It’s about Time — to realise its Value

Though most of us are well aware of our monthly income and expenses, we often miss out on weighing in the value of time. You would have heard the phrase “time is money”, but I believe it is much more. Let’s evaluate the points made below… and also consider the reverse of each statement

+ Time can make money

+ If you waste time, you waste money

+ All of us get the same steady supply of time

+ Money can be saved

+ The time for action is now

You will note that the converse is not always true. You cannot interchange time with money to make an acceptable phrase.

Here are a few other references that have influenced my thoughts further on this article:

Every day has 24 x 60 x 60 = 86,400 seconds. Consider a bank account where you get a credit of $86,400 every morning and your balance is reset to $0 at the end of each day

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us” — J R R Tolkien

Eliminate waste. A lot has been said about a “not to do” list. Or the 4 quadrants involving Important and Urgent (Stephen Covey)

“There are some things that money can’t buy”

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free” — Joker

If I do a job in 30 minutes it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.

Earning Potential and Value of Time

A key to many of these aspects is your ability to generate income, your earning potential, or productivity. A thumb rule for earning potential for professionals in India was once told to me as Rs. 1.5 lakhs x ‘years of experience’. I’m sure there are similar ones across the world.

For the purpose of what I would like to say, let’s break down your income to a per-hour rate. Removing weekends, holidays and leaves, most of us have about 20 working days in a month. Assuming 8 productive working hours per day, we have 160 hours in a month. So if you make USD 16,000 a month, it is USD 100 an hour. If you make INR 1,60,000/- a month, it is INR 1,000/- an hour. Do this for your own income to compute a per hour rate. To calculate this in more detail, you may want to include both time and money spent on work-related matters — commute, food & beverages, domestic help, daycare, and so on.

Also consider that money not made in a given time is money lost. You may be aware that companies try to avoid bench time. What is bench time in your personal world? How do you want to reduce it, or utilise it better?

DIY or DIFM (Do It Yourself or Do It For Me)?

Being aware of one’s per-hour potential and others’ per-hour rates helped a lot in deciding whether to do it yourself or to pay an expert to do a job. Let me start with an example of hiring someone to iron your clothes. Let’s say the person irons a piece of clothing in 2.5 minutes (including the time to pick up and drop a bunch of clothes), and they get Rs. 5/- for each piece. That makes it Rs. 120/- an hour. Similarly, a cook may charge about Rs. 150/- per hour. A driver may be approximately Rs. 300/- per hour. Comparing these to the value of your time makes the decision easier. Of course, there are downsides which I leave it to you to figure out for each scenario. Here are some common considerations when hiring an expert…

  • Time: To do it yourself (DIY), you may take up more time than the expert. But don’t forget the time you have to spend on coaching them or correcting their work
  • Outcome: If you are good at it, you are likely to get the exact outcome if you DIY. For example, I prefer to make my own holiday itineraries. I have been doing my home interior designs myself.
  • Fulfilment: Some simple things bring in positivity. If you make your bed in the morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day, and this sets the tone for the rest of your day. More on this in the next section …

Time is yours to Invest

Money helps mostly more with the lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy — consider the representation below (read bottom-up) …

5. Self-actualization: Goals, talents, abilities, altruism
4. Esteem: Respect, recognition, independence
3. Love/belonging: Family, friends, intimacy
2. Safety: Personal security, financial, health
1. Physiological: Food, water, shelter, rest

Money can address mostly physiological and safety levels. You need to invest your time to address the higher levels such as belongingness, self-esteem and self-actualisation.

But let’s also be aware of the value-add of the time spent. Tasks such as packing your kids’ schoolbag or feeding them when they’re watching TV may not really bring in bonding. Instead, do things with them such as playing a game or going on an adventure trip.

Self-esteem comes from how you feel about yourself as a person. And time spent with yourself may become an important aspect. Do not underestimate the fulfilment in pursuing a hobby, achieving a sporting feat or fitness goal, or helping the needy.

This brings me to the final take. If you are good at something, do not hesitate to put a price tag to it. Even if you are investing your time on networking or self-development. “Capitalize on your strengths”, they say. Some of your expertise could become a career option if it’s not one already. And now is the best time to do it.


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