Time to Read: 8 mins
*Press play for a read-along*
So we all know that time is important. Time only goes one way and we never get it back. When someone’s time is shortened, due to a disease, they are usually awakened to a new perspective that multiplies the value of their time.
There are sayings galore that inspire you, at least in the moment, to shift your paradigm of time — to put more behind your actions and weigh each minute that you are alive.
To, “live each day as it were your last.”
But this is hard to do. Without a constant, maybe daily, reminder we will almost certainly forget how valuable time is or at least be taken for rides by instant gratification.
But how much are we really losing when we throw time to the wind?
What is the value of your time?
How much is an hour worth to you?
This article goes over the factors that make up the value of time and it asks, and answers, the question, “are you committing an act against humanity by letting Netflix tempt you into watching another episode?”
What is wasting time?
The free dictionary defines a waste of time as:
the devotion of time to a useless activity.
waste and wastefulness.
useless or profitless activity; using or expending or consuming thoughtlessly or carelessly; “if the effort brings no compensating gain it is a waste”; “mindless dissipation of natural resources”
I’d say that sounds about right. Doing things/not doing things that as a result bring about no gain whatsoever.
But you can usually rationalize your wasteful behavior by pulling some sort of benefit out. Like, watching TV to wind-down before bed or playing video games to utilize a lot of the new brain science that points to them helping cognition (Jane Mcgonigal‘s research) or going out to drink with friends to get your social on and maintain your friendships.
These are all good points. Except the TV thing. Watching TV lights your brain up like a christmas tree and is the opposite of winding down.
Like I said, you can claim to be getting value from your time in these ways and thus not actually wasting time… but no.
I would argue that these only count as time well spent if you are doing these things as part of your plan and not in-place-of what you should or could be doing. Your brain is great at rationalizing your behavior. But you know deep down… You know….
If playing video games is not part of your regiment of self-improvement or not an assignment that you have taken on as a journalist or something… then you are wasting your time.
If going out with your friends is something that has come-up last minute — and that nagging feeling of, “hmmm… it would be better to stay home and knock some of my project out” — then you are wasting your time.
If you are watching TV and you are not studying the characters or the plot or the director’s techniques, again as part of your regiment for improvement or such, then you are wasting time.
Now please read on. This isn’t all to bum you out. This isn’t to discourage and anguish you to the point of tears as you think of how important wasting time is to you.
No. This is to save the world.
If doctor Donald A. Henderson had given into the temptation of Netflix, humanity may never have cured smallpox.
If Norman Borlaug had gone out drinking with his friends instead of putting the finishing touches on his new wheat formula, one billion people would have died of starvation.
And if Thomas Edison had decided to watch TV to “wind down” every night, we would still be using candles.
So it’s time to pull back the curtain and really look at how valuable time is to someone like you.
The Value of an Hour
So how can we determine the value of an hour?
All hours are not the same. You may say that it depends on the person.
Pardon my french but, if a panhandler uselessly spends one hour and Elon Musk uselessly spends one hour, who has actually wasted more? Who has removed more value from that time than there otherwise would have been?
Well, you have to view it by potential. The person’s potential for the value that they could have brought or could bring.
To approximate the potential of another, we must look at their production history and infer/estimate their capability. Elon Musk has created many-a-company, all of which were aimed to transform humanity, he has learned and learned many things, and he can cognitively keep up with just about anyone.
Our panhandler once started a business — but he went to jail for a while for that, and it certainly didn’t help anybody. Though he does give out compliments to strangers bi-daily.
So following our logic, Elon Musk has proven to have a lot of potential and a lot of capability. If he spends his time poorly, and wastes an hour — that is orders of magnitude more crucial than if Jerry the panhandler did so.
So that gives us two factors that influence the value of someone’s time.
The value of time is relative (to the subject) and is calculated using potential and capability.
What else influences the value of time?
Don’t read this article and blast over to the library and start reading everything you can on microbiology in search for the cure for cancer.
…well, yeah do that.
But don’t sit in that library for days on end searching and researching. Stressing and undereating and pushing your endocrine system to the brink in an attempt to get the most value out of each hour.
You will die and your value will be lost.
The trick is to spend the right amount of time in health and well-being, to sustain you through the value-production.
It’s shown that spending time exercising is time well-spent. If 30 minutes of exercise a day adds 20 more years to your life, then you’re doing it right. If spending time learning how to eat healthy ends up giving you a net life increase, then you’re doing it right.
The tip for making this work is pareto’s principle. The 80/20 rule. The law of diminishing returns. You’ve heard it before. 20 percent of what you do gets you 80 percent of the results. I could write a whole post on this, and probably will at some point, but the point of this is to not devote yourself 100% to eating healthy and becoming a 3% body fat fitness machine. That would require that you spend an unproportionate amount of time for less and less return. The rule/law of efficiency is to put in 20% of what it would take to be a superstar, and come out on the other side with 80% of a superstar ability.
Get all the sleep you can get, but other than that, know that efficiency is achieved by pursuing that 20%.
Every hour is precious and should be very thoughtfully considered. If that hour should be allocated to a routine that covers your bases for physical and mental health, say exercise and meditation, then so be it. If that hour should be allocated to homework so that you can pass college and get a degree that supports your plan to pursue your real great achievements, then so be it.
But don’t let that hour be misused. That hour is precious.
What are your ambitions? Your goals? Your dreams?
Are you working toward these with efficiency, health and wellbeing? With a strong mind and healthy habits? With a puffed out chest and a head held high? Or are you slumped on the couch eating chips, wasting this hour that you will NEVER have a chance to get back.
Are you working towards fulfilment? Are you helping yourself? Your family? Your neighbors? Your community? Or are you riding the instant gratification train straight to depression-ville.
Are you going to leave a legacy? — or a imprint on the couch.
That all may seem dramatic — but if the difference between you fulfilling your purpose and you just doing what it takes to get by is the cure for smallpox, the end of hunger for billions or the invention of the lightbulb — then I’d say it’s not dramatic enough.
Don’t even worry about the “community” motive. Do it for the selfish reasons. Do it for the path towards self-actualization. Do it for the pursuit of options and financial prosperity. Do it for the narrative — for the story it tells about who you are.
Studies show that there really is no pure altruism, that all actions are fundamentally rooted in self-interest, so even if you are doing it for yourself, who can blame you — so is everybody else.
And, more good news, the things that make money and affect change, are usually things that people benefit from. They are solutions to problems — whether in information, service or as products.
So how do you measure the worth of an hour? It’s all about the person. The person’s track record and knowledge and capability — it’s their potential.
So how much is an hour worth to you?
Only you know, because only you know your potential.
Share this post so we can cure cancer and invent more cool things like the lightbulb!
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