right track.
What’s much more dangerous is when we spend time on others, like Evelyn. A typical working mother, Evelyn comes home from work only to take on the infamous second shift, cleaning up after her family and making sure that her teenage kids are clothes and fed. In her mind, Evelyn is investing in the future generation, even though her heart is telling her otherwise. Deep down she knows that taking care of her family allows her to feel needed, even if it means she’s not investing that time in herself or her future.
What Evelyn needed was a major time repair–the equivalent of getting a new furnace or water heater, and that meant making resources available up front. By carving out an afternoon to tell her kids why and how to do the laundry and preparing a chore calendar, Evelyn was able to invest a chunk of time and to get actual returns: freeing up several hours every week to go to the gym and start working on a book.
Cut Out Impulse Time Spending
Sadly, getting on track with our time budget also means having to make some hard decisions to eliminate wasted time. Much like wasted money, a lot of wasted time goes to our impulses: that extra 20 minutes we spend hitting snooze every morning instead of doing yoga and indulging in that second and third glass of wine when it’s already time for bed. All of these little impulses seem insignificant, but once you honestly add them up, you may be shocked at what you find.
“Before I put myself on a time budget I was always stressed” admits Roxanne, and account from upstate New York. “I told myself that that sleeping in would help me catch up on sleep, and that checking my Facebook before bed was helping me relax, but the truth is I was caught in a perpetual downward spiral of sleep and time deprivation.” Relaxation is crucial for me, but these 15-minute chunks were about escaping and I always felt like I was on the run. Once I started cutting out the impulses, I found myself with an actual chunk of time in which I could really relax, which in turn allowed me to focus on the important things in life.”
Actively Manage Your Time
Many of us spend every waking hour serving others–our bosses, our kids, our husbands and our pets, not to mention the board and our favorite charity–and by doing so we often set ourselves up for anxiety or burnout, not to mention feeling like we don’t have a life of our own. Luckily the solution is simple: you need to start saving some time for yourself.
By taking charge and claiming your time as your own, you’re empowering yourself in a really meaningful way. Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day to enjoy a cup of coffee while you read the news, leaving your desk at 5 sharp, or taking 10 days off to go on a cruise, it’s important that you save time for yourself without feeling guilty.
Before actively determining that she would leave her work on time every day, Rebecca often dragged herself home after working overtime. It’s not that she couldn’t get her work done, but she didn’t want to be as the person leaving earlier than everyone else, and since she didn’t have anything more important to do she stayed, and slowly made herself miserable. “Before I knew it, I felt like my whole life belonged to the company. I was getting a lot done, but I was losing myself in the process. Once I told myself that I can set my own schedule without feeling guilty, my mood instantly changed and I became much more engaged in work, since I no longer felt like a burnt out pawn.”