Embracing the Fundamental Value of Time (and How To Use It Wisely)

Time is, perhaps, the only thing that you can’t buy more of. Once it’s gone, it’s impossible to replace. Regardless of whatever you choose to do at any moment in life, afterward, you’ll have less time remaining in your life than when you started. The question is, will you use your remaining time wisely?

Time Moves Faster Than You Think

When you’re young, you have your entire life ahead of you. Time isn’t an object you spend much effort considering – life seemingly goes on forever.

But if you talk to someone on the back end of life – someone who has lived for seven, eight, or even nine-plus decades – they have a different perspective. To them, time has moved at warp speed. And because there’s probably not a whole of it left, time becomes a very precious commodity.

If 90 years – which most would consider to be an extremely long life – feels like a long time, perhaps you need to picture this number as a visual. Tim Urban’s article The Tail End provides a profound look at time from a graphical point of view. Notice how minuscule life seems when you break it down into months and weeks. Even looking at a 90-year life in days has a way of making life seem short.

When you think about life in terms of what you do with it, it feels even smaller. Urban uses the example of reading. At his normal pace of reading five books a year, he points out that he’ll only read 300 more books in his entire life. And with thousands of new books being published every year, it’s paramount that he chooses wisely.

You could conduct similar thought exercises in your own life. You can calculate how many more times you’ll get to see your favorite football team play, or how many more times you get to see your child participate in a dance recital.

At first, thoughts like these will feel somber. They’ll make you feel anxious and hopeless. But the longer you let them marinate, the more freedom you’ll feel to focus on the things that matter.

How to Spend Your Time More Wisely

You have an obligation to spend your time more wisely. Wasting your time is like telling the universe you don’t care how much of it you have left. If you believe in a creator God, it’s like telling that God that your life – his creation – doesn’t matter. Either way, you should feel a sense of responsibility to utilize your time more intelligently.

Consider two dilemmas:

Should you sell your car on Craigslist at the highest possible price point, or should you have a cash for cars service come buy your car in your driveway?

Should you pay the extra $100 for a nonstop flight, or should you save the money and deal with a two-hour layover?

We all face situations like these on a daily basis. Ultimately, the only way to consistently make the right decisions is to understand the value of your time.

If you’re a busy professional, the best way to value your time is to actually figure out how much every hour of your life is worth in dollars and cents. You’ll have to reach that number on your own, but for the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume your time is worth $70 per hour.


Now, back to our original two dilemmas:

When you sell a car on Craigslist, you have to take pictures, create a listing, respond to emails, meet potential buyers, receive the payment, etc. Let’s say, on the conservative side of things, that this takes you a grand total of eight hours. Multiply that by your value and you’re essentially paying $560 in time. Now consider what happens when a cash for cars service comes to your house and buys your car from you on the spot. It takes about half an hour and you’re able to sell the car at roughly the same price. Congrats…you just saved yourself more than $500 in time.

Paying $100 extra on a flight can seem like a lot (especially if it’s an inexpensive flight, to begin with). But consider how much extra time a layover costs you. It’s not just the two-hour difference. There’s also the hassle of taxying on the runway twice, landing twice, the risk of your luggage getting lost, etc. If everything goes smoothly, it’ll most likely cost you a minimum of three hours. That comes out to $210 in time. When viewed through this context, a $100 premium is a no-brainer.

How Will You Respond?

You’ve been given a valuable framework. Now it’s up to you to decide how you’ll respond. Will you eliminate wasteful behaviors and utilize the limited amount of time you have to be productive, to love people, and to make your immediate surroundings better than they were before you came into the picture? It’s your call.

This content is sponsored by Larry Alton.

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