How to spend time with purpose

As a freelancer one of the first lessons you’ll hear is: ’time is money’. But you know what? Time isn’t anything like money.
When you spend money, you will most likely earn it back at some point.

Once you spend time, it’s gone forever.

Time is much more valuable and precious than money, and it took me a long time to understand this.
I’ve learned that I don’t need much money to get by as I live quite simple. But money does give me a sense of solid ground and feeling secure.
Once that dawned on me, I realised I have been overlooking something important: time and how I spend it.

Valueing time over money

If you let go of ‘making money’ as your goal and make ‘spending time purposefully’ the main focus, it changes pretty much everything. It changes how you approach each day, especially as a freelancer, as you get to choose your own projects.

“Is this project worth my time?” instead of “how much money does it earn?”.

You might think “but I got to earn money” and you’re right. Most of us, including me, have to do the job to pay the bills. But asking yourself the first question above makes you consider if what you’re doing is benificial to you in the long run. I strongly believe that choosing purposefully will lead to better things.

What I didn’t realise a few years ago was that whenever I said ‘yes’ to something, and especially to multiple things, it meant I’d already said ‘no’ to things that followed. Because we have limited time, we can’t do it all.
Saying ‘yes’ without considering if it suits you, takes the limited time you have. It might take time you had rather spent on something that suited you better.

For everything you say ‘no’ you, you’re making room for something to say ‘yes’ to. So, choose purposefully.

Image: Unsplash

Quality over quantity

Not only does it work on a professional level for me. Also on a personal level does it allow me to spend my time better.
I feel that dedicating proper time with friends and family is more valuable than a quick catch up. I’d rather sit down with someone three times a year and spend hours with them, having meaningful conversations with them, than a quick chit chat coffee every week.

Staying on track
It works for me because I’m at my best when I spend continuous time on something. So, if I interrupt my work to have a quick coffee in the city with someone, it’s harder for me to get back on track as my brain is filled with the trip to the city, my mind wandering for hours about the talk, etc. It’s also one of the reasons I only meet up with people on Fridays by the end of the day: than I can turn off my working brain. But that’s another blog post 😉

Losing people
Sometimes it’s tricky to choose quality over quantity. In my culture people are more into quick meet-ups, often saying they’re “making efficient use of their time”. I don’t see it that way. Cramming a quick meet up in between other appointments might seem efficient for your schedule but it’s hardly respectful towards the person you’re meeting, or to yourself.

Having fewer meetings but spending more time on each meeting works for me. I’m not the chit chat kind of person anyway.
It is difficult to communicate to people though. They might feel it’s a rejection when you tell them you don’t have 15 minutes to grab a coffee each week. I’ve lost people over my choice of quality over quantity, and that’s difficult. But if you’re not on the same level as your friends, it was likely to fail anyway.

Image: Unsplash

Am I doing what I want to be doing?

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I realise we don’t have all the time in the world. Life is fragile and we only get one chance to live it (unless you believe in reincarnation). I asked myself: “Is what I’m doing now overlapping with what I want to be doing?”. I came to the discovery that it’s not really.

Whilst visiting my best friend Emma last April we made a list with things that make me happy in general, what makes me happy in work, unhelpful habits, and future plans.
I always thought that I had to do certain things to feel fulfilled, like certain types of jobs. But when I wrote stuff down from my heart, what I really wanted, those things weren’t even that high on the list. I had been focused on certain aspects so much that I lost sight of what truly mattered to me.
Since then, I’ve kept this list as my guideline. I re-evaluate the list every once in a while to see if I’m still on track and if the list backs up my feelings.

Figuring out how to spend your time

You can download my template and use it to discover how to spend your time. The template will lead the way, just print it and fill it out.

It will show you what it really is you want to spend your time on, and what kind of things aren’t helping you.

If you have time to leave me a comment, please do! I’d love to hear what you think, and if it helps giving you insight on how to spend your time. As I have tons of ideas of more templates and more guidelines, I’m curious if this is interesting to people.

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29 reacties

  1. Dankjewel Marloes, ik ga het invullen. Het lastigste is misschien wel om er op te vertrouwen dat er daadwerkelijk (fijne) dingen tijdig volgen om wel ja tegen te zeggen als je nee tegen iets zegt.
    Ik gebruik graag templates dus ben zeker geïnteresseerd!

    1. Snap ik, dat had ik ook! Nu ik een paar keer heb meegemaakt dat wanneer ik ‘nee’ zeg, het betekent dat ik ‘ja’ tegen dingen kan zeggen die ik graag doe, weet ik dat het het waard is.
      Ook heb ik jarenlang ervaren dat ik nee moest zeggen tegen dingen die mij heel leuk leken, maar omdat ik al ja had gezegd tegen minder leuke dingen, kon het niet.

      Val een paar keer heel hard op je snufferd (of in mijn geval: jarenlang), en je begint te begrijpen dat bewust en doelgericht kiezen en veel fijnere manier is.

