Which to Sacrifice? Time or Money?

Your time is your most valuable resource you have. It is your own “productivity currency” of which you only have a limited supply and must ration carefully. However, sometimes we are faced with situations in which we must quite literally put a dollar amount on what our time is worth. If we always sacrifice money to save time, we’ll end up broke. If we always sacrifice time to save money, we’ll end up not accomplishing our goals. Finding the balance is key.

 My Dilemma

This year, when I went to renew my parking pass for ASU, I was faced with two options:

1. Purchase a cheap pass for a couple hundred bucks in a remote lot and take the free tram to campus.

2. Pay an additional $600 for a pass in the lot right outside my office.

My Solution?

My gut reaction? Buy the expensive pass. I had the luxury of having that money in savings already, and I felt that my time was too valuable to spend sitting on a tram every day. I wanted the convenience of being able to waltz right from my car into the building at any time of day.

Then I stopped to weigh the value of the pass versus the convenience of the pass in terms of “dollars per hour.”

Dollars Per Hour

I actually only needed the pass about three days a week. The tram takes about 15 minutes each way. I calculated that if I didn’t buy the expensive pass, I’d be saving $12.50 for every hour I spent on the tram. Now I had a decision to make:

If someone approached me on the street and said, “Hey, I have a part time job for you. It only requires 90 minutes a week, and I’ll pay you $12.50 an hour. All you have to do is sit in an air conditioned space and do nothing” I’d have a hard time saying no.

I ended up buying the cheap pass. I now appreciate the mandatory “break” I get in my day while being shuttled from place to place. I can even use the time to check my email or flip through the newspaper.

By looking at the situation in terms of dollars per hour, I was able to weigh convenience, time, and money to come to a rational decision. How much is your time worth?

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Free Arizona Event!

Check out The Time Diet at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe AZ, on Monday, September 10th at 7:00pm for the free program, “Time Management for Student Survival” Pick up your copy of The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival, on sale now at Changing Hands and Amazon.com

Photo Credit: Phaitoon, Emily Schwartz

Worry is the Thief of…Time Management?

When we are stressed about something, we try not to think about it. However, there is a difference between avoiding a worry that is stealing our focus, and putting off a dreaded task indefinitely. One is a healthy way to avoid stress. The other can lead to a time management disaster.

It’ll Get Done!

In college, I had a friend who functioned as sort of a “stress police” for me. Whenever she caught me stressing out about an assignment, she would say, “Don’t worry about it! It’ll get done!”

I think about those words frequently. I want so badly to believe they are sage advice. How nice it must be to simply not worry about the work we have to do and trust that it will just…happen. As I add more roles and responsibilities to my life, I want even more to believe that the “It’ll all get done” attitude is the way to go. I’ve come to the conclusion that the attitude itself isn’t so bad. It’s just missing a step. It’s missing the plan.

Hiding Your Worries

When we are staring down a big, difficult task that stresses us out, we will sometimes try to put it out of our heads and think about other things. This relieves the stress in the short term, but just delays the inevitable. It’s like throwing a sheet over the dishes in the sink. You can no longer see them, but the mess is still there. This isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes you have to throw a sheet over your mess so it doesn’t stress you out while you’re working on other things. However, you need a plan for when to take the sheet off. Otherwise, you have just created a nasty procrastination habit that is going to cause more problems for you later.

When you find yourself worrying about a dreaded task, stop. Either:

1. Start the task now or

2. Create a written plan for when the task will begin

The Plan is Key

Once you have a realistic plan, then you can allow yourself to say, “Don’t worry about it. It’ll get done!” Now, you’re not relying on things to just “happen,” you have a concrete plan for how they are going to happen. Of course, something can always go wrong, but you have little control over that, and we all know how useless it is to worry about something we can’t control. So go ahead! Allow yourself to stop worrying about that upcoming task! As long as you have a plan for its completion.

