I've been bothered for a while by the phrase "time is money," but I didn't quite realize why. Then, recently, I came across the phrase once again in a blog post by Ernie Miller and I reached a new conclusion: it is deceptive and dangerous to express time in terms of money. Rather, it can be much more useful and rewarding to express money in terms of time.
"Time is money" implies that by wasting time, you are squandering money, since that time could be used to be making more money. In this case, money is the end goal. It seems that this perspective would work quite well for a business, but at the same time, it could be deeply problematic for a person to live by.
Consider that you have a limited amount of time on this earth. You know that if you live a healthy lifestyle and stay out of danger, you can increase your expected lifespan. Now let's say you do those things and live a nice long life of 80 years. That means you have 700,800 hours from the moment you are born until the day you die - 700,800 hours that make up your life, each with a spot set aside in your calendar.
Now, as we said before, assuming you've make a few simple lifestyle changes, you've optimized your expected number of hours on this earth.
Well, you probably want to change the quality of those hours, right? So that means when it comes down to it, there are two main things that matter to you with regards to your life: your time on this earth and the quality of that time.
Now let's go back to money. Why do we need money? Well, the first and most obvious is financial stability - without it, our lives would be a struggle. Expressed differently, our quality of time would take a nosedive. Ok, so suppose we have financial stability - why do we still seek money? We seek it to buy the things we want because we believe, whether true or not, that they will make us happy - they will improve our quality of time.
So in essence, money is just an instrument that we use to improve the quality of our time.
Now here's the weird part - we use up time to make money. We often sacrifice the quality of certain hours of our life in order to make more money so that we can improve the quality of our time later on.
So with this sacrifice, we better either (1) make up that lost quality in the long run or (2) change the game so that working isn't really a sacrifice and we enjoy as much as we can along the way.
But here's the sad part - most of us don't. Because most of us don't know how more work and more money will affect our lives. Most of us take bleeding for financial security a given. Most of us willingly accept a job we're not thrilled about and don't go out of our way to change it. Most of us don't really take the time to think about how best to optimize the quality of our time summed across our entire lives.
If we did take the time, we'd realize that the best way to achieve lifelong satisfaction is to make enough money doing the things we love. Like I said before, some of us are blessed to be in that situation, and to those this advice will seem obvious. But this isn't the reality for many people. Further, even those of us who love what we do could still benefit from a little more life inspection.
So take a minute to ask yourself - are you really doing the best you can to optimize your lifelong satisfaction? Is there not a career move that you can make that enhances your current happiness while still allowing you to benefit in finances and contentment in the long-term?
No more working for the future or following the deferred-life plan. Take a moment and think about how you can optimize your quality of time on this earth. Focus on everything from the road beneath your feet to the path passing over the horizon. Because time isn't really money, time is just time. And unlike money, you can't make it back.