Monday, July 30, 2012

Redefine Time

What is time? We know it as 24 hours in a day, but in certain circumstances we’ll see time differently. 

For example, for someone newly retired from meaningful full-time work, an extra 40-50 hours a week can feel like too much time, like being overloaded with freedom and uncertainty. The extra hours may drag on day after day and seem like eternity.

Then there are the times when people are facing eternity, such as when a patient with a terminal illness learns her time is running out in a matter of months. If you learned you were facing eternity—in just a few months—what would be your wish? More time? If so, I’m not surprised. Most of us would want more time, just a little longer time to spend with the people we love. 

Whether we have too much time on our hands or we’re praying for a little more time, in both circumstances our perspective on time changes.

Develop a new perspective on time
The extra hours available in retirement require us to develop a new perspective on how we spend our time. It’s interesting that we use the phrase "spend time."  We spend time just as we do that other necessary resource, money. Time is a limited resource that we invest in our lives. 

When we’re employed full-time we don’t think much about spending 40+ hours of our time at work. It doesn’t seem like we’re “spending” time but more like we’re investing it. Work is an honorable and financially responsible place to invest this resource. But, when work is no longer costing so much of our time, we need to determine where we want to use this precious resource. 

Sounds easy, but it’s not since we haven’t been trained on how to manage an abundance of this resource. We have a scarcity mentality. Up to now, all our skills have been focused on compressing time so we get the most out of it. 

As one retired accountant said to me, “I didn’t just fit everything into my day. I jammed it in.” It is going to take some work  to change the way we think about time and the value we place on it. 

Define the value of time
The newly found hours in retirement are an opportunity to define the value of your time on your own terms. When I was working full-time as a college administrator it was easy to assign a value, in dollars, to how I was spending this precious resource. Now that I have more time, I choose to give it my own value. 

For instance, some days when I shop for groceries I pretend I live in a small Tuscan village where buying groceries is a daily event. I enjoy finding a new recipe and then shopping for the ingredients. This may require driving out of my way to a farmer’s market for fresh produce or herbs. 

I’m aware that time management books and cost-cutting tips suggest that I spend as little time as possible in the grocery store since additional visits correlate with more time and money spent. However, I have the time to spend. And, I’m investing this time in an enjoyable experience that contributes to my physical and emotional well being. 

I think of it as going to the bank and saying, “I want to invest in a 36-month CD at 15% interest. Banks may not give me the option to choose the level of return on my investment, but with this new perspective, I can choose the return rate when investing my own time.

Divide your investments
It may be easier to form a new perspective on time when you divide your investments into different categories. Below are a few areas to consider. Next to each one, create an experience that is worth  your time. 

Invest in people and relationships: 

Invest in your health and well being:

Invest in giving to others:

Invest in memories:

Invest in your future happiness (growth and learning):

When you determine the value of your time 
and use it accordingly, 
you can expect a high return on your investment!

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