It pays to think about your time as money

As we hurtle towards Christmas, many of us are thinking about how we will spend our limited financial resources both over the festive season and in the new year. While we can all be a bit extravagant sometimes, we don't usually just throw our money away.

And yet, when it comes to smart time management, we tend to be far more cavalier with our "spending" habits. We race around preparing for the holiday season, seldom pausing to consider the real cost.

Kate Christie, founder and chief executive of Time Stylers, is focused on helping her clients find and harness their lost time, in many cases upwards of 30 hours per month. "It's time to change the dialogue," Christie says, "We need to stop thinking about time as something we manage and start thinking about time as something we invest."

And time is short. We only have a limited amount of it and sometimes it feels that there is none to spare. As such, it pays to make conscious decisions about what tasks and activities to invest time on. "We need to treat our time investment with the same rigour as we treat the investment of our money - because our time is money," says Christie.

The Time Stylers approach to calculating the financial costs of how you spend your time is captured with three steps:

The first step to smart-time investment is knowing what your time is actually worth. Divide your gross annual income by the number of hours you work in a year for a rough approximation. This is your personal "hourly rate" and represents the value of an hour of your time.

The second step is to apply your hourly rate to the tasks or activities you routinely undertake. By way of example, John has an "hourly rate" of $50. Here is what some typical activities are costing him financially:

1. If John spends an hour a day on Facebook, that's $18,250 of his time a year. This is fine if it brings him joy and meaningful social connection. However, if John's Facebook time