      Veel succes!

  2. This is such a wonderfully expressed post! I often think about how to spend my time consciously, so that I am not depleted by the end of the day. And I agree, people who want to squeeze you in to their schedules are probably not people you will have a meaningful connection with. I prefer fewer friends, and fewer quality outings.

    I can’t wait to use your worksheet! I have a few projects I’d like to work on, and need to prioritize them in my life.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Akshaya! And I totally agree: I rather have fewer friends but whom I have more of a deeper connection with. Hope the worksheet helps you to clear things up. Would love to hear your thoughts on it!

  3. Wat een fijne post, ik ben hier zelf laatste tijd veel mee bezig. Heb eerder dit jaar mijn baan op gezegd omdat ik alles deed behalve dat voor mij goed voelde. Ik ben veel meer naar mezelf gaan luisteren en mijn leven is een stuk fijner! Nu heb ik pas door hoe moeilijk ik het mezelf soms kon/kan maken.

    1. ‘In hindsight…’ doet zoiets inderdaad. Het is fijn om te realiseren waar het aan ligt, en waar het misschien fout gaat, zodat je niet dezelfde fouten blijft maken 🙂

  4. Dear Marloes, it’s fabulous how this post fits into my days. Coincidentally I’m re-reading right now the first “big book” I read when I was a child (I mean a book with words only 🙂 It’s called Momo and it was written in 1973 by a german author called Michael Ende. The original (big) title is Momo oder Die seltsame Geschichte von den Zeit-Dieben und von dem Kind, das den Menschen die gestohlene Zeit zurückbrachte, translated to Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves and the child who brought the stolen time back to the people. By the title, you can imagine the subject 🙂 Once you have time and interest… I highly recommend. It’s incredible to cross the reality from 1973 and 2019 and see that not many things changed 🙂 Hope we can change it inside ourselves. Love, Régui

    1. Sounds like a good book! I’ve recently read a book in which it said that humans are and will always be time depraved. There are books and essays written in the late 1800’s which already talk about how time is going so fast. Time will always go fast, it’s not just our time. I think it’s a matter of finding the right things to spend your time on 🙂

      1. Michael Ende used to be my favourite author as a child. I had a whole collection of his books. This particular book is called ‘Momo en de tijdspaarders’ in Dutch. Might start re-reading it too 😉 And Marloes, love your Instagram posts and your blogs. This one reminds me of a phrase: ‘Met je handen vol kan je geen kansen grijpen.’ Thank you for always being honest and sincere. The world needs more of that!

        1. I didn’t know Michael Ende, I really have to look him up 😀
          I’m happy my posts mean something to you!

          And I like that saying, it sums up my whole blog post. Love it!

  5. De ene dag voelt het alsof ik zeeën van tijd heb en de volgende loop ik achter de feiten aan. Het is maar net hoe belangrijk ik mijn to do lijst op dat moment vind. De conclusie is vaak dat het ook best een dagje kan wachten… bij mij werkt een halve dag werken het beste. Dan ben ik gefocust tijdens werk en heb ik daarna de ruimte in mijn hoofd om met nieuwe ideeën te komen.

    Grappig genoeg kon ik heel veel uit mijn kind-cirkel ook highlighten in die van nu! (Behalve jarig zijn.. dat hoeft nu niet zo nodig meer ;))
    Al betekent dat nog niet dat ik altijd de tijd neem om ‘the happy stuff’ ook daadwerkelijk te doen.

    1. Ik werk er nu ook hard aan om minder uren te gaan werken, omdat ik dan productiever en vooral gelukkiger ben. Nog even deze laatste deadline tot september, en vanaf dan minder opdrachten aannemen en meer tijd om aan mijn eigen boeken en projecten te werken. ‘Nee’ zeggen tegen opdrachten (hoe leuk ze soms ook klinken) en ‘ja’ zeggen tegen mijn eigen projecten is de volgende fase, waarvan ik haast zeker weet dat ze hun vruchten gaan afwerpen op lange termijn.

      Het is fijn als je nog trouw bent aan het kind in jezelf. Als kind was je waarschijnlijk heel puur, en hopelijk jezelf. Daar naar toe grijpen brengt je terug bij je basis. En jarig zijn vond ik ook leuk, maar als ik nadenk waarom: het waren de cadeautjes. Die doe ik mezelf tegenwoordig wel cadeau. Ik vier mijn verjaardag namelijk al jaren niet meer 🙂

      Goed bezig Annemarie! Je bent een voorbeeld!

  6. I love the idea of getting back in touch with what I loved as a child, and also thinking about the kind of granny I want to be someday. I’m afraid old age will sneak up on me and I’ll have lots of regrets. Getting my priorities in order so that I feel more grounded in who I am is a great way to feel more at peace about aging, and about how I spend my time now. Thank you for sharing!

