It’s never a waste of time, energy or money to invest in yourself.
How often do you hear yourself say:
“I don’t have the time.”
“I don’t have the energy.”
“I don’t have the money”.
It just slips right out there, doesn’t it?.
What are my spending habits?
It is true that time, money, and energy are three of the most essential and valuable building blocks of life. Everyone has their habits in how they spend each of these, yet people don’t seem to get a handle on it. They mostly don’t even think about it unless forced by circumstances such as old age problems, pressing debt, sickness, etc.
Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.
A ‘currency’ is something you trade for something else such as an experience or possession. Therefore, time and energy are currencies as well. Money is probably the most obvious: you use your time and energy to obtain money to fulfil your wants and needs.
You’ll trade time and energy to get money, but you can also swap time and energy for a quite a few other things that don’t need money at all. Money is not the only currency there is, and apparently not the only thing you need to measure the quality of living.
The time-energy-money relationship
In the relationship between these currencies, you will see how they influence each other. The explanation below may seem tedious, but it’s to highlight how they work together and to get you thinking about how they function in your own life.
– I believe that time is the first and only resource given to every person that all people have the same of in a day. Time is also non-renewable, you can’t get back what you’ve lost, you can only try and make up for the loss with what you have left.
– Energy is used to perform a task, no surprise there. When you get older, you may not ‘feel’ that you have a lot of energy to spend. Energy and time are always spent simultaneously, though in different quantities.
– Of course, we need money to pay for individual wants and needs. You spend most of your time working to gain money unless you’ve inherited a fortune.
Consequently, when you’re not using time and energy to work, you will use your money to make the time and energy you spend during weekends even better.
There is a balance that you can find between these aspects that can work well for you, especially when it comes to your priorities. You already have such a balance without even thinking about it, but I would like to encourage you to be proactive.
Learn to tweak your spending of these currencies to improve the balance and be more prepared for unforeseen circumstances.
Free information is available everywhere on the internet to help improve each of these currencies, but I believe we shouldn’t neglect the relationship between them.
If you want to start tweaking the balance of how you currently spend these currencies, you can ask yourself questions like:
– How much time do I spend on typical activities during the day at work and home?
– How do I feel in the mornings when I wake up and what times during the day do I typically feel at my best?
– What are my daily financial expenses? Do I live below my means every month?
When you have answers to these questions, and possibly some deeper follow-up ones, you can start to look at how to spend them better. Even setting up a simple two-week tracking system for yourself in a notepad or on Excel will already give you the information you need to see where to make changes.
Finding a proper balance will help you not to get too obsessed with any aspect. Money is a genuine example of this: working eighty-plus hour work weeks are not healthy, and millions of broken families can testify to that. But it’s no secret that a lot of time, energy and even money have to go into making more money.
Usually, however, you do have a choice on how you wish to live your life.
A whole lot of comfort
Why is it that only when problems seem to become pressing or life-threatening that people want to look deeper at how they spend these resources? One word: comfort. As long as I’m comfortable and nothing is bothering me, why do I need to change anything?
Comfort means you’re in a familiar place that makes you feel safe. However, you can train yourself to be comfortable with any new situation or challenge. Staying in your comfort zone all the time means you’re not growing.
For growth to happen, you need to become comfortable in looking for the unfamiliar. For a short post describing a bit more on comfort, you can read this article.
“You can’t really manage your time. You can’t manage five minutes of your time and end up with six. You have to manage your actions.”
– David Allen, Getting Things Done
Effectiveness over efficiency
Effectiveness is to choose your activities wisely. Efficiency is when you are doing something well, irrespective of what that task is. Although doing something well doesn’t mean it’s necessary or the right thing at that moment. You need to evaluate your priorities to know if you’re trading your most essential currencies on the wisest activities.
The first step towards being effective is to identify or apply your priorities. Personally, my priorities are: firstly, my relationships with God and my family, and secondly my calling in life. The right activities on which to spend my currencies should, therefore, be to study and sharpen my skills, to take care of my health and to find sufficient energy-givers to continue to give my best in serving these priorities. I will, of course, spend money on these priorities as wisely as possible.
Realizing the balance and relationship between these currencies in my life allows me to use it better. They can’t be spent separately, only wisely or unwisely. Spending time with my friends is important, and it’s an incredible and encouraging energy-giving source, so I have a high return on my energy input.
Managing my time, energy and money
We have looked at time, energy and money as currencies you spend, as well as discussing how they relate to each other to create a balance in your life. We’ve also talked about choosing the right activities you spend them on to be connected to your priorities.
Let’s now take a look at how we can spend each currency better.
Look at it as learning to budget with your time and energy just as you learn to budget your finances. Again, it starts with knowing what your priorities are.
