The Clock Man
By Shel Silverstein
“How much will you pay for an extra day?”
The clock man asked the child.
“Not one penny,” the answer came,
“For my days are as many as smiles.”
“How much will you pay for an extra day?”
He asked when the child was grown.
“Maybe a dollar or maybe less,
For I’ve plenty of days of my own.”
“How much will you pay for an extra day?”
He asked when the time came to die.
“All of the pearls in all of the seas,
And all of the stars in the sky.”
When I was in my early twenties, I remember going out of my way to save money. Waiting weeks to buy things on sale, eating spaghetti like it was my job, walking multiple blocks out of the way to save a few bucks on lunch, and going back and forth comparing bus ticket prices for weeks before buying.
Just as in Shel Silverstein’s poem, I had all the time in the world when I was younger. I wasn’t married, I had no kids, no mortgage, no endless mounds of laundry to sort. Back then, money was much more valuable to me than time.
But over the years, things have changed. Now, as my older son graduates kindergarten this week, my younger son starts preschool in the fall, and I see May on my calendar when I could have sworn January was just yesterday, time has become something in my life that I just can’t get enough of.
Most of us go through life on autopilot, repeating the same routines day in and day out for years at a time, often complaining that we’re too busy to add in that new hobby or side hustle we’ve been meaning to get to because there just isn’t any time.
When we’re young, most of us have more time than money. As we grow older, that ratio often changes, and many of us have more money than time. However, even through this major life shift, many of us maintain the same financial and lifestyle habits, spending extra time so we can save some money.
But what if you could spend a little money to buy back some time, and thus help restore that balance a bit?
What It Means To Buy Back Your Time
Most of us go through life in reactive mode. The laundry piles up, and we go start a load. The weekend rolls around, and we start making our grocery lists. Weeds start popping up, so we grab our gardening gloves.
When you’re in reactive mode, there’s always more to do, always more tasks to crowd your calendar. On the flip side, when you’re in proactive mode, you can start to see trends and patterns in your day and start to plan for and delegate tasks.
For example, rather than waiting until the weekend to scramble for groceries, maybe you have a virtual assistant plan the meals for the next month ahead of time. Once you approve, your virtual assistant then orders the groceries online and have them delivered to your door.
This is what it means to buy back your time. You trade a few extra dollars for some time back in your schedule.
The Emotions Behind Buying Back Your Time
Let’s face it. There’s a lot of guilt, anxiety, and possibly shame that go along with the concept of buying back your time.
“Why should I pay someone to do it when I could do it myself?”
“No one could do it just the way that I like it, so I might as well do it myself.”
“I don’t have enough money to pay someone to do that.”
Growing up, I was taught that I should be fiercely independent, that I should be able to do everything on my own. It took me a long time to come to terms with hiring people to help me run my life.
But the fact of the matter is, I was already doing little things to buy back my time. I just wasn’t thinking of them that way.
Here are some things you probably already do to buy back time in your life:
- Order items from Amazon, rather than driving to Target to buy them yourself
- Eat out at restaurants, rather than cooking yourself
- Take Uber or Lyft, rather than public transit
So if we’re all accustomed to paying a premium for these small conveniences, why is there such a big hurdle to buying back time in other ways?
The truth is, deciding whether to buy back time in your life requires a mindset shift. It involves taking a hard look at the money values you were brought up with and to decide what’s more valuable in your life: time or money.
At different times in your life, your answer might be different, and that’s okay. It’s important to allow your answer shift with the various stages of your life, without judgment.
The most important thing is to continually reflect on how you value time and money, so you can adjust your life and daily decisions to suit.
Deciding What To Delegate
If you’ve made the decision that you want to buy back some of your time, the next step is to consider the areas of your life that you might be able to delegate. Think about all the things you do on a daily and weekly basis, things like grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, etc.
Chances are, there are some things on the list you enjoy doing more than others, and also some things that you’re more skilled in than others. The goal is to figure out the things that you’re not good at and also don’t enjoy doing, so you can start to delegate those tasks.
To gain clarity on the items you might delegate, try this quick exercise.
Get a piece of paper, and divide it into 4 quadrants. Label the vertical axis “Skill” and the horizontal axis “Joy.”
In the top left quadrant, you’ll list things that you’re good at but dislike doing. In the top right quadrant, list things that you love doing and are also good at. In the bottom right quadrant, list things that you are not that good at but still enjoy. And in the bottom left quadrant, list things that you are not good at and also don’t enjoy.
Keep going until you’ve categorized all the tasks that you regularly repeat each week.
Now you have a clear chart showing the things that you love and are good at and should continue doing, versus the things that you despise doing or are just not that good at.
The best way to start buying back your time and getting the biggest bang for your buck is to delegate the tasks that are in the bottom left quadrant.
In other words, pay someone else to do the things that you neither love nor are good at. Life is too short to spend your time doing those things. Trust me on this one.
Examples Of Ways To Buy Back Time
Once you’ve created your chart of the things you love and are skilled at versus the things you hate and are not that good at, you should have a clear idea of the areas of your life where you can spend a little money to buy back some time.
Here are some examples of ways you can start to buy back your time:
- Hire a house cleaner
- Hire a landscaper or gardener
- Order your groceries online and have them delivered
- Have someone do your laundry
- Hire a personal chef
- Have someone put together your new IKEA table for you
- Have UPS or FedEx pick up your package, rather than dropping it off
- Hire a virtual assistant to help with things like scheduling, signing your kids up for camp, researching upcoming trips, etc.
Start By Buying Back 1 Hour Of Your Time
Start small. If you’ve been doing everything yourself your whole life, making the shift to delegating personal tasks might take some time. Start with something small. Aim to buy back just one hour of your time per week, and see what that feels like.
In the process, be sure to give both you, and the person you hire, some time to adjust. No one can do things 100% like you do it, especially the first time. If you hire a house cleaner, you might need to take some time to show them how you like your countertops cleaned. Or perhaps, you’ll be surprised that they’ll have a better method that you never even thought of.
Go into this adventure open-minded, and give yourself space to experiment and find what works for you.
As Jim Rohn put it, “Time is more valuable than money. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.”
We often talk about leveraging real estate investing to help you create passive income in order to spend more time with your family. But in order to do that, you have to be able to take that extra passive income and buy back the time in your life, whether that’s through quitting your job, taking more time to travel, or hiring a house cleaner to give you back three hours (and a clean house) every couple of weeks.
Each one of us has an individual journey to walk, and it’s up to you how to spend the time you’re given. Just remember Shel Silverstein’s wise words. When the end of your life comes, how much money would you pay for an extra day? If you live each day by that standard, you’ll have all the time in the world.