Budgeting Time: You Probably Know Your Net Worth but How Are You Measuring Your Time?
At NewRetirement we talk a lot about spending and saving money. But, arguably the most important currency in life is time. If you are reading this blog, you probably subscribe to the idea that some degree of measurement around money is useful. But, do you also analyze and count your seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years? Are you budgeting time?
We spend our finite time at every single second that clicks by but typically without the same scrutiny or high level analysis that we apply to our money.
Below are 9 ideas about how to count or budget time.
1. Know What Investments of Time Yield the Highest Returns
Most people know that different types of financial investments yield different kinds of returns and other benefits. However, have you considered that how you spend or budget time also yields varying types and quality of returns?
While the definition of a high-quality life may vary from person to person, psychological research suggests that the highest returns on time investments come from activities that promote holistic well-being, personal growth, and fulfillment. Here are a few areas to focus on:
- Relationships: Cultivating meaningful relationships with friends and family is essential for overall well-being.
- Health and Fitness: Prioritizing these activities can lead to increased energy, improved mood, and a longer, healthier life.
- Learning and Skill Development: Continuously learning new skills and acquiring knowledge not only keeps your mind engaged but also enhances your career prospects and personal satisfaction.
- Mental Health: Dedicate time to practices that promote mental well-being, such as meditation, mindfulness, or therapy.
- Hobbies and Passion Projects: Whether it’s painting, playing a musical instrument, gardening, or any other passion, these activities can provide a sense of accomplishment and joy.
- Giving Back: Volunteering and helping others can lead to a greater sense of purpose and satisfaction.
- Travel and Exploration: Exploring new places and experiencing different cultures can broaden your perspective and create lasting memories.
- Financial Planning: Building and maintaining a financial plan can reduce stress and provide the freedom to make choices that enhance your quality of life. Investments in savings, retirement planning, and debt reduction can all lead to a more secure and comfortable future. (Build your plan with the NewRetirement Planner.)
2. Create a Time Budget: Measure How You Spend Your Time
Tracking your spending allows you to gain valuable and sometimes surprising insights into how you use your money. Measuring how you spend your time can also be a useful exercise in self-awareness and personal growth.
Over a week’s or month’s time, spend a few minutes each day documenting every hour. Include thoughts on how different activities make you feel or what value they have to you. Then add up the hours and calculate the time spent over your lifetime. You might be really surprised.
In fact, how much time you spend on various activities can be shocking. Let’s say you watch 3 hours of TV a day (the average is more than 4) and you live until you’re 80. Over your lifetime you will have spent a total of 10 years of your life watching TV. That is a lot of time!
This type of exercise empowers you to take control of your life and make meaningful adjustments to your daily routines. It allows you to identify and eliminate time-wasting activities, prioritize what matters most, and ultimately lead a more fulfilling and productive life.
By understanding where your time goes, you can align your actions with your aspirations and unlock your full potential. So, take the time to measure and evaluate your daily activities—it’s an investment in yourself and your future well-being.
3. Assess What You Will Regret Not Having Done, Know What Matters
In 2008, computer science professor Randy Pausch delivered a commencement speech at Carnegie Mellon University two months before his death. Pausch had recently received a terminal pancreatic cancer diagnosis. This is what he said:
“It is not the things we do in life that we regret on our death bed. It is the things we do not. I assure you I’ve done a lot of really stupid things, and none of them bother me. All the mistakes, and all the dopey things, and all the times I was embarrassed — they don’t matter. What matters is that I can kind of look back and say: Pretty much any time I got the chance to do something cool I tried to grab for it — and that’s where my solace comes from.”
The only way to make sure you get the most out of your time is to start with what matters the most to you. It is critical for you to understand your priorities and work backward to your actions to ensure that you are doing what matters.
4. Think About Aging
Aging is the result of the passage of time. And, this post was actually sparked by a peek at Oldster Magazine, an online publication with high quality writing on the topic of aging – aging at all ages. Their mission is to de-stigmatize and normalize aging by demonstrating that’s it’s happening to everyone, of all ages, all the time.
From the editor-in-chief, Sari Bottom (50-something): “Oldster Magazine is about people (of all genders) getting older. It’s about the milestones we celebrate, then grieve as we move past them, beginning in childhood. It’s about life’s many shifts from phase to phase, and what those shifts mean to us as we transition through and past them.”
There are articles, resources, and responses to the Oldster questionnaire.
Take The Oldster questionnaire
The Oldster questionnaire is a series of 15 questions to provoke insights into aging and how you feel about the passage of time. You can peruse answers from people of all ages here. Or, answer the questions yourself!
