How often do you reflect upon your relationship to time and money?


Today is September 10 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you reflect upon your relationship to time and money?” As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe noted “Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time.” People who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well take care of their time and money; and often place time over money. Taking care of both time and money requires a great deal of intention, effort, and discipline. The approach one has towards both at a young age will differ greatly during middle age and even more so after that. As you navigate the chaos consider rethinking your relationship to both time and money. Doing so might help provide you with the nuanced strategy you need to translate your next dream into reality.


Researchers who study the intersection of time and money focus on the necessity of money but the limitations of time. Dr. Tina Seelig is one such researcher. In her 2009 Psychology Today article she wrote “Most people look at their bank accounts with great attention and assess how much money they have to spend to invest, and to give away. But they do not look at their time the same way and end up wasting this incredibly valuable resource. In fact, time is much more valuable than money because you can use your time to make money, but you can’t use money to purchase more time.” Seelig’s comment ‘you can use your time to make money, but you cannot use money to purchase more time’ is an important part of today’s reflection. Another aspect of today’s consideration is to ask yourself how often you assess your relationship to both time and money. You may understand what you value more but how often do you reflect upon your relationship with time and money?


In a New York Times article authors Hal E. Hershfield and Cassie Mogilner Holmes challenged readers to answer the question: what do you value more - time or money? As Hershfield and Holmes stated "In our pursuit of happiness, we are constantly faced with decisions both big and small that force us to pit time against money. Of course, sometimes it’s not a choice at all: We must earn that extra pay to make ends meet. But when it is a choice, the likelihood of choosing more time over more money — despite the widespread tendency to do the opposite — is a good sign you’ll enjoy the happiness you seek." Author Jim Rohn made a similar observation when he wrote “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” In one of the great paradoxes of human existence, we can accumulate wealth, but have absolutely no control over the span of time.


As far as whether more money would make us all happier, there's actually conflicting evidence. A famous 2010 paper found that happiness and wealth are correlated up until an income level of around $75,000. But a subsequent 2013 paper out of Brookings found the opposite. Looking at international data, Brookings reported, "If there is a satiation point [meaning the point at which money stops correlating with happiness], we are yet to reach it." The research suggests that choosing more time over money is a good sign you will enjoy the happiness you seek. The COVID-19 global pandemic provided people with plenty of opportunity to think about their relationship with time and money as they were ordered to work from home or shelter inside until a vaccination was available for wide distribution.


In an opinion piece published May 13, 2020, in the New York Times, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay commented on the amount of reflection time people had because of the pandemic and wrote “we have more time to reflect on the relationships that really matter in our lives,” and proclaimed: “a conversation about life’s big questions is the very definition of time well spent.” Numerous examples abound. For example, Miranda Livingston, a 34-year-old project manager in the United Kingdom stated “The pandemic and the lockdowns that swiftly followed have provided us all with a chance to jump off the life treadmill and take a breath, to ponder what our priorities are. Lockdown life is a simpler existence.” The pandemic provided author Michele Weldon the opportunity to think about her life: “now in my early 60s-with more life behind me than ahead-I have begun a closer scrutiny of myself, which was a luxury that felt simply inaccessible for many years. COVID-19 infused an urgency into that self-examination. Additionally, Australian Libby Sander, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior, Bond University reflected upon the pandemic’s impact and realized “not having to go to the office has given me the chance to have some stillness – to be able to have time to think. The fact that we think that’s boring is what Covid is really about: the chance to really reset.”


So, why then, did it take a global pandemic to remind people to reset and reflect upon one of life’s biggest questions? Self-care has been around for a long-time, but the difference is that pre-pandemic, “it could fall by the wayside if a to-do list got crowded.” During the pandemic, the American Psychological Association emphasized the growing importance of self-care even though some people, according to researcher Laura Boxley, “might feel as though self-care is frivolous or selfish in stressful times.” F. Diane Barth echoed similar sentiment in Psychology Today when she wrote “A major problem for many people is time. With so many other things to do, self-care can feel selfish or indulgent.” Nicole Schwarz proposed another theory and wrote many people “have learned to live in chaos and have become comfortable with feeling exhausted and being overworked leaving no time for self-care.” According to Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, the lack of self-reflection and self-care stemmed from “the great angst of modern life.” This angst, according to Neff, consists of a belief held by many: “No matter how hard we try, no matter how successful we are—it’s never enough. There is always someone richer, thinner, smarter, or more powerful than we are, someone who makes us feel like a failure in comparison.”


Here are a few questions to consider for today’s reflection:

  • How often do you reflect upon the notion ‘you can use your time to make money, but you cannot use money to purchase more time?’

  • How often you assess your relationship to both time and money.

  • Are you so obsessed with money that you have lost all perspective on time?

  • Do you believe time is more valuable than money?

  • How do you respond when you hear the research suggests choosing more time over money is a good sign you will enjoy the happiness you seek?

  • How did your relationship with time and money change during the COVID-19 global pandemic?

  • Are you jeopardizing your self-care in your pursuit of money?