One of the most important things we all learn as consultants is how to value our time. Initially, in the financial sense. Then, something else about it begins to emerge. We begin to see our time as a resource that can be invested, to build something, something larger than ourselves. Time is an asset we can invest in who and what matters.
Here is a brief meditation on putting that idea to work.
My first go at self-employment started unintentionally, when I found myself learning and getting pretty good at bending technology to the will of solving this problem or that. I started answering calls for help with this and that, requests of a technical nature, mostly bending technology to the will of whoever, whenever for whatever reason. I loved it, the learning and building my fluency by the day. I loved the look on people’s faces when my tinkering solved big problems for them. I slept well at night.
But it wasn’t all rosy. It came with its own set of new challenges. I had to figure out how to claim the additional income, for one. I called an accountant for the first time. That was an intimidating world, at first. I had lots to learn but, seemingly overnight, I had my first consultancy, which led to more of the same at first but then other things, too. This is all just to say that “time is money” is a popular expression for reasons most of us are unaware of until we start charging for our time on our own behalf.
Initially, as I said, my dilemmas with and perceptions of time were of a strictly economic sort: How much should I charge for an hour of time spent in the service of bending technology to the will of this person or that? And is that a fair price for value? How can I be sure not to promise more time than I have? What is a good balance? How can I be sure not to create an unsustainable work/life balance? And on and on.
But as I settled into a practice of making myself available to an assortment of strangers who’d eventually become clients and friends, beginning to earn their money for my time, I learned to regard my time not just as something I could be paid for, but something that had value in a way I hadn’t before considered. Our time is something that we can invest. Our time is something worth investing. There is no debate that it is not the most important and precious resource of all.
The trickiest thing about time? We always think we’ll have more of it, or even enough of it. Like all commodities that we typically perceive as having an unlimited supply of, we don’t tend to value time much at all until time runs out. And — big shocker — it will run out. It’s running out right now.
So, as the last moments of the day here give way to the first moments of a new one, I want to encourage you to place the highest possible value on your time and to invest it with purposeful intention. Invest it in the people who make your life more enjoyable and more interesting. Invest it in work that consistently challenges and rewards you and delivers unmatched value to others. Invest it in ideas and causes that make your yard, your town, your county, state, country and this spinning, blue globe we all share a little brighter for it. Invest in experiences that transform you, that offer you new perspectives and leave you full of gratitude for those who give you great stories to tell. That’s really important. Tell only great stories. The people we surround ourselves with power those stories. Without them, not much of a story to tell.
And most of all, invest time in more of whatever gives you the most happiness. Because, cliche’ or not, life is too damn short for anything less.
Gratitude and mojo to my dear pals, Charles Youel and Vince Beggin, who’ve unwittingly, through their own, personal acts of courage and triumph in this context, have inspired me to write my own version of this story. Thanks, fellers. No small thing.