March 16, 2015 by Dymphna 11 Comments

What is your time really worth?

Time card

Who decides what your time is worth? Whoever’s willing to pay for it? What happened if you actually valued your own time and what it was truly worth to you?

I remember my last performance review. I said I thought I deserved a pay rise. My boss, who was me, agreed. We laughed and took ourselves out for lunch.

This is one of the perks of being your own boss.

But the bit I love most about working for myself is that I don’t have to sell my time to anyone anymore.

Because I reckon that pretty much whatever you’re getting paid for your time, you’re getting ripped off.

Think about it. What is your time actually worth to you?

Time is a scarce and finite resource. I don’t know anyone who feels they have too much time on their hands. And we go to great lengths to give ourselves as much time on the rock as possible.

Time is precious.

And that’s because time is the great enabler. Given enough time, we can do anything. It’s powerful stuff.

We can achieve great thing with it – help individuals or whole communities deal with terrible challenges. Create wonderful inventions, cure diseases, cook amazing meals.

Or we can just do wonderful things for ourselves. Tour the world. Go on exotic food safaris. Or just recharge the batteries.

Time is the common thread in everything worth doing.

And we all know the frustration of feeling that there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

And yet most of us bundle our time up into hour sized parcels, and sell it off.

If we play our cards right, we pick up some skills and experience that make us more productive – and then we can charge a higher rate for our bundles of time.

But even then – say you’re earning $50 an hour – which puts you well above average, is that really all your time’s worth?

In the context of all the amazing things you could be doing with that time, isn’t it worth a lot more?

This gets a little confusing here, because we’re kind of talking about two kinds of value.

One value refers to a potential to do or create good. A strong sense of ‘community spirit’ for example is extremely valuable.

The other just refers to a price – which is only whatever the last person was willing to pay for it. A new Mercedes is valued at $150K.

But they’re both practically impossible to measure in any meaningful way. Is a Mercedes really worth $150K? Maybe. Who knows? Certainly the sum of the component parts doesn’t get you to $150K. But then there’s the engineering know-how, the brand associations, the image and so on….

But these are only worth whatever people say they’re worth. It’s a kind of consensus reality.

And how much are abstract concepts like ‘community’ or ‘civic pride’ or ‘honesty’ worth?

How much are ‘mothers’ worth? Child-rearing? Guidance? Love?

We all know they’re valuable, but could you put a price tag on it? Could you even try?

Some economists have tried. It’s a whole sub-discipline. But those economists are idiots.

These things come out of a desire to see good things happen just for goodness’ sake – from a vision of how we want the world to be.

We’re good, honest and caring people, not because we’re are looking to trade these commodities on some market – but because they’re part of our vision for how awesome life could be.

So trying to put a price on them – a price that comes out of some mutually agreed market exchange – just doesn’t make sense.

But modern life tries to push us towards this reality all the time. We’re encouraged to push every shaped peg into a hole called ‘market value’.

(It’s the thing that bugs me about tipping. Don’t make ‘friendliness’ a commodity.)

And it applies to time.

I’d say that time is valuable in the most powerful sense of the word. It’s up there with ‘justice’ and ‘virtue’ and ‘tasty’.

But we’re told to believe that it’s only valuable in a base sense of the word. Like ‘brick’ or ‘hammer’ or ‘reverse cycle air conditioner’.

It’s a con.

And there’s a tragedy in this.

And that tragedy is that we start believing our time is worth whatever hourly rate we’re paid.

But this is a very narrow understanding of our time’s value. When we consider it’s potential, we can see that it’s worth so much more. When we consider what we could actually be doing with that time, the wonderful things we could achieve, the wonderful experiences we could enjoy – any conceivable wage rate seems like a rip off.

I guess I only came to realise this once I made a choice to live outside of the hourly wage system. Once I stopped selling my time by the bundle, I started to think differently about my time.

And once I really got in the swing of putting my time towards the things I wanted to put it towards – then I really started to get how valuable my time actually was.

I really wish everyone could see this.

I really wish everyone could break the shackles of wage-slavery, and start making the most of and savouring the time they have available to them.

And feel the gratitude I feel for the precious minutes that have been given to us – totally free of charge.

I guess it’s one of the reasons I do what I do.