Monday, March 29, 2010

Time Flies...

I have been insanely busy lately. Work and personal obligations seem to keep me running from one thing to the rest. When I get crazed like this, I always find myself wondering how people manage when they have kids-- as a single woman, I feel I hardly deserve to complain! But I guess life just fills up with whatever you have to fill it with-- family, a significant other, creative activities, exercise, and necessities like eating, sleeping and earning money.
For most of us, earning money is what takes up the biggest chunk of our day, and it's usually less fun than all the other stuff! So many of us find ourselves wondering about that trade-off: you have to earn money to support the other things in your life, but could there be a better balancing point between money and free time?
I knew someone who took a 20% pay cut in order to cut back to working only 4 days a week. She wanted more time to devote to writing. The writing did earn her a few dollars here and there, but nowhere near what she gave up in salary. It was hard for her to make ends meet, and she sacrificed things that other people probably wouldn't give up, but the choice was worthwhile for her.
For me, working part time isn't an option right now. I could perhaps make a case for it with my boss, and I think I'm valued enough here that they'd consider it if the alternative was me quitting. But I feel like I need every penny I'm currently earning in order to meet my long-term financial goals. I'd like to think I could use any extra "free" time to generate income in other ways, but it doesn't seem like a good gamble to me. The kind of blogging I'm willing to do is never going to turn into a big money-maker, though I'm always impressed that other finance bloggers have managed to go pro. And though I think I have a great idea for a book, which is almost entirely fleshed out in an outline, I know too much about the publishing business to think that it would be likely to make me much money, even IF I could get it published, after the even bigger IF of actually getting it all down on paper!
All this is not to say that I'll give up on these projects-- just that I need to find a way to fit them in while still working at a full-time job. And that means I have to be more efficient!

Since time is money, I'm thinking about lots of ways to waste less of it. I'm not sure how many of these things will make a meaningful difference, but maybe they'll help:

Less media-- I have to do so much reading already, blogs make it even more difficult. I've really cut back on my RSS feeds, and am more selective on what I click through to. I'm also trying to be more ruthless about magazine articles, podcasts, books, etc. If I'm not getting enough out of it, I have to just move on to something else rather than trying to finish it anyway!

More automation-- I've been putting more bills on auto-pay, and letting go of more paper statements. I've always found certain things to be easier with a piece of paper in front of me, but I'm going to try to act on email reminders, and save paper only when I think it's really necessary for tax purposes.

Multi-tasking-- Can I read while exercising? Can I work on the subway? Can I blog at my desk during lunchtime? This is a tricky one-- sometimes I think trying to do too much at once actually ends up wasting time rather than saving it. Therefore:

Concentration-- I'm trying to be less distracted at work so I can finish what I need to do and not have to stay late in the office or be catching up on emails outside the office. The only problem with this is worrying that I'll look like a slacker when I am working within an office culture where few people walk out the door at 5pm! I also need to apply this to other parts of my day: sometimes I get home from work and realize I've just waffled around for a couple of hours without accomplishing much of anything.

Time Off-- I can't just turn myself into a task-churning robot either. I need to allow myself some down time too, and fully enjoy it. Snuggle time with Sweetie shouldn't be cause for anxiety about all the other things that aren't being accomplished during those moments!

Does anyone else have any good tips to share on how to make the most of your time? Have you ever traded money for time?


frugal zeitgeist said...

I hope I'm still on your reading list! I won't ever be going pro with my blog either, but at the same time, I don't ever want it to feel like a job I have to work at.

I would love to trade money for more free time, but like you, it would mean compromising my long-term goals right now and that's not something I'm willing to do. I'm shooting for early retirement instead.

mOOm said...

Different people have different energy levels and different amounts of time they just have to take out from being busy I think. My problem is feeling guilty about not getting useful stuff done when resting and vice versa and just ending up spending "grey" time that is not really relaxing or useful. That's the challenge for me at least.

Will said...

