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Wisely Investing My Time
I don’t have time is never a good response. We all have twenty-four hours in a day. The reality is that I don’t have time for that, because I have chosen to do this. Investors often talk about opportunity costs. If I invest a dollar in “A”, I obviously can’t invest it in “B”. The opportunity cost is the amount I gave up by investing in “A” rather than “B”.
I make these decisions every day. Sometimes the currency is money, but more often it is time. When I choose to spend time doing one thing, there is the opportunity cost or opportunity loss of not doing something else. I may not consciously think about it, but it still happens. If I hadn’t spent so much time watching TV, I could have finished that book. If I go out for dinner with my wife and kids a hundred dollars is spent there which I could otherwise have put against my line of credit. If I commit to attending a function next Friday evening, the cost will be whatever other options might come up in the interim. Most of these decisions in the overall scheme of life aren’t huge. However over time they can lead me in directions I might not otherwise have thought about or anticipated.
The range of possibilities and the attendant opportunity costs increase with age. Elementary school children have very limited options, including the courses they take at school. Senior high students have more course selections, greater wardrobe varieties and a wider range of activity choices. These continue to broaden throughout life as education and experience provide increased options for careers, places of employment and even the city or country one lives in. Then children leave home and retirement approaches. Now the freedom to choose how one spends their time is even more challenging as opportunity costs are considered.
So how do I wisely make small daily investments that will result in an eternal portfolio of which I can take pleasure?
First, I need to have a personal mission. Whether that shows up as a carefully articulated mission statement or expressed in a journal isn’t important. What is important is that I have a raison d’etre; an ultimate reason for living which provide a framework for making ongoing decisions.
If my reason for living is to be materially secure, then every decision should be based on that ultimate purpose. How much I earn and how little I spend will determine my decisions. This allows for my decisions to become more focused. I don’t have to decide whether to go out with my family for dinner or not. My life’s mission has determined that. I only need to decide which store to shop at so that my groceries will be the least costly. Decisions around a job or career will be formed based on how much money I can make.
Recently I have reviewed some of my missional musings which I have written over the years. It has been interesting to see how little change there has been over the past twenty years. My values around family, health and meaningful work continue to be priorities. How those values live themselves out has evolved. Investing in my family now manifests itself more through relational influence than covert direction. Remaining healthy takes more intention and effort than it did twenty years ago. Meaningful work has greater flexibility than it did in the past. Employment is no longer regimented and my options for using my gifts and abilities, even on a day-to-day basis is are broader.
With this change comes a challenge. Earlier in life my decisions were narrower. The legitimate obligations which come with raising children, keeping up on the treadmill of financial commitments such as a mortgage and the need for job security kept me on track. As those constraints become less pressing, the need to constantly identify my values becomes more important. It is those values which help me to decide where I will invest my time.
Today, like never before in my life, I need to have my values in front of me. It’s these values that can determine my opportunity costs and guide the investment of that one resource I have which is today.