Why Time is the New Wealth

January 27, 2021

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

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.

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