How to Figure Out What Your Time Is Worth
March used to be my NBA-watching time. More than halfway through the season, I’d want to see my beloved Miami Heat scrap (or often stumble) its way toward the playoffs. I’d tune in at home. I’d watch on my phone when out. I’d follow games on Twitter. I was emotionally invested in every up and down.
But this year, I have no idea how the Heat are doing. I haven’t watched a game. I probably couldn’t name half the players on the team.
Why? Because I was forced to make a decision. My life had become too busy. Something had to go. That thing was basketball. So when people ask me how I do so much, that’s my answer. I quit basketball.
I’ve taken on a lot recently. I run this magazine, host two podcasts, give keynote speeches, have a novel coming out this fall (quick plug: it’s called Mr. Nice Guy) and have a toddler. And hey, I know the least interesting thing in the world is hearing someone talk about how busy they are. But I am, and so are you. So is everyone. Our calendars are horror shows. And we all need to find ways to cope.
At first, I really had no idea how to manage the problem. This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I started imagining myself as an old boat with too much cargo -- wooden planks creaking under the weight. But then I started to think about the entrepreneurs I’ve met, who are often as methodical about themselves as they are about their companies. Sonny Caberwal, the head of digital business development at Newell Brands, once showed me a spreadsheet of his week, in which he plans out how to spend every hour. He thinks of time like a budget: It should be spent wisely, not haphazardly.
That got me thinking about my own time. I don’t want to work nonstop -- that only ends in burnout -- but I want to make sure I’m using my time as wisely as possible. So I started measuring time in terms of outcome. I’d ask myself: What do I get for this hour spent? What can I show for it later? Time with family and friends has an obviously valuable outcome: My relationships are stronger. But other times, my options might be watching a game, scrolling through Twitter or writing the script for the next episode of my podcast.
So I started to think about what I’d rather say I did in a week. Watched the game? Read the tweets? Or worked on a new podcast for people to listen to?
Now I have my answer.
I know this can sound joyless. It isn’t. Instead, it’s what keeps me motivated during times when I’m tired. I’m excited for people to listen to that next podcast, or read that next article. Tomorrow’s accomplishments don’t just happen -- they happen today. Hell, I’m doing it right now: I’m writing this from a restaurant in Chicago’s Midway airport, and although I’d like to order a second beer, I know that’ll make it harder to write this column. And I’m more excited for you to read these words than I am for another beer.
Most important, this philosophy isn’t limiting. It’s built for flexibility. Sometimes, I will have that second (and third) beer -- if I’m out with friends, if there are memories to be made. And at some point, it will also allow me to get back to my Miami Heat. My toddler son is a sporty kid. He might grow up and love basketball. Then we can watch together, and those games I dismiss today will become worthwhile tomorrow. There may never be time for everything, but there is always time for plenty. It’s just a question of priorities.