The key is to learn to make these three aspects work for you, not the other way around. People who get this right are proactive, not reactive. Know what you want to achieve and then learn to use your resources better.
Rather than saying “I don’t have time” you should say “this is not a priority right now”.
Time management starts with consciously deciding what actions are related to your goals and priorities, and then to make time to allocate those actions appropriately.
If you haven’t heard of the Parkinson’s law, you can read about it here. In short, the more time we have, the more we’ll waste. With less time we will have that “kick in the butt” to cut out the nitty-gritty and perfectionism and focus on the critical things.
If you say you don’t have time, it means your priorities aren’t sufficiently clear. You may not have as much time as you’d like for everything, but clarifying what’s most important will allow you to make time. The world of planning tools is vast. Therefore you can plan how to spend your time.
David Allen writes: “You can’t really manage your time. You can’t manage five minutes of your time and end up with six. You have to manage your actions.” Clear priorities will allow you to do this.
Remember that every minute you use is your choice. Don’t look at everything and say “I don’t have time”, but rather at everything you’re not doing now and say “this is not a priority right now”. With whatever you’re doing at this moment, you’ve chosen to say no to a million other things you could be doing. Choose wisely.
I’ve reminded myself a few times to take a quick step back from whatever I’m busy with to catch a horizontal view of whatever else I could do at that moment. In most cases, it gave me a stronger sense of peace. I’m not a fan of multi-tasking, and there are more and more studies in favour of focusing on one task at a time. We don’t have to try and go so fast that we miss what is essential, such as our relationships.
“I don’t need time. What I need is a deadline.”
– Duke Ellington
Energy management goes hand in hand with time management. Your energy level determines how well you carry out the tasks and actions you spend your valuable time on. We will look at it in two ways. We will look at what gives, takes and wastes your energy, and then at how to work smarter and not harder with your energy.
Energy givers, takers and wasters
Wise decisions allow you to eliminate the energy takers and wasters, and build your energy givers. Energy givers, takers and wasters refer to favourable or unfavourable circumstances and actions you take, as well as surroundings in your life that influence you.
How do they have an influence, you may ask? It can either empty or fill your emotional tank.
A full emotional tank can increase your readiness and responsiveness to circumstances. You feel more awake and ready to attempt challenging tasks. Therefore an empty emotional tank must mean the opposite. If you feel drained, you’ll be more likely to stay in your comfort zone, and you’ll be particularly resistant to doing more difficult tasks and challenges.
– Energy Givers fill your emotional tank. These are tasks that energise you such as a hobby or sport. At least parts of your job should stimulate you. Hopefully, you have more energy givers than energy takers as part of your work. If you surround yourself with people who inspire and motivate you, it will give you energy.
– Energy Takers mostly refer to the opposite of energy givers. Some people can also drain your energy. Although you might not be able to cut all energy drainers out of your life, you can still put boundaries in place. If you feel that your job consists of a whole lot of energy takers or you feel like you’re in some funk at the moment, at least there are certain things you can do about it. Click here for some tips.
– Energy Wasters: Candy Crush. Need I say more? You have a billion things to do, but you just want to play this mind-numbing game for one more minute…
Here is an extreme example: There are those sitting on street corners after having given up, young people without guidance from parental figures, etc. They are unfulfilled and end up as criminals doing drugs and other crimes. They are wasting their energy on unfulfilling, unpurposeful things.
Though most don’t fall into this example, there usually are some energy wasters in our lives that we can work to avoid, such as worrying about what others think of us, unresolved issues, indecisiveness, not having clear goals, etc. You waste energy and time when you are unwilling to do the hard things which are sometimes painful and humbling but are meant to take you to where you want to go.
Work smarter, not harder
Now let’s look at working smarter and not harder by being effective in what you’re doing. It’s not about how many hours you’re at your desk but what you do while you’re there. It’s not necessarily that hard to spend only the needed amount of energy on the most valuable stuff in a shorter amount of time:
– Stephan Covey’s 7th habit, Sharpening the Saw, teaches that it’s more powerful to take a step back and see where we need to invest, develop and grow in ourselves. Learning the necessary skills can make tasks easier and faster. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
– Rest is not a bad thing. Prioritize rest because if you don’t rest enough, you will be less productive.
– Are there someone else’s methods you can copy to help you do it faster?
– Invest in systems to improve your output. The systems I mention here are what I use at the moment, but you should find what works for you. Some methods help with physical work performance such as Getting Things Done (GTD). There are also online systems and SaaS (Software as a Service) such as Asana which also have potent apps for mobile devices.
If you think of money and possessions as expendable, the value you add to it will change.
