By Maria Lin
We all agree that time is more valuable than money.
At least, that’s what we say.
Then we turn around and spend hours watching bad TV we’re not even that interested in. Or 45 minutes on the phone with customer service fighting a $5 charge. Or years in a relationship or friendship we stopped feeling fulfilled by long ago.
But I’m convinced it’s not for a lack of good intent that we often end up treating time as our most fungible asset. (Hey, there’s plenty more where that came from, right? Well, not really … ) I think we simply get too busy to think about it, or don’t think we have the resources to make more time in our lives. We do have the resources, though. All it takes is a fresh look at how we really spend our days, hours and moments.
I’ve been thinking about time as a tangible asset not unlike money in many ways, and about ways to invest our time to yield higher returns—better memories, more hours well spent, even minutes that nourish us instead of fly by. After much research, experience and reflection, below are what I found to be the seven best investments you can make with your time. Think of these as blue-chip time investments that can’t go wrong—and that will yield high dividends for a more fulfilled life.
1. Invest in “Life-Extending” Time
Investing time in caring for your health is an obvious one that will certainly yield you more time, literally—in days, months, if not years tacked on to your life. Yet we often take our health for granted until we experience a wake-up call. Proactively invest your time in your health by eating well, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep and regularly seeing your doctors. Invest heartily in those non-physical markers of well-being as well: emotional, mental and spiritual health—you will reap many hours of well-lived life from them. Learn the habits of the Blue Zone people, from the regions in the world where people live the longest. Some common lifestyle traits they share? Building in natural movement and activity, lowering stress and being part of a faith-based community.
2. Invest in “Foundation-Building” Time
There’s a little saying that goes, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Create the time to make the right stitches, and you’ll be spared much time, hassle (and usually expense) later. Stephen Covey refers to this concept in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” According to him, we spend our time primarily on four types of activity:
(1) urgent and important (crisis, deadlines, putting out fires)
(2) non-urgent and important (building relationships, identifying opportunities, prevention, planning)
(3) urgent and non-important (interruptions, phone calls, meetings)
(4) non-urgent and non-important (TV, email, time wasters)
Covey says that we spend most of our time in sections (1) and (4), but the real area of personal growth is in (2). If you’re spending more time putting out fires than building the right foundations, you’ll never get out ahead of your to-do list.