How Much are Your Hours Worth?

Photo courtesy of Saad Kadhi

While I was weighing whether or not to have the housekeeper clean my house this month, I remembered a conversation I recently had with a friend. Our chat was lengthy and had both of us taking opposite ends of a philosophical perspective, but I can actually summarize our conversation in a three-word question.

Does time = money?

This is, of course, something people have wondered about many times before. For me, it meant trying to figure out which was smarter. On the one hand, if I simply picked up a scrub brush and hopped to it, I could work around my clients’ needs and get the whole house cleaned in my spare time.

In that scenario, I’d have the same amount of money but less time in which to make more of it.

My other option was to call the housekeeping company and schedule a cleaning. They’d send out a crew and clean my entire house in a little over an hour, for which I’d pay them a pretty significant amount of money. While they sanitized my bathrooms and dusted all the knick-knacks I’ve accumulated (even though I once swore I hated those things), I could be working on paid projects, listing items in my eBay store, or coming up with my next big idea. Not to mention, I’d gain back the two hours (likely more) I would have spent cleaning the house by myself.

In that scenario, it seems that time does = money. However, as with so many things in life, it’s just not that simple.

When anyone is considering how to best spend the hours in their day, there are several things that must be taken into consideration. Primarily, you should have a good idea of what an hour of your time is worth to you in terms of income. Let’s use the cleaning company scenario as a hypothetical example. Hiring them would gain any of us three hours each month to do whatever we needed or wanted to accomplish, and for the sake of this argument we’ll stay focused on activities that have earning potential.

Would an extra three hours help you achieve important professional or financial goals? If so, think of hiring people to take care of some of your duties as an investment in your future. In order for it to be a sound investment, you’ve got to use that time wisely and not spend it surfing the Internet while eating Cheetos, though. If that’s the result of your investment, you’ve just flushed the entire cleaning company fee right down the drain, plus any potential earnings you could have generated by coming up with your next big idea.

So, if time really is money, then it’s clearly a good idea to buy more of it. At regular intervals, take stock of how well you utilize any time you were able to free up by buying more time. Did your investment in yourself pay off?

If it seems like buying time isn’t helping you attain your goals, spend some free time analyzing what you could do differently. Keep working at the time/money equation until you get an answer that has a big professional payoff.

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