If you value your time, you are more likely to make choices consistent with your priorities.
They say time is money. I think it is more accurate to say that time is value. But unlike most things of value, time is the one resource that we can never get back. Which means we should all be very judicious in choosing what we do with our time. If we do this, so much falls into place, and we can make choices that are consistent with our priorities.
If you are working 60+ hour weeks, this may or may not be the best way to value your time. If these long work weeks lead to important personal and career-related goals, if they pay off big time in terms of money and your ability to provide, or if they are important for long-term life goals, then 60+ hour weeks may be time well spent.
However, we also need to understand what we are not doing with the time we spend at work. We need to consciously examine the value of the time we spend at work and understand the trade-offs. Once we examine our priorities, we can make intentional choices of how much you value your time and how you should spend it.
On the other hand, if you’ve opted out of the workforce or significantly downshifted your career, you’ve opened a lot of time for family and life pursuits. Maybe this means you get to be the primary parent, avoid using child-care, and/or get to see your kids on and off the school bus each day. This could be great value for your time. Again, this comes with trade-offs in terms of finances and future career ambitions. We need to understand the value of our time, and then make intentional choices.
To illustrate, this past year, thanks to the launch of my book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, I have been faced with increasing demands on my time. This is a good thing, something I aspired to. But it has meant that I’ve had to become crystal clear on how much I value my time.
Compared to years past, more people have asked me to speak at their events, appear in media, take on new projects, or write for them. While I am ambitious and want to spread the word on the work-family concerns of dads, I also greatly value time with my family, my free time, and my freedom to pursue creative goals.
Therefore, whenever I get a request, I think long and hard about how much time the project will take, and whether that time is of enough value to me to sacrifice my discretionary time. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. For example,
- Northwestern University asked me to deliver a keynote address. I love doing things like this, plus they paid me. They were also willing to pay for Amy (a proud Northwestern alum) to come along. It didn’t interfere with my work at FDU. It did mean not seeing Nick for 2 1/2 days, but he got grandparent time and Amy and I got a short weekend away. In this case, the opportunity was easily worth the time required. I have turned down other speaking opportunities that represented worse time/value trade-offs.
- Mom-Mentum hosted a one-day Women’s Leadership Conference about an hour away from my house. They wanted me to serve on a panel, but could not pay. They also asked if I would write a 800 word blog post for them in advance of the conference. I normally don’t do things like panels for free, but I wanted to support this organization and its important work. The conference was scheduled on a day when I had no FDU responsibilities and Amy could meet Nick’s bus after school. So, I said yes to the panel, but no to the blog post. I don’t write for free – with very few exceptions (this blog being one of them).
- I write original content for free for the HBR Blog network– that’s exposure that really benefits writers. In fact, it is through HBR that I met my literary agent. When I write for other non-paying outlets, like Huffington Post or Good Men Project, it is almost always something republished or re-purposed from prior writing. The small gain in exposure is only worth a small amount of time. Obviously, unpaid academic writing is a part of my job and is worth the effort.
- At FDU, I feel passionately about having better metrics around teaching effectiveness, so I volunteered to run a task force on this matter, and this has taken up a lot of my time. However, this is a passion project for me, so I feel it is worth the trade-off. There are other worthy FDU projects I have declined to take on because the time spent would not represent enough personal value to me to make the sacrifice of my discretionary time.
I know I have a different career than most of you. While I am busy and work hard, I also have a lot of control over my time and choice over which projects I take on.
That being said, most of us have some choice over our activities. If you value your time, you will be more likely to make intentional choices on how you use this most precious resource. And this can lead to a happier, more balanced life.
How do you feel about valuing your time? Any experiences to share? Let’s discuss in the comments.
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