It may sound strange to hear a financial advisor say this but achieving the things you care about most requires more than just money. There are certain habits and behaviors that, while not directly related to finance, can spell the difference between reaching your goals or not.
In my experience, people rarely hear about these things from their financial advisors. So, as I shared last month, I’ve been contemplating the investments we can make in small lifestyle changes and how those changes can have a profound effect on your financial life. It’s my belief that applying these concepts in your life makes working towards your goals both easier and more rewarding. This month, I want to talk about managing your most valuable asset - time.
Benjamin Franklin once said:
If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality, since lost time is never found again, and what we call time enough, always proves little enough.
You’ve probably seen or heard a lot of fancy terms related to your finances. “Asset management,” for example, or “Investment management.” You get the idea. But just as important is the concept of time management.
The definition of time management is, “The act of planning and exercising control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, or productivity.”1 Look at those words again. Planning. Control. Effectiveness. Productivity. All things that can have a big impact on how much money you have to achieve what you want most.
The art of time management is essentially the art of prioritizing your life. It’s the art of recognizing which activities are most important in terms of reaching your goals. Some activities will bring you closer; others will move you further away. Many activities, of course, will have no effect either way.
Let’s call them “A” activities, “B” activities, and “C” activities. “A” brings you closer to your goal, “B” keeps you stationary, and “C” moves you further away.
For example, let’s say one of your most cherished goals is to travel to the country your ancestors came from. “A” activities could include creating a plan for getting there, setting aside money specifically for the trip, or learning that country’s language. “B” activities, meanwhile, could be anything from going to the grocery store, to playing a round of golf once a month, or sleeping.
Some examples of “C” activities? How about buying that new $1,000-version of the phone you already have? Or deciding not to plan, but just wing it, instead?
As you can see, “B” and even “C” activities are NOT inherently bad! In many cases, those activities can be fun, rewarding, or even necessary. But when you prioritize “B” activities over “A” activities, or when you spend your time or money mainly on “C” activities, then your most cherished goal will always be a fantasy instead of a reality.
Time management, then, is the process of:
- Determining what you need to do to get where you want to go. (These are your “A” activities.)
- Making those activities your first priority on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
- Filling up the remainder of your time with “B” activities after the “A” activities are done.
- Being very cautious about when you spend time or money on “C” activities.
As you may know, I help people plan for retirement. In my experience, people who don’t practice time management end up planning for retirement this way:
- First, they dream about what they’d like to do in retirement, and then decide it’ll probably happen “some day.” Then they start thinking about what to do for the weekend.
- A few months or years later, they read a book or article on retirement planning and think, “This makes sense, I’ll have to get on that sometime.” Then they turn on the TV.
- Occasionally, they remember to save or invest a portion of their income, between bouts of buying the latest thingamajig that everyone else seems to have.
Then, before they know it, they’re in their sixties and realize they’re nowhere close to being ready for retirement.
The point is, time is an asset. But like all assets – money, property, personal skills – if you fail to manage it properly, it will go to waste and be lost forever. That’s why, when it comes to accomplishing what really matters, time management is just as important as money management.
And that’s something most advisors just don’t bother to tell you.
In my next post, we’ll dive more into the concept of prioritization, and look at why some financial decisions are more important than others.
1“Time Management,” Wikipedia.org, accessed July 10, 2019. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_management