Most of our time and energy as adults are spent working for and getting hold of money, although it feels like it takes much less effort blowing it again. Everyone would love to have more, but sometimes it disappears faster than we know.
Countless tools and resources exist to help people manage personal finances, but so many people still aren’t getting to a place of managing their money instead of their money controlling them.
I probably don’t have to tell you to keep a budget to keep up with your spending, but not unlike managing time, overspending also comes down to a lack of clear priorities, as well as being emotionally reactive at the moment.
Here are some tips I use in my own life that will hopefully help you think about this in your life:
– Can you afford your current lifestyle? Is it worth drowning in debt and having sleepless nights?
– Give freely. If you think of money and possessions as expendable, the value you add to it will change.
– Be honest with yourself and other supportive people about your financial situation. Always remember that pride can prevent you from beating your money problems.
– Look for help from wise and professional people.
– Have a budget for regular deposits into an emergency fund, no matter how small.
Everything I write has to be practical and useful. Here are a few golden nuggets I’ve acquired, and I encourage you to think of or learn your own as you grow in managing money:
- Cut yourself some slack. Don’t be so rigid in planning and budgeting that you don’t enjoy it, or eventually fail and become discouraged because of standards set too high. Allow yourself to have fun.
- Don’t assume you’ll still have the same income next month. The craziest of things can happen to the seemingly most stable of jobs.
- Avoid debt. Don’t use a credit card just because you have one. Instead, wait for a little and save up. If you unavoidably had to go into debt, then make sure to cancel it as soon as possible using a debt repayment plan.
- Consider more than one source of income, especially into assets that generate revenue. I love Robert Kiyosaki’s teachings on this.
A Final Word
The relationship between the three currencies and their balance in your life are important to remember when you want to become more productive in any area of your life. Your priorities will determine how you spend each of these.
I hope that this article inspired you to take a more in-depth look at how you spend your three currencies and to make the uncomfortable changes to improve your lifestyle. If this was the case, please let me know!
If you have any thoughts or comments on this post, I would love to hear it.
As always, live exceptionally and keep on making a difference.
What follows is a summary of most of the practical tips mentioned in the essay, including some added muscle, so that you can have a quick overview whenever you feel like coming back, and you don’t want to reread the WHOLE thing.
Some questions to ask:
What can you do to start now? Priorities.
- What are the top three things that are priorities for you, or maybe that should be, but you’re not there yet?
- Any other questions or actions you consider from here on should be with these priorities in mind so that you’re not emotionally reactive in a moment, or quit if you fail at any change you try to make.
- It’s important to keep your priorities visible to be reminded of it regularly, so write it down somewhere.
- As you go through the rest of the questions, ask yourself, ‘is it honouring my priorities?’.
- Which hard thing are you putting off that you probably need to do?
- Do you have to get a checkup at the doctor, or quit some destructive habit that you’ve been making excuses for, or something of the sort?
- Remember, it will affect your future and the people surrounding you.
- For extra help to decide what to do, make a pros and cons list.
- Get people to support you.
If you want to start finding out what your current time, energy and money spending habits are you can ask yourself some of the questions that follow. If you think of any more that applies to your situation, feel free to add it here:
- How much time do I spend on typical activities during the day at work, home and elsewhere, including time with friends and family? (If you want to get detailed you can add ‘dead-time’ like travel time to and from work, how many breaks you take at work and how long, etc. It’s your choice, as long as you do it. Keep it fun).
- Whenever you remember or set a reminder, take a quick step back from what you’re doing and tell yourself, ‘I’m saying no to many other tasks I could be doing now, so is it worth it?’
- How do I feel in the mornings when I wake up and in the evenings before bed?
- When do I feel at my greatest? Before twelve in the afternoon, between twelve and four, or after four?
- How much sleep do I get and is it enough?
- How much do I exercise and how many healthy meals do I eat?
- What vitamins am I not getting that I probably should?
- What are my energy givers, wasters and takers? What can I do to balance it out more?
- Do I have a realistic budget?
- Do I stick to the budgeted amounts I set for myself every day, week or month?
- Are my expenses fewer than my income every month?
- Do I have a long-term goal of where I want to go and how to get there?
- How can I adapt my lifestyle to remove some financial stress?
- Is there a charity or church that I can regularly give some money to so that I can adopt the right attitude towards money and possessions?
- Who do I trust that I can contact for moral support in stressful situations?
- Who do I know that’s a professional in finances, or who can I ask to point me in the right direction?
- How much am I willing to set aside just in case of any unforeseen emergencies?
After writing down the answers to some, or all, of these questions, it’ll help you to take two weeks to track your spending of each of these and writing it down in as many details as you feel necessary. No need to get fancy, a simple notepad or spreadsheet will be enough.