‘Time is money’, so the saying goes. Except I don’t think it is. Time might be like money in some ways, but it is also different to money in others.

You can spend time, but you can’t buy it. You can invest time, but your investment won’t attract more time in interest payments. You can share time with other people or even give it away, without having less of it yourself. You can’t borrow it from other people, and you can’t store it or save it for later. And if you don’t do anything with your time, you still end up spending it anyway.

Time is egalitarian – every single one of us has 7 days in the week, amounting to 168 hours, or 10,080 minutes. This is your time budget (and everyone else’s).

We might think that each minute is conceptually equal to any other minute, each of them ticking by in an endless and metronomic march… but not all minutes are equal, and there’s two reasons why:

  • Time differs perceptually (how we feel it passing); and
  • Time differs relatively (Einstein teaches us that time differs depending on where we are, and how fast we are travelling)

We can’t do much in practice about the second difference, but the first can help us with our time budgets.

Think back to a recent time you were having fun, experiencing delight, or really engaged and focused on an activity. Chances are, you may have felt like the time seemed to scoot by pretty fast. And the last time you were bored, disengaged, or taking part in a tedious activity? I bet you felt that time dragged by agonisingly slow.

Those pockets of high-value time (like an evening of good food and great conversation with friends, or reading a thrilling book) – they may seem to pass fast, but they leave behind a gentle wave of gratitude, fondness, and maybe even serenity. A wave we can sometimes use to ride out the ditch-water dullness of the low-value time pockets (like waiting for a seemingly infinitely-delayed train in the sideways-rain, or infinitely scrolling through social media while eating a sandwich at your desk).

Which of those minutes and hours were the best-spent? Where did you get the most ‘bang for your buck’? What periods of time did you value the most? We’ll call this golden time.

And which of the minutes you spent do you wish you could demand a cosmic refund for, because you got such low payoff for them? We’ll call this beige time.

Easy questions, probably. Here’s a more useful question. Turn from the past and look into the future: zoom in on your time budget for the next week (your calendar, schedule, planner)… how many of your glorious 10,080 minutes have you budgeted for golden time? And how many budgeted for beige time? Hmmmm… how do you feel about that allocation? And what are you doing about it?

This time next week, your 10,080 minutes will be gone, no matter what you spend them on. Be a wise investor – your future self will thank you.

Dr Sarah Robins-Hobden is an escaped academic, helping people close the gap between where they are, and where they want to be, with bespoke coaching and training. Her superpower is empathy, and her kryptonite is her own inner critic. You can find out more here: www.robinshobden.com

 Views expressed by the writer are not necessarily the views of the Springboard Consultancy Ltd

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