Updated on 10.29.08

Exploring the Connection Between Time and Money

Trent Hamm

timepiece prime time clock closeup watch by zoutedrop on Flickr!As longtime readers certainly know by now, I like to post articles rather regularly on the subject of time management. I’ve reviewed a small mountain of books on the subject (Getting Things Done, Ready for Anything, Do It Tomorrow, Leave the Office Earlier, and Find More Time were the best among these) and written dozens of pieces about how I manage my own time and tasks.

But why? Why do I find it so important to talk about time management on a personal finance site? We’ve all heard the trite “time is money” catchphrase, but what relevance does it have in day to day life in terms of improving your financial situation? Let me lay it out for you.

Time management at work Most time management material focuses on workplace concerns, because the workplace is where the most obvious connections between the time you spend and the money you earn appear. In the office, time management provides room for:

Extra polish If you can free up some extra time during the day because of effective management, you can afford to invest more time polishing your projects, taking something that’s average and making it good, or taking something good and making it great.

Extra projects Good time management also enables you to be involved with extra projects, enabling you to add many more positive contributions to the production of the organization.

Extra opportunities Extra time also lets you follow up on other opportunities: building relationships with other workers, finding a mentor and building a bond, or connecting with peers in your field outside of your office.

Increased likelihood of promotion and raises The end result of these extra steps is an increased chance at promotion and greater pay, plus more opportunities to spread your wings and fly elsewhere if the opportunity provides itself, all of which put cash directly into your pocket.

Time management at home The more subtle effects of time management show up in the home.

Enhanced frugality If you’re effective with your time, you’ll find time to be involved in frugal activities that save you money over and over again. Can you come up with fifteen minutes every few months? Then make some homemade laundry detergent that saves you twenty cents a load. Use cloth diapers instead of paper ones to save a quarter with each change. Cook at home and save a few bucks per meal. Many people claim not to have time for frugality – in truth, the time is there, it’s just not being managed well.

Extra time for self-improvement Finding an extra half-hour a day gives you ample time to learn about a new topic or to get some exercise. This can easily be done if you apply some clever time management principles to your home life, and such activities can directly lead to better earnings in the workplace.

Extra time for a “side hustle” Similarly, freeing up some extra time can give you space for a small side business – writing a blog, repairing computers, or so on. Again, just a half hour or an hour of free time – which you can easily build up with good time management – provides all the space you need to get started.

Extra time for personally important matters You may also find that you spend money to help ease the pain of a difficult situation in your life. Better time management can enable you to give that personal situation the attention it deserves, which can help you get over the figurative hump.

Five tiny steps for getting started Here are a few basic tactics for freeing up time in your life.

Set a reasonable extra goal beyond what you’re doing right now You might want to simply make a particular project at work gleam. Perhaps you want to get into better shape by jogging three times a week. Whatever it is, define a single goal that you’d like to accomplish beyond what you’re doing right now. Make it a reasonable goal, however – not one that requires time far beyond what you have right now.

Carry a pad and a pen with you Wherever you’re at, have a pad of paper and a writing utensil on you. Then, whenever an idea or something else comes up, jot it down and forget about it – go back to concentrating on whatever you were focusing on before. This allows you to stay focused on the task at hand, getting it done more quickly and with higher quality than you would if you were busy dealing with interruptions and remembering little tasks.

Do something different with thirty minutes of your evening Almost everyone has a period of relaxation in their evenings. Some of us have much more than others. Instead of vegetating for an hour or two, take half an hour of that time and devote it to something else. Maybe it’s jogging. Maybe it’s reading a challenging book. Whatever it is, pencil it in every night. Make it as important as any other appointment on your schedule.

If something takes less than two minutes to do, do it now instead of later If you need to pay a bill online, write a note to someone, make a quick phone call, add an item to the grocery list, or some other very simple task, do it immediately. Don’t put it off. Putting it off means you have to waste focus, time, and energy remembering the task. You’re far better off just doing it right now.

Learn more about time management One final tip: pick up some strong reading material on time management and look at ways you can apply those ideas to your professional and personal life. For professional life, I’d recommend Getting Things Done, Do It Tomorrow, or Leave the Office Earlier; for personal time management, Find More Time is the best book I’ve found. Spend your half hour of “doing something different” reading one of these books and figuring out more time management techniques to free up even more time.