  7. dear marloes,
    i really like the way you tell us about your own story, your struggles and what you‘ve leard from it.
    i used to think that i have to fit in as many meetings as possible. but a few years ago i realised how tired it mades me and how unfullfilled i felt at the end of the day.
    now i schedule my meetings in the day i don‘t work (and not more than two a day)
    and of course it hurts when you lose „friends“ (or people you thought were friends), but it‘s such a good feeling to know you‘re (only) surrounded by real friends who are likeminded and supporting.

    1. Thank you for letting me know Barbara!
      I think we’re all different, and maybe it works well for some people to have a meeting over lunch, in between work hours. Many people do it, so I’m sure it works for them.

      To me, it feels a bit like the extrovert/introvert thing. A lot of people think that ‘introversion’ is something of recent year, while actually it has been around since humans are around. The thing is that introverts always adapted to the ways and needs of extraverts, as they were more present/loud.
      I feel the same thing is going on with more sensitive people, or people that are more easily overstimulated (also, often they are introverts). They have been adjusting so much to the ways of people on the opposite of the spectrum, that we all assume that is ‘normal’. I think it’s time to break patterns. Just like introversion is becoming more known now, it’s time that people learn that not everybody want to spend their time in a certain way.
      And just like men used to rule everything, women have been fighting for over 100 years to have their place.
      All of this is emancipation, so it’s progress 🙂

  8. Dear Marloes,
    Many, many thanks for this post – it hit home. I’m going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment, feeling stressed and exhausted by the increasingly fast paced daily life. Your post reminded me that – although not fully – it’s up to me to decide how to allocate my time. Thank you 🧡

    1. I think going back to your core, “what do I need right now”, is really helpful. What I sometimes do (it’s recommended to do it daily) is a bodyscan. It’s a kind of meditation but you pay attention to your body. You might want to Google it. It helps me to stay grounded and feel more secure. It tells me what I need.
      If life is going too fast, it’s time to say ‘no’. Good luck!

  9. Wat een inspirerende, ware woorden en ook voor mij precies op het moment dat ik ze nodig had! Al een tijdje ben ik bezig met het zoeken naar een andere baan, die beter bij mij en mijn passies past. Stiekem was ik een beetje afgeleid door de gedachte: dan wil ik ook meer gaan verdienen. Jouw blog herinnert mij eraan dat door er anders naar te kijken, ik dicht bij mezelf kan blijven in die spannende zoektocht. Je template is zeer welkom!

  10. perfectly stated!! couldn’t agree more… I’m lucky that the few close friends I have, totally understand “who I am”… not chit-chatty either, and they get that!! I have so much I want to learn and do, I don’t have time to spare. I used to feel there was something wrong with me, I was “selfish”, I’m sure some people think I am, but it doesn’t bother me anymore, this is me! I tried to do what others wanted for too long… no more! thank you this reminder💜🙏

    1. I feel the same way, Kimberley, including feeling ‘selfish’. It’s good to have people around you that understand you! I think it’s important to have that, as you can truly be yourself among them. Thanks for your comment!

  11. Een zeer heldere waarheid waar ik ook dagdagelijks mee bezig ben en oh wee die comfortzone is soms echt niet comfortabel (illusie) ;). Ik heb al jaren een kantoorjob en ben al veel van job gewisseld; alleen kwam ik tot de conclusie dat ik steeds hetzelfde deed, alleen met een andere verpakking. Degene die ik werkelijk wil zijn, zat diep verstopt onder bepaalde overtuigingen en patronen. Ik ging nu van een fulltime kantoorjob naar 3/5; enerzijds omdat er geld moet blijven binnen komen, anderszijds om met minder geld wel meer tijd te spenderen aan dat wat ik graag wil doen en de reden van mijn bestaan meer eer aan te doen. Achter deze beslissing blijven staan, vraagt veel moed, vraagt me om bepaalde confrontaties aan te gaan en patronen te doorbreken. Op holistisch niveau kun je zeggen dat ik er een beter/mooier mens van word en dit heel helend werkt voor mijn ziel en zo doende ook effect heeft op mijn omgeving. Bij dit ‘innerlijke werk” kom ik mezelf vaak tegen, dat gaat niet zonder slag of stoot, maar oh wat ben ik zooo dankbaar dat ik die moed heb gevonden… Ik heb geleerd mezelf minder onder druk te zetten, sneller los te laten, vaker “nee” te zeggen en meer te doen wat ik zo graag deed als kind.

    Dit vind ik een hele mooie post om verder te delen en dat deed ik ook net via Instagram.
    Dank je wel Marloes!

  12. Omg Marloes!

    Wat een inspirerende blogjes schrijf je toch telkens weer. Ik blijf maar terugkeren naar je website voor informatie en inspiratie. Het is alsof ik je woorden en verhaaltjes nodig heb om de mouwen op te stropen en te gaan beginnen.
    Dat is een fijn gevoel. Bedankt daarvoor!

    Groet Joey

  13. Hii. I just found your page and I’m really loving it, then I found your blog and I loved reading this piece. Thank you for the template, I think it will help me. 🙂