Don't just save your time, reinvest it in activities that will revitalize you and your work, argues the founder of Zirtual. By Maren Kate Donovan (CEO & Founder, Zirtual)
I want to give millions of people more time on this earth. I want our most precious commodity to be something people generate for themselves.
I don’t want people to save time — what are you saving it for? When are you going to cash it in? Unfortunately, we’re not at the point in technology where we can pause time and treat it like money to put aside for a rainy day.
But when it comes to the concept of reinvesting saved time, now that’s where things get interesting. To enter into this fascinating and exhilarating universe of time reinvested, let’s just establish a couple of basic truths that we can all agree on:
- It is, in fact, possible to "save" time. But ONLY in the sense of reducing the amount of time you would have otherwise had to spend on doing something that you didn’t do or did faster than normal.
- Saved time does not accumulate in a bank account somewhere so that you can pull out a few hours here and there to use at your will; like the time from last Tuesday when you finished cleaning the house in 45 min. instead of an hour and a half. (Bravo to that, by the way).
Instead, time passes apathetically no matter how we use it or try to hang on to it. With every second that goes by and every year I get a little older, I realize that it’s essentially up to me to be strategic and passionate about how I use my time — especially the time that I save. Saved time is totally worthless unless we actually use it.
Let’s say I just delegated a task that would have taken me two hours to do by myself, or I finished a proposal ahead of time because I was able to work remotely, away from office distractions. First off, good for me and, yes, I think a mental |woo hoo!" is in order. Next comes some slight unwinding: getting a snack, taking a few minutes to sit on my rarely-used balcony and soak up some sun. This kind of decompression after finishing a big goal is actually healthy.
But what about that hour and 45 minutes after I’m done decompressing? If I’m not mindful or don’t really have much regard for my agenda, that "saved" time could just dissipate as I stare at the birds or get swept up in cleaning my house. Now don’t get me wrong, I love pigeons, and I truly believe that cleanliness is next to godliness, but all of that amazing, well-earned saved time isn’t really doing me any good if I don’t reinvest it somewhere else — and put it to use!
The key to reinvesting saved time is in reallocating it into something that thoroughly serves you. Maybe it’s spending quality time with your family for a couple of delightfully unexpected hours, or walking your dog (you know he’ll love you for it!). Or, maybe an hour-long yoga class is just the tonic soother for your soul.
I used to think that I "didn’t have time" for things that had to do with tending to my own well-being. As an extremely persistent, non-stop entrepreneur building a company on 18-hour days, I was acutely dedicated to the primary goal of creating a successful company, and my time was limited to say the least. So when it came to fitting in an exercise class or hanging out with a friend, I believed that replacing valuable potential work time with "extracurriculars" would result in time being taken away from me.
I couldn’t have been more misguided. Fortunately for me, the universe decided to shed light on this new, secret dimension of compounding saved time.
I got a free week of yoga classes and, because my funds were limited, I decided that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go every day and take advantage of the seven-day no-pay-as-you-play deal. What happened as a result completely surprised me and changed my life. Because I dedicated my saved time to an hour of yoga every day for a week, I actually became more productive and I ended up gaining time. Just taking that extra hour for myself increased my energy, got my blood flowing, and ultimately improved my efficiency in work. I can honestly say that the bonus hour I reinvested into my own well-being gave me a return on my investment by at least three times.
I personally prefer to reinvest my own time in three main areas of life: health, wealth, and happiness.
Health is an investment that pays off tenfold. When you have your health you can do anything.
Juicing (or buying a bottle of freshly squeezed fruits and veggies from the plethora of those lovely juiceries sprouting up on nearly every corner) is a great way to detoxify the body and make sure you’re getting vitamins and nutrients you may not otherwise receive in your daily diet. It also can provide a boost of energy and help to pave the way for clearer thoughts.
Walking, riding a bike, hiking, pilates, yoga — you name it; any form of exercise is good for you. I prefer to reduce barriers, like driving, to exercise, so I’ll go for a brisk walk or jog right outside my doorstep; no commute necessary. Any aerobic activity will get your blood flowing and pump greater creativity to your big ideas and visionary strategies.
Education, education, education. Learning more about how to increase your wealth is so easy but so few people take the time (or reinvest the time) to do so.
With just five minutes of time spent on reading a finance blog post or listening to a financial guru on a podcast (while also doing the dishes on autopilot — one more thing off the list!) can lead to inspiring decisions and extended financial security. Taking that extra hour to watch a TED Talk about financial savvy is not only educational, but always engrossing.
I like to identify parts of my business that could be strengthened by building my skill set in that area. I then find a book or online expert whose work I can learn from. I also like to take a moment to write down the things I’ve learned about financial growth so that I can reference them and put them to use. Even though each solo tip may seem inconsequential, they add up to make a huge difference.
This is one aspect of reinvestment that reaps immediate benefits. Spending time with your kids, significant other, or going on an evening walk with friends can drastically affect your contentment level.
Through delegating work, for example, you can actually create enough space in your schedule to fit in meaningful activities that make you happy on a regular basis. You can even invest saved time into completing additional work within a short timespan and thereby make space for an entire vacation!
I know firsthand as both an entrepreneur and compulsive business woman that giving yourself the permission to engage in something that doesn’t directly contribute to your work is not easy. It seems totally counterintuitive to put not only your time, but also your energy, into a task that doesn’t propel your goals forward. But, then again, what are our goals? To be working around the clock without any quality time for interaction with our friends and family? Or to be constantly “busy” but not enjoying our hard-earned lifestyles?
In the race to achieve our goals, it’s important to step back and assess what is truly important to us and what matters most in our own lives. Your time is precious and you can’t go back to retrieve it or even bank it for the future.
What you can do with all of the amazing time you’ve saved — by handing over tasks to others or working from home free of a commute — is reinvest it in the things that revitalize you and your connection with whom and what you love. And believe it or not, you’ll get such a return on your investment that you’ll be richer than you ever could have imagined.
What use of your saved time will give you the greatest ROI?
Maren Kate Donovan is the founder and CEO of Zirtual, a startup that connects busy people with virtual assistants. As an entrepreneur who launched her first startup – a mint farm – at the age of 12, Maren knows what it takes to balance work and life. For years, she studied the patterns of highly successful business people, looking for a model of entrepreneurship that lets her work on the things she chooses to work on. The secret ingredient was a team of virtual assistants. Maren started a blog called "Escaping the 9 to 5," and began putting together the pieces of a startup that would help others accomplish just that. The result was Zirtual.