You said that 'the choice was worthwhile for her' - did she ever get back the money she's given up?
I can't imagine going through paper statements ever again - to me, it's all online, in my mailbox, organized in folders. If I ever want to find something, I don't have to toss the whole apartment to do so.
I wouldn't count on reading while exercising too much - I don't think it's a type of multitasking you want to try out. You said it - you'll just end up wasting time and strength.
In regards to getting more things done during office hours, I wouldn't care much about what others say - I'm sure their net worth is way lower.
To answer your question about making most of your time, try this: wake up one hour earlier. Although it doesn't sound like much, you may be surprised how much more it'll give you. Also, try focusing on only one thing at a time, avoid multitasking at first. Hope it helps!


P.S. My Google account isn't working for some reason.

Miss M in Progress said...

I understand where your at. I'm finding myself at this crossroads. The number of times I find myself asking is this really what I want to do is increasing evermore. Like yourself, I am paring down and becoming more discerning about what i involve my time and energy in. In regards to my finances, while yes, I would love to do nothing but dedicate myself to becoming debt free, I also know that spending time with my loved ones (children, family and friends) is soo much more important to me. I'm only one person and now finally accept I can only do what I can. If after working and doing nothing but that I die tomorrow, the debt will still be there and I'll have never had that time to give to my loved ones.

Because the plate gets fuller and fuller, I make lists like mad for both personal and work items and I move off of that. But for sure, at least 1 hour per day I give to myself do to all the things I want.

I think it absolutely is about balance and what works for you does not and cannot work for others so make your peace about what is good for you and move from there. Be flexible.

Anonymous said...

Madame X, I have been a reader for probably 4 years now, and finally feel I have something to contribute! I work in the library of a large white-shoe law firm that was hard hit in the financial sector 2 years ago. There were no layoffs in the library, but my boss asked for some "volunteers" to cut their hours back to 30/week from 35/week. I elected to do it, and now make $8000 less/year (and get 25 days paid leave instead of 30) but retain full health benefits.
This has been a great trade off for me. I now work 8-3, and can pick up my son from school at 4--saving on babysitters + more time with him. I also (hopefully) earned some bonus points with my boss. I am fortunate that my household income is such that $8000 did not break the bank. Frankly, I never want to go back to full time!

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff said...

I trade money for time everyday.

I only make $35,000 a year, but I am never in the office longer than 40 hours a week. I also have a job that is all about hurry up and wait, so I can read most of my daily pf blogs (like this one) from work as well and write my blog posts for upcoming weeks.

Could I get a better paying job? Yep, but it would most likely require more than 45 hours of my week (my job plus commuting time).

My husband and I are still saving for early retirement at's all about balance. Less income means we have to keep our expenses low in order to afford to live now and save for our future.

I suggest that everyone makes a list of their priorities and live accordingly. Socializing is at the top of my list, so working long hours is out for me.

I always like subjects that bring out the "personal" of personal finance.

Anonymous said...

You sound so much like me, a single woman (though I think I'm a bit older than you) with a mortgage and bills to pay, an older house to maintain, etc.

The work/life balance has always been an issue for me, and over time i've come to positively resent the claims on my time that the typical full time job has on me. I've experienced it both ways: working at a job close enough that I could literally walk to work, and rarely leaving past 5, as well as jobs with an hour or longer commute and where there was always that subtle, unspoken pressure to remain at work well past official quitting time. I also arranged to work at one job 4 days a week (not longer days) for a commensurate cut in pay. For me, the extra free time, essentially having a 3-day weekend every weekend, was priceless. And I'm determined, as i enter my 7th month of unemployment, not to get trapped in another high pressure job with long hours and a long commute, both of which erode my personal life and overall life satisfaction.

Sweet Kitchen said...

I can completely relate to all of the sentiments in your post. I had a very demanding job for many years- late hours, weekends - and took a significant pay cut for a job with better hours but even so I still struggle with balance.

I often fantasize about going part-time and, while I think I could probably afford it by cutting back in certain areas, like you, I worry about retirement savings and also whether I'd actually end up working the equivalent of 5 days, just crammed into 4!

IIf you figure this all out, please let us all know!

Cindy S. said...

Life's like a roll of toilet paper. The more you use the faster it goes!