We all are born with 168 hours in a week, with many of us feeling we actually have less and less available time to get things done. So, why is it that while most just struggle to keep up with the pace of life, a select group of people seem to have an abundance of time?
Do you know someone like this?
These time tycoons get their work done hours before you do. They take extra time off work including multiple yearly vacations. They spend copious amounts of time with their family. They’re even up to date on all the episodes of that Netflix program you’ve been meaning to watch.
“How do they do it?” You ask yourself. You may even mistakenly think that the time wealthy are wasting time, when in fact, they are spending far less than their available allotment. These people are the time-equivalent of Scrooge McDuck; rather than swimming through an endless pile of gold, they seem to have an abundance of seconds, minutes, hours, and days.
The “Bank of Time”
In terms of time management, here’s a secret: When it comes to time, there exists an elite class. These time-billionaires have red-carpet access to a reserve of hours, minutes, and days that others desperately wish they had. I call this reserve the “Bank of Time.”
This bank does not exist in any real form but has a very real impact in our lives through our minute-to-minute choices. The average human continually makes withdrawals from the Bank of Time, and, as a result, finds themselves in time debt.
Alternatively, the time-wealthy make consistent, calculated deposits into the Bank of Time. These time-preneurs turn the tables by getting the Bank to pay them a steady flow of compound time-dividends. They harvest time by the bagful.
I’ve experienced this contrast firsthand. My timewise-rags-to-riches story began with me as one of the most time-starved, disorganized people in the world. Often late, chronically busy, I was even diagnosed with “off the charts” ADHD. However, by using five principles, or “Laws of the Bank of Time,” as I like to think of them, I’ve helped myself and others find an abundance of disposable hours.
The best way to understand this unique concept is to see the five laws in action. These are principles I’ve applied to my own life and the lives of those who have trusted me to be their coach.
Stage 1: Get out of time debt
First, we need to take control of your time-hungry deficit spending.
This most often manifests itself when someone borrows from one activity to pay another, such as borrowing from sleep to pay to read a book into the wee hours. The result? Time debt.
You borrowed from one activity you needed to do (sleep) to pay for something else (reading), and at an inappropriate time. As with money, when you go into debt, you must repay it with interest.
In this example, not only will you need eventually to make up for the loss of sleep, but your productivity may be hampered for a day or more. If I borrow from a date with my wife to pay work, it’s a foregone conclusion I’ll have to repay that with interest over a long period of time!
Bank of Time Law #1: Use a time budget
A fiscal budget keeps spending in check because it requires a person to account for all expenditures against an available pool of income. A time budget is similar in that you account for all your appointments against an available pool of time. In simpler terms, your time budget is your calendar.
This may sound overly simplistic, yet I’ve found a shockingly large percentage of people fail to use a calendar consistently. Often this occurs because they’ve found themselves so hopelessly behind in getting everything done that they don’t want to confront the harsh reality of their limitation.
They spend time on credit, as it were, hoping that somehow they’ll be able to pay for those commitments they’ve made—later. Don’t ask them how, but they’re sure they’ll make it all work by the end of the month.
We need to curb the temptation to spend to the edge of our limits. An old adage about money goes something like this:
“Happiness comes from spending one dollar less than what you have, and misery comes from spending one dollar more than what you have.”
The same is especially true when it comes to time. Happiness comes from spending five minutes less than what you have, and misery comes from attempting to spend five minutes more than what you have.
Bank of Time Law #2: Underspend time
Rather than trying to cram 65 minutes into a 60-minute hour, allow some breathing room instead. Buffer time—carefully scheduled and protected open space in your calendar—is actually your friend.
I’m a strong advocate of setting 50-minute appointments, which, incidentally, Google Calendar will automate if you select the “Speedy meetings” option in the calendar settings. Also, as a general rule, leave at least 20 percent of your total work calendar time as unscheduled.
The bizarre paradox of 21st century time management is that when you deliberately schedule time to do nothing, you’ll get far more done. You live in a world that will interrupt you. It is inevitable. So prepare for the interruption by “saving some time for a rainy day,” so to speak.