- How old are you?
- Is there another age you associate with yourself in your mind? If so, what is it? And why, do you think?
- Do you feel old for your age ? Young for your age? Just right? Are you in step with your peers?
- What do you like about being your age?
- What is difficult about being your age?
- What is surpirsing about being your age, or different from what you expected, based on what you were told?
- What has aging given you? Taken away from you?
- How is getting older affected your sense of yourself, or your identity?
- What are some age-related milestones you are looking forward to? Or ones you “missed,” and might try to reach later, off-schedule, according to our culture and its expectations?
- What has been your favorite age so far, and why? Would you go back to this age if you could?
- Is there someone who is older than you, who makes growing older inspiring to you? Who is your aging idol and why?
- What aging related adjustments have you recently made, style-wise, beauty-wise, health-wise?
- What is an aging-related adjustment you refuse to make, and why?
- What’s your philosophy on celebrating birthdays as an adult?
- How do you celebrate yours?
5. Read Widely About Aging
From contemporary fiction to how tos, here are over 100 well regarded books on retirement, personal finance, living a good life, and aging.
6. Develop a Positive Point of View on Aging
Research from the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found there is a connection between mindsets about aging and health behaviors. People who have a positive attitude about growing older tend to live longer and healthier lives.
7. Mark the Passage of Time
My favorite part about visiting a Muslim country is hearing the call to prayer throughout the day. For me, it is an interesting way to pause, even if just for a moment, and reflect on the passage of time. In my own every day life, there are light changes over a 24 hour period, routines and meals to help me acknowledge the ticking clock each day, but sometimes I will set alarms to ring for no other purpose than to enforce an acknowledgement of time.
8. Structure Your “Free” Time
In personal finance there is the concept of “every dollar having a job.” It means that every dollar in your income should be allocated or assigned to a specific purpose or category in your budget. The idea is to be purposeful about your spending and not just fritter away your dollars mindlessly.
The same can be said about time. While we all seem to strive to create “free” time in our lives, unstructured time is often spent on pointless activities. It may be useful to structure your “free” time in the same way you are careful about spending any “excess” income or savings.
9. Slow Down the Passage of Time
Time is a complex and abstract concept. It is a measure of the progression or sequence of events and changes. However, our experience of the passage of time is variable – sometimes it passes quickly and other times more slowly.
What is really weird is that there are strategies you can employ to slow down time and make the most of your moments. Here are some tips:
- Practice mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness meditation teaches you to focus your attention on the present, savoring each experience and slowing down the rush of time.
- Seek variety and novelty: New experiences and novel activities can make time feel like it’s passing more slowly. Try new hobbies, explore unfamiliar places, or break up routines to introduce variety into your life.
- Savor moments: Take the time to savor enjoyable experiences, such as sipping a cup of tea, savoring a meal, or appreciating a beautiful sunset. Being fully present can make small moments feel more extended.
- Set goals and challenges: Setting and working toward goals or challenges can create a sense of purpose and achievement. Breaking your goals into smaller milestones and celebrating your progress can make time feel more deliberate.
- Engage in flow activities: Activities that induce a state of “flow,” where you’re fully absorbed and focused, can make time seem to stand still. This could be a creative project, a sport, or a hobby you’re passionate about.
- Limit multitasking: Multitasking can make time feel as if it’s slipping away because your attention is divided. Try to focus on one task at a time, giving it your full attention.
- Create memories: Engage in activities that create lasting memories. These memorable experiences can create the perception that time is moving more slowly because you have more vivid and significant events to remember.
- Disconnect from technology: Constantly checking your phone or other devices can make time seem to pass quickly. Designate tech-free times or spaces to help you disconnect and be present in the moment.
- Practice patience: Cultivate patience in your daily life. Rushing through tasks and constantly feeling pressed for time can make it seem like time is flying by.
- Reflect and journal: Regularly reflect on your experiences and write in a journal. This practice can help you appreciate the passage of time and create a record of meaningful moments.
- Create rituals: Establishing daily or weekly rituals can make time feel more deliberate.
- Limit over commitment: Over committing to too many activities or obligations can lead to a rushed feeling and the perception that time is slipping away. Prioritize your commitments and say no when necessary to maintain a sense of balance.
Is Your Financial Plan Aligned with How You Want to Spend Your Time?
Sure, a financial plan offers you financial security. But, the real benefit is that you can align how you spend your money with how you want to spend your time. Use the NewRetirement Planner to create a plan for the life you want to live.
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