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.
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 😉
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.
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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All text and images © Marloes De Vries