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  1. Ryan McLean says:

    Managing your time wisely is a very good way to save time and have extra time to do more things. Thanks for the info and tips. I can’t wait for the next article.

  2. MMO gold says:

    Good article man. Time is money. And with the extra time you can make some extra cash.

  3. Flea says:

    You have to be careful when do something to save money. There comes a point of diminishing returns because your tiem IS money. For exmaple don’t do something that takes 5 hours to save 5 bucks….

    Totally agree with the if some takes two minutes DO IT now and get it over with.

  4. Gretchen says:

    That extra half-hour that I find can be used for one of my favorite activities: staring at the wall. I love to just sit and think. Probably 75% of my best ideas come to me during my thinking time. Ideas on how to save money, how to make money, how to make my life better or easier, etc. Sometimes I write lists during this time and other times I just stare. I know it sounds weird but I guess it is kind of like meditation except that I allow the thoughts to come and go as they please. This makes my brain focus on what is worrying it most at the moment and often I can solve that worry with some think time.

  5. Anna says:

    Gretchen, you are a wise woman. Filling every single moment with obvious profitability is counterproductive. We need down time to allow our minds to function in a healthful manner (which is ultimately fruitful, anyway).

    Trent, I think you touched on this point in your section about using time for personally important matters.

  6. I always carry a small notebook and a pen with me. I am lot more productive since I started jotting down my thoughts in this notebook. … Regarding connection between Time and Money – just read Your Money or Your Life to get a clear cut conception on this. I have summarized this book and the connection between time and money in my book review: http://adawnjournal.com/2008/10/16/your-money-or-your-life-a-dawn-journal-book-review/
    A Dawn Journal

  7. Emily says:

    I love this post. I am so distracted all the time with emails coming in, various freelance projects to do, IMs from friends, family phone calls, etc. — I feel like I am just not as productive as I should be. Time definitely is money. I have started carrying a small notepad in my purse so I can jot things down when I think of them — that way I go to the store and already have my grocery list and don’t impulse shop as much, and I waste less time on freelance work because I already jotted some of my thoughts down when I got an inspiration while out and about.

  8. sbt says:

    Benjamin Franklin said, “Time is money.” Something to think about.

  9. Nate says:

    I’ve enjoyed your posts about time and money for a while. Getting Things done is phenomenal and I’ve been using it all throughout 2008 to reach my goal of being more productive. Maybe I’ll skim the other books you recommend.

    Library here I come

  10. If people realized all the things that can come of doing things more efficiently, they would get on the bandwagon right away. And you’re spot on to include “at work” and “at home.” When you can do things more efficiently and quickly (and still at a higher quality) at work, then you’ve got it made. You can start new initiatives, polish them up good, and present them to your boss. Make your boss look good and he should eventually reward you. Especially in this market, it’s not enough to be a “good worker,” you have to be an “above and beyond worker.”

  11. Payroll Guy says:

    My advise, turn off the TV. It’s hard to do because it can be mesmerizing. I saw recently the average adult spends over 2 hrs a day glued to the TV. You could write a novel in 6 months utilizing that time. The big point: we all have the same amount of time in each day, the difference in achievement is largely due to how we use that 24 hrs. Don’t waste your life doing unimportant things. Eagles do not catch flies!

  12. Rich says:

    I have for a long time considered time and money to be equivalent (on a sliding scale, depending on what the value of your time is). Life is riddled with opportunities to exchange one for the other with various exchange rates.

    There is one *crucial* difference, though. You can always make more money, but you can never make more time.

  13. For the month of November, I’ve set a goal to use the first hour of my workday in a very focused, efficient way. I stole that idea from this video.

    I do agree that if you can do a better job at work without spending additional time there, that’s a good thing. However, I figured out that often the reward for being an excellent worker isn’t worth the extra time required! So, don’t put in a lot of extra effort if you aren’t going to be compensated adequately for it.

  14. Mike Sty says:

    “Putting it off means you have to waste focus, time, and energy remembering the task. You’re far better off just doing it right now.”

    I never thought about it that way. That’s somehow mind-blowing to me.

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