Stage 2: Earn time profit
The time-wealthy don’t just avoid overspending time—they put time to work for them, by crafting a work-day that continually yields more hours and minutes than were initially invested.
Time isn’t necessarily money, but time will pay dividends to those who leverage it wisely. Time profit comes when you spend your time, and occasionally your money, in activities and resources that yield far more that the initial investment.
Bank of Time Law #3: Maximize the value of your time
Consider a hypothetical for a moment:
You’re at a business networking function and you meet two people. Both person A and person B make $200 thousand per year. Impressive, right? But what if you learn that person A achieves this milestone through an 80-hour workweek while person B accomplishes this through just 30 hours per week. Your perspective shifts quickly, doesn’t it?
While most of us wish to free ourselves from the tyranny of an hourly wage, and rightly so, we risk losing sight of the most important metric in becoming time wealthy: the net, realized dollar-per-hour value of our time.
The time-wealthy avoid doing low-value work, not because it is beneath them, but because doing work that is low-value damages their ability to have free time.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners are particularly prone to the trap of doing easily replaceable low-value work such as bookkeeping, janitorial, and administrative tasks. Instead, they would earn freedom through focusing on higher value tasks such as visionary work, big-ticket sales, and strategy.
Bank of Time Law #4: Invest in time assets
Wise money investors make calculated investments in assets—items that will yield a return back to them over months and years.
Time tycoons can do the same, by investing in the best quality tools, high-value technology, and a streamlined workspace.
As just one example, consider having a slower, outdated computer. Perhaps the memory is due for an upgrade, or the screen is small and difficult to read. If an upgrade and update resulted in just a two percent increase in performance, the net gain is just over one extra workweek every year.
When one considers the cost of labor, isn’t dropping a few hundred dollars to upgrade output a savvy investment?
Even investing in online training, such as my Time Management Fundamentals course on Lynda can yield a massive benefit through an increase in productivity far beyond the few hours spent learning to implement improved performance practices.
Bank of Time Law #5: Earn compound dividends
Which leads us to the fifth law of the Bank of Time: earn compound dividends.
Advanced practitioners of time wealth multiply their efforts by enlisting the help of others. They wisely hire, train, and delegate to employees, contractors, and virtual assistants.
In the past, we were taught to prioritize according to what is urgent and important—a clever concept in a world that was not so information-saturated. Yet now, all things are urgent, and much of it is also important.
When the world is clamoring for your attention and you feel starved for time, how should you prioritize? Here is the system I share with my coaching clients:
- Is there anything repetitive I can delegate so others will multiply my effort?
- Am I holding up any process? Never be the bottleneck.
- Can I create something that will work for me while I am sleeping?
- What will make the money per hour?
These questions put the priority not just on doing work, but on doing the work that works for you, freeing up precious hours. Not all investments need to be with people.
Some creations, such as an online article like this, can work for you and drive traffic and opportunities your way—even while working on a different project, relaxing with loved ones, or enjoying a movie.
While business owners are often in the easiest position to implement the fifth law, this certainly is not limited to entrepreneurs. Any position has the ability to implement this.
Two of the most successful sales executives I know, both of whom work for large corporations, live by this principle. They recognized that, while they were excellent at finding and closing deals, they were painfully slow and inaccurate when it came to the resulting paperwork. They made the personal investment of money to enlist the help of a personal assistant who excelled at handling the fine details. This means that valuable work is being done while they focus on even higher value rainmaking.
The Bank of Time is open to all
The great secret of the time wealthy is that it really is no secret. If any of this sounds too good to be true, I invite you to open an account at the Bank of Time. They are open 365 days of the year, 24/7. Walk right in, and sign your name.
If you feel starved for time, begin with just the first law. Create a budget, and stick to it. Then, as you experience the benefits of living in balance, make small deposits by under spending time. As these deposits accumulate, you’ll find it easier to focus on higher value activities. As you profit both personally and professionally from the focus, reinvest in time assets. Finally, expand your investments by creating a support arsenal that will make compound dividends.
As someone who was severely time-poor to the point of bankruptcy, but who now enjoys a life of time abundance, I wholeheartedly certify that membership in the Bank of Time is worth the investment.