I Started Treating My Time Like Money, and This Happened
I have been fascinated by the concept of time.
If we dig a tad deeper, we’ll know that almost everything in life is about time. We work hard to achieve our dreams to get to a time where we feel accomplished; we wait for holidays to spend time with our loved ones. In fact, our life is the time we are here or
Life = Time we are alive
Before I had this realization, I spent my time like I was going to live for a thousand years. I was saying yes to everything and everyone; I was always available for calls and social. I was sleeping for 10 hours every day and was bingeing something or the other on Netflix or Prime Videos. I was doing what I was asked to with no mutual benefit and no sense of how valuable my time was.
Last week at my little sister's 25th birthday, I had an epiphany while going through our childhood photos. We’re little kids, now the toddler who couldn’t stand properly in the photos turned 25.
I didn’t know how to react to that.
We don’t really understand certain things in life unless we find something relative to compare it with. For example — you only notice your weight when you see a skinnier version of yourself on a Facebook memory or that you’re rich when you find old journals from the time you were broke. It’s all relative.
After seeing the old pictures, all the things I had read about time started making sense. I understood what those 100s of self-help and business books were trying to convey and why time is the most valuable commodity.
To take action about time value realization, I decided to run an experiment for a few weeks — I planned to invest my time as if it was money.
I wanted to know how I would spend my time treating it like the most valuable commodity.
Here’s what I learned from my experimentation. It was overwhelming in the beginning but was a fun activity to learn about myself and my habits
1. I became mindful about my screen time
What if I tell you that every minute of your day is worth $1000?
Would you still scroll a million miles on Instagram or Twitter — like you do every day?
Wouldn’t you’d be more mindful about how much time you spend on social media, in fact, on your screen. According to research from RescueTime, people generally spend an average of 3 hours 15 minutes on their phones, with the top 20% using over 4 hours and 30 minutes. Most people check their phone around 58 times, and now we can debate how much of those 58 times is work-related (a sneak peeks at our inbox or the number of likes on the newly posted photo?)
After I started my experiment, I learned that I don’t really have to check my phone as often as I do. It also made me mindful of the content I was consuming and made me keep track of how much time I was using on my phone for work and entertainment.
If a person knows that he can make $24000 in a single day, I am sure he wouldn’t waste 3 hours watching random peoples’ Instagram stories. Even when you can’t make that much money, working on new skills and establishing a business today will eventually take you there down the line.
This mindfulness made me take the following steps
- Turning off my notifications.
- Leaving and muting groups I wasn’t interested in.
- I allotted 30 minutes to spend on Instagram and WhatsApp for leisure and connecting with friends.
- Limited checking my emails to 2 times a day and my Medium stats only once.
Note: While I was working in my day job, I didn't have the liberty to go hours without checking my phone, but now that I on sabbatical and self-employed, I got to turn off ALL my notifications, not even a beep of distraction.
2. I learned to say NO without feeling guilty
As an empath, I would try to help as many people as possible; I would always support a friend or get on a Zoom call even when I didn’t want to.
I had trouble saying no. Every time I did, I would end up feeling like I was committing a heinous crime.
Ever since I started this experiment and pretended like my time was worth more than it actually was, I stopped feeling guilty for saying no. I learned that every person is trying to improve in life and business, but if I keep entertaining their requests, I will lose the time and energy to focus on my own progress.
Now I have become comfortable saying no to almost everything. I’d say no to a random podcast interview request, and I’d say no if I weren’t ready to meet a friend or a colleague.
We get muddled up at times because our desires different from our friends or family. Mostly in such scenarios, we end up choosing things against our will.
We end up saying yes to things that bring us no value.
We do that to be the bigger person, a good friend, or a better mentor. And we forget that by doing all of this, we’re taking away the chance to work on opportunities that could change our lives or a chance to meet our spouse or that investor.
When you say no to others, you’re saying yes to yourself.
3. I stopped replying to messages with no agenda
I thought I was obliged to respond to everyone sending me a message or calling me or tagging me. I had a notion that people who reached out to me were entitled to my time. It was my moral obligation to pick up every call, and if I missed some calls to call back and spend 5–10 minutes in a rhetoric conversation before finally getting to the point.
Sounds like a lot of work? But isn’t it what we’ve been doing all this time? Answering emails, messages, and calls with no intention and agenda.
It’s always easier to answer — “Hey, wanted to know how do you monetize your podcast?” compared to “Hi! How are you?”
Asking to ask one question when you already have asked the question shouldn’t be entertained. This doesn’t apply to our close friends but acquaintances and online buddies asking for help on LinkedIn or other social media platforms; it saves a lot of time.
This experiment made me appreciate people who reached out to me with a pitch. I also become mindful about how I was approaching my friends and peers if I needed their support.
When we reach out to someone with an agenda, we respect their time and our own. This line I read somewhere resonates perfectly with this new approach
“If you don’t have something to do, please don’t do it here.”
If you need some guidance and help from a friend or a mentor, get straight to the point instead of beating around the bush.
4. My time was accountable
Ever since I started running this crazy experiment, I became mindful of my life and spending most of my time.
Every hour was accountable for, if not every minute. This doesn't mean that I wasn’t enjoying my life. I enjoyed it more due to the boundaries I created for my work and leisure. Now, when I was watching one episode of Seinfeld after dinner, I no longer hear a voice telling me — “you should be working.”
This new arrangement allowed me to create a system for my creative endeavor; I divided my day into three big chunks.
- Morning-writing and idea journaling
- Noon- social media promotions and meetings
- Night- for podcast interviews, reading, and family time
Since my time my worth more and accountable, I stopped watching random videos on Youtube and going down a rabbit hole on Twitter. I became aware of where I was spending my time like never before.
This accountability led me to follow a system to work on my creative endeavors seamlessly.
“It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”
— Steve Jobs
5. I started respecting myself
I never expected this experiment would make me feel any bit different about myself. But when you start treating your time like it was money, that indirectly means you’re an important person and your time is worth something.
When I begin to respect my time, it automatically helped me grow my self-respect. When this mindset shift happened, I said “no” more, not only because my time was money but also because I respected myself. I was only interested in engaging in work that resonated with me and my vision.
Self-respect allows you to set healthy boundaries for yourself.
It means you believe in yourself and your virtues and are not afraid to be selective about where you spend your time; when you learn that your time here is limited, your mindset and lifestyle change ultimately.
“Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.”
— Clint Eastwood
This experiment may have started as a fun project. But with time, I understood that it was bigger than that. It was a complete paradigm shift that would change the way I lived my life.
I can earn back the money if I lose it all, but there’s no way I can get back my time. I learned that time was my biggest asset. I may not be a millionaire, but my time is still worth a lot more.
“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”
— Marcus Aurelius
If time was a currency, would you still spend it the way you do?