Why Time is the New Wealth

Why Time is the New Wealth

When historians look back on the transformation of 2020, the dominant stories will involve politics and public health. And rightly so. But there is another transformation that is happening on a smaller, more personal scale. It’s happening in living rooms, home offices and in the minds of people whose lives have been changed by circumstance. That transformation is based on the concept of time and specifically, the emergence of time as a form of wealth and an ingredient in our quality of life.

I recently had a phone conversation with a colleague. Our business discussion veered into the personal and she said something that stuck with me regarding being quarantined. She said, despite all the horrible things that are happening, that she’s never been happier. She doesn’t want to go back to the way things were.

A friend described a similar situation regarding his move in 2018. He and his family moved from California to an island off the coast of Washington State for his work at a non-profit organization. He said that it was a relief for them because their lives had become so cluttered with obligations that they were constantly busy and weren’t happy. Moving was a clean break from their busy-ness and they didn’t want that version of their lives to happen again.

I, too, felt this way. Despite having worked from home since 2003, I felt liberated by the mandate to stay home and enjoyed not having so many plans. Whether it’s via a pandemic or an interstate move, we felt the burden of being busy and were relieved to see it wash away. We became richer with time.

Busy-ness and Quality of Life

In the era before COVID, a lack of time was a strange badge of honor for some people. They could never be spontaneous because their lives were scheduled weeks ahead with meetings, soccer practice, and dinners. They rushed from one event to another and watching them, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this version of life what they want?

For some, it can be. A strong work ethic and a feeling of responsibility to others is healthy and productive. Others are driven by the need to attain wealth that provides them the quality of life they desire. Again, not a bad thing. If a person chooses a lifestyle that matches their values, I applaud them.

The problem, from my perspective, is when people who are fortunate to have a choice don’t realize it or haven’t considered how time factors into their quality of life. Because financial wealth is commonly connected to success, time can seem trivial, or expendable. Why would anyone focus on time when money is how success is measured?

Today, as we hopefully look toward the end of the pandemic, I believe that a new perspective is emerging. By disrupting our lives, COVID-19 created an opportunity to re-think what matters and how time relates to our own versions of success.

You, Transformed

This brings me back to the transformation. The happiness many of us felt while quarantined came from finally being free from busy-ness and obligations. Instead of spending our time according to someone else’s calendar, we could be in more control. And that control is addictive. We don’t want to go back to our pre-pandemic lifestyles because it means less autonomy. Money still matters, but time has new value and relevance.

As I wrote in BIG ENOUGH:

Now more than ever, I believe that time is the new wealth, and in the future, it will be more valuable than money to many. It will be the element that people strive to control and design into their lives because it’s a source of real satisfaction and freedom. Unlike money, time can’t be piled up and spent later. Every day it slips through your fingers. Further, time can be acquired by making up your mind. You can decide to have more time and that means consciously designing it into your daily life.

But it’s not that easy. Seeking to be wealthy with time requires dedication, willpower, and acceptance of the trade-offs that are necessary. If you’ve found that time has more value than you expected, and you want more of it, you have to choose it with intention.

Seven Tips for Becoming Rich With Time

In 2008, when my company, Common Craft, had a variety of opportunities to grow, we committed ourselves to staying small and testing ways the business could earn a profit and contribute to our quality of life. For us, that meant remaining in control of our time. The list below summarizes the personal lessons were learned in that period.

  1. Design time into your life through constraints. This means setting limits on your obligations and designating free time on the calendar. For example, no meetings on Tuesdays. No social engagements on Thursdays. You are just not available then. That time is taken. How you use it is up to you.
  2. Become comfortable saying “no”. This is not easy. We don’t want to disappoint others or lose an opportunity. It takes practice, but once you feel the power of “no”, it will become a strength that you can wield to great effect. You’re sorry, but your schedule doesn’t allow for that right now.
  3. Adjust your expectations. You have been transformed. Money matters and you want to be financially successful, but the real goal is having time to live the life that makes you happy. Unlike a new car that outwardly shows success, an abundance of time leads to a kind of satisfaction that’s personal and intrinsic.
  4. Forget the Joneses. You have something they don’t. You have a wealth of time that relates to the freedom to do what you want, when you want. That’s what matters.
  5. Understand the trade-offs. If you value time, consider what you’re willing to trade to have more of it. Would you accept lower pay if a new job had better hours and a shorter commute? Would you be okay with fewer social engagements if it meant being more autonomous?
  6. Become an evangelist. You’ve discovered something new and interesting. Share it. Talk to people about what you’ve learned about yourself and how you’re changing. They might be inspired to join you, or at least understand your perspective.
  7. Revel in your freedom. Do something interesting or, do nothing at all. That’s the secret. You are in control and have a choice. That’s the new wealth of time.

