A friend asked me last week, “What is the best piece of financial advice you ever received”? Without much thought, I responded, “invest your time, don’t spend it”. I got that sage advice from Jeff Gitomer, an entrepreneur and author of several best selling books. While the idea is not original to Mr. Gitomer, I had never read it so succinctly nor contemplated so thoroughly.
Similar to investing money, investing your time pays dividends for you in the future, while spending time is a quick pleasure that provides little future value. Investing time will improve you, your life, your health and especially your finances.
After getting this piece of wisdom, I set out to eliminate the areas of my life where I was spending time. It is now shocking to me how much time I had wasted on activities that did not benefit my life. Here are the biggest areas where I wasted time and see many others doing the same:
Television – This was the number one waster of time in my life, and based on my anecdotal evidence, I am not the only one guilty of this problem. I now try to limit time in front of the TV to under an hour a day. Usually this is my last hour of the day when I am pretty tired and my mind is not willing to provide me much motivation. When is the last time the television provided any benefit in your life? The answer is never. (One significant time saver – get TiVo or a DVR. I will now watch Patriots game in about an hour and fifteen minutes as opposed to three hours and fifteen minutes. This simple act saves me two hours every game.)
Commuting – Getting to and from work is something we all must do and provides little future value in our life (save our paycheck). We can improve the value of this time though by listening to audio books, thinking or praying. Listening to music and talk radio helps reduce our rage on the road, but like television is only a mental diversion. Commercial radio will provide no real future benefit in your life.
Sleeping – Obviously we all need sleep. However, most people can do fine with seven to eight hours of sleep a day. Anymore than that is wasting time. My wife likes to sleep in on weekends, usually until around 10:00AM. Last Saturday was one of those glorious spring days in New England. Unfortunately she lost three of those hours in slumber. Time that will never come back.
Shopping – My time away from work is precious, and I can think of nothing worse than spending this time at the grocery store or in a crowded mall. Consider Peapod and shopping online when possible to avoid this misuse of your time. Shopping is a double whammy, it saps both your time and finances.
Traveling – My work requires me to travel on occasion and last night was one of those days. I had a three hour flight from Logan to Ft. Lauderdale and was amazed at the time wasting activities involved by most passengers. Here was three hours that could be used in mental engagement and improving ones mental skills. I saw very few involved in such activities. Mostly people were just watching television or playing solitaire on the computer.
Here are some activities that I believe Mr. Gitomer would agree are investing activities:
Reading – This is the activity that I have increased the most since receiving Mr. Gitomer’s words of wisdom. I now set out to read at least an hour a day. It is usually the first hour that I get up in the morning and do it with a nice cup of coffee. I split this time between books that will improve my craft (business and motivational books) and spiritual books (the Bible and Christian books). Other good sources of information are history books and biographies. There is a website, 800CEORead.com which provides a list of the 100 best business books. I am trying to tick them all off my reading list. Keep away from trashy novels. Investing my time improving my trade will hopefully reap financial rewards in future years. Develop a passion for learning and your financial life will improve dramatically.
Exercising – Can you think of a more classic example of investing your time than exercising? It is something that we do now that will improve our future time on this planet in the form of good health.
Building relationships – There is no such thing in life as a self made person. We have all been helped along by family, friends, the church etc. Knowing the right people can help us reach our goals much quicker and easier. Search for the people that can help you reach your career goals and try and develop a relationship with them.
Time with Family – My daughter Madeline is turning one this weekend. Any time I can spend with her and my wife is a blessing.
Thinking – Our mind is our biggest asset and can solve most all of our problems. Spending quiet time every day thinking of ways to solve your problems, improve your productivity at work, increase sales, or accomplish a goal, can be done much faster and more efficiently by using your mind. We all have the ability to be creative, however, creativity is hard work and needs time like anything else. To paraphrase Thomas Edison creativity is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.
Thank you to Mr. Gitomer for your wise and inspiring advice. I hope it will pay dividends in my life for years to come. Carpe diem.