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Photo Credit: Chanpipat, Free Digital Photos

Improving Your Time Management Willpower

Time management and willpower go hand in hand. Creating a plan for your day that maximizes your time is only half the battle. Finding the willpower to tune out distractions and carry out that plan in an efficient manner can be much more difficult. In her recent book, The Willpower Instinct, psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains that there is much more to willpower than simply having iron clad self-control.

A Constant Battle

We’ve all felt that frustrating, internal struggle. We are tempted to do something – be it procrastinate, skip the gym, or have that second cookie – even though we know it isn’t in our best interest. This happens frequently with our time management. We know that putting off that phone call will just make more problems later, but right at this exact moment, we’d rather do something else. We know that we just checked our email five minutes ago and now it’s time to focus on our work, but what if something really interesting just arrived in our inbox?

We fight these mini willpower battles every day. In her book, Dr. McGonigal explains that it’s as though we have two minds that are in constant battle with each other. One side is impulsive and seeks immediate gratification (I want to check my email NOW, not later.) The other side seeks long-term goals and sticks to a plan (I want to check my inbox, but I will finish the task at hand before I do so.)

Your Inner Procrastinator

McGonigal suggests coming up with a name for the impulsive side of you. For the purposes of time management, it could be “the procrastinator” or “the Time Killer.” She finds this helpful when a willpower battle begins to wage inside your brain. When you find yourself about to put off an important task, stop. Remember, it’s not you who wants to procrastinate, it’s that “time waster” who has taken up residency in your head. He’s doing battle right now with your productive self. Let your productive self win. He deserves it.

When I read this, at first I thought it sounded a little silly. (Really? You want me to pretend there are multiple people living inside my head?) But I changed my tune when I realized it can actually be helpful. As I sit here and type this blog, the Olympic marathon is on TV. I considered watching it and forgoing my work until later, but I realized that was my inner procrastinator talking. I was much smarter than that. I knew I should type the blog, and then go watch the end of the event, which was much more exciting anyway.

It’s All About Control

People want to be in control of their actions. When you are the one who wants to procrastinate, it’s tempting to do so. After all, you do what you want! But when you think of it as another person who is telling you to put off your work, then the story changes. Nobody tells me what to do! I have goals and I’m going to stick to them.

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Photo Credit: Zirconicusso

Time Management Outside of 9 to 5

When we think about “time management,” it’s easy to associate the concept solely with work. After all, we often seek out time management advice as we’re searching for strategies to complete our work more efficiently, or achieve a more productive workday. However, looking at work in a vacuum, divorced from the rest of our lives, only paints half the picture of what it takes to achieve not only good time management skills, but life management skills as well.

Work Life and Personal Life

I’ve found that when I summon the self-discipline and planning skills to complete my work efficiently, other areas of my life benefit as well. I start eating better. I exercise more. I make more time for my friends and am more likely to dry the dishes on the counter than let them sit there for another day. It’s as though the progress I’ve made in my work life seeps into my personal life as well.

It begs the question: Does this concept work both ways?

If my work life feels scattered, but I manage to regain control of a messy house and a fast food habit, will those personal achievements translate into work achievements too?  I believe that, to a certain point, the answer is “yes.”

Self-Discipline

I believe that self-discipline is addicting and builds confidence. I believe that once you achieve a new “healthy” routine in one area of your life, it’s easier to achieve a similar routine in another area. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should expect to be a productivity fiend at work after one week of making it to the gym every morning. However, I think we too often ignore the relationship between the two.

This is what The Time Diet is all about and it’s why I never give a time management lecture or workshop without addressing the importance of a balanced life both in and outside of work.

Control?

Self-discipline is different than control. We can never control every aspect of our day. What we can do is have the self-discipline to plan in advance, stick to that plan the best we can, and utilize the resources available to us. Self-discipline is about staying on a path toward your goals, even when Time Killers viciously try to distract you.

What area of your life can you work to improve this week? The results may astound you.

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Photo Credit: Stuart Miles