Big Enough, is a book about building a business that makes time and quality of life a shareholder value. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or career-changer, it will be a breath of fresh air.

Why Home Construction Takes So Much Time ⏳

Why Home Construction Takes So Much Time ⏳

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.

Two years ago this week, we were working with John on plans for the house and had just completed a survey of the property. It boggles my mind that it’s been so long, but that was part of our plan. From the very beginning, we saw time as an asset and a luxury.

In those early days, we had an abundance of time, in part, because the house was still a dream. There were no contractors or deadlines. We could design and tinker and propose as we looked for ways to make the finances work. In the first year, the house existed purely on paper and we both loved pouring over the plans and debating every decision.

When we renovated the Hunter House in 2010, we were fairly new to construction and didn’t anticipate the number of decisions that had to be made in a short amount of time. Once the construction got underway, the clock was ticking and it seemed we were making daily decisions on the fly. The builder needed to know what kind of front door we wanted, what brand of fan to use in the bathroom and dozens of other things. At one point, thanks to solid feedback, we decided to redesign the kitchen and all the necessary decisions happened in a matter of weeks. 

In the end, we were extremely happy with how the Hunter House turned out, but also a little scarred by the experience of making so many expensive, pivotal decisions on the fly. We knew we could do better and the house on Orcas Island was our shot to think ahead, take our time, and get it right.

House plans have a way of creating their own momentum. A survey turns into a plan. A plan needs a building permit. A building permit means a contractor can get involved. The contractor has a start date and a window of time before the next project. It all flows together and it can seem like it’s a race to the finish, which is marked by moving in. We both feel the momentum and have consciously tried to balance progress with the reality that we are not in a hurry. Yes, we are excited and want the house to be finished. I can’t wait to move in. But at the same time, this period of the project is magical and something that is a source of happiness.

I’ve written before that, for us, happiness lives in anticipation. It reminds me of being a kid at Christmas. The long anticipation of Christmas morning far outweighed the experience of opening presents. The same is true for vacations or even a meal at your favorite restaurant. The anticipation can be a greater producer of happiness than the experience itself.

In anticipating the house’s completion, we’ve tried to be mindful that this phase is a time of happiness that should be savored. Rather than pushing everyone involved to beat deadlines and feeling the stress of delays, we’ve decided that we’re better off being deliberate and getting the job done right. We have faith that Drew’s team and his subcontractors will do what is needed when it’s time and unreasonable pressure from us isn’t going to help. Quality takes time. Besides, our life at the guest house is comfortable and affordable. We’re better off using that energy to plan the layout of the kitchen cabinets.

Building a house is a complex and time-consuming affair, in part, because so much of the work has to be done in sequence. For example, the great room side of the house is supported by three big steel beams that connect to one another. For the framers to start building the floor and walls on that side of the house, the steel has to be in place.

Building a house is a complex

It’s easy to imagine that all three pieces arrive and are bolted together like an erector set. And that could have happened. Drew could have just ordered the steel based on the measurements in the plans. But that’s not what produces the best results. The quality comes from getting the first pieces in place and then taking exact measurements for the next pieces. This takes time, but reduces the risk of having to refabricate and redeliver a piece of steel that doesn’t fit.

The Moment Frame Just After Installation
The Moment Frame, Closer

Even something as simple-seeming as a concrete retaining wall requires multiple days and a crew that rides a ferry to and from the island each day. Sometimes the ferries break down or someone gets sick. The team has other commitments. Days might go by. But in the end, it gets done and usually exceeds our expectations.

Our Driveway Retaining Wall
Our Driveway Retaining Wall

When we talk to people about the house, they inevitably ask when we’re likely to move in. Right now, we believe it will be early fall 2020. But that’s not a deadline. The house is going to take as long as it takes and that’s OK with us. We’ll spend the rest of our lives there. Besides, we have time to savor the anticipation.