What was the big news story of 2009? (besides Tiger Woods). All together now…THE ECONOMY! The general consensus is it’s bad – it’s really bad. We’ve all heard it, felt it, experienced it, eaten, slept and breathed it. I will be the first to admit that spending habits in this household have certainly changed; sometimes to the point of using what we used to call spare change.

Nevertheless, the beat goes on and we still have to tally-up our spending for year-end tax returns and compare it to our budgets. It’s so…what’s the word here…factual. Black and white. And all that other technical accounting lingo. You had money, you spent it, and here’s where it went. Very visual – all on paper. Well, for most people.

But what about time? Do you ever find yourself asking “where did my time go? I know I had some. I know I did something this year. What did I get for it?”

We talk about time like we talk about money. As a matter of fact, we even say that time is money! We spend time. We budget our time. We invest our time. Time is valuable. You don’t want to waste your time. It’s in the interest of time. Balance your time. If I had a dime for every time I (fill in the blank), I would be rich. Keep track of your time!

Time is valuable to most people. The more we have, the better off we are, and the more we can spend. But the reality is we all have the same amount. No one is richer in time than the next person. We all have 24 hours a day to “spend”. We all get to budget the same 60 minutes in each hour. We all have 60 seconds in a minute to waste.

 So if time is like money, how can we get the most for our minute? How can we work the numbers and turn it into that big payoff – FREE TIME? I’m not an accountant (nor do I play one on TV), but if you apply some General Business lessons from high school you could get a better handle on where you currently spend your time and how to better invest your time in the future. Here are a few tips:

  1. Figure out what you want first. What’s most important to you? Do you want more relaxation? Exercise? Education? Intentional work time? Play time? Service time? Whatever it is, prioritize it and remember to make yourself a priority. Write it on paper. Now!
  2. Make a time budget. Compare it to last year. Do you want a higher percent or a lower percent on each priority item? Where did you waste time last year that you could spend on a higher priority item? Think of excessive TV, Facebook, and surfing the internet as being in the same category as sitting in front of a slot machine in Vegas; fun at the time, but doesn’t pay out consistently. Sometimes it does pay, but unlike a slot machine you can’t win your time back. Once it’s spent – it’s spent, so budget wisely and stick to your budget. Remember your priorities. (They are yours you know!)
  3. Have a plan and track your progress. People who are financially wealthy know where their money is, where it’s going and what it’s doing next. They make adjustments; investing more when needed but backing off when they can coast a little. Do the same with your time. When something is working, stay the course. If it’s not – adjust. Write down what you plan to do every morning and look at your list every night. Did you do what you planned? Did you spend wisely? Did you overspend or underspend? Where? Adjust accordingly for the next day, being mindful of your priorities and your budget.

The financial economy took a left turn and you may be feeling the pinch, or even a bite. You may have less money to work with than you did before. But the one thing you still have the same amount of is time. You can’t buy more time – it’s free. Invest it wisely my friends, then report back on the riches you’re experiencing in your life.