You’ve heard people say “time is money.” Maybe you’ve even said it. I certainly have.

I spent eight years in advertising, writing and blogging and engaging on behalf of brands in a world where time is very much about money. Where every fifteen minutes matters. Because that’s how you bill your clients.

You don’t put in a full day; you put in 80% billability.

And that’s not uncommon in the work world.

The problem is, I don’t think we realize how infectious that idea is. “Time is money.” You learn to work that way, and it gets inside your head. It changes which of the two you value more.

Soon you start to attribute dollar amounts to all of the time in your life.

Seriously, mom… hang up the phone. I don’t need an $80 call about dad’s knee surgery.

or

Super… this slow-moving line at the grocery store just cost me $25.

It’s dangerous.

And we forget that it doesn’t have to be that way!

About a month and a half ago, I started working at a non-profit organization called charity: water, and my world changed.

Honestly, we go longer and harder than anywhere I’ve ever worked before in my life. Late nights. Lack of sleep. Tons of coffee. Little social life.

But I love it.

Even when I’m done working, if there are people in the office, I don’t want to leave. I find things to do. Because we’re a team. And what we’re doing is valuable.

Value. That’s the key here.

Suddenly, what I value isn’t money; it’s what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with. It’s the potential result of the work and the fact that we did it together.

These people— all of us— want to work. And we want to work harder.

How many hours a week do I spend at the office? I have no idea. And for the first time in my life, I honestly don’t care. It’s not about the time; it’s about what I’m doing with it.

There are 800 million people in the world who don’t have access to clean drinking water. Women and children, walking for hours every day to collect water from the nearest water source. And it’s water that’s making them sick.

It’s far from superlatives and product features. In fact, it’s not marketing at all. It’s telling real stories so people can see what we see. It’s changing the way people think about charity. It’s purpose.

That’s the difference. My time isn’t money anymore. My time is my time.

And this just happens to be the most valuable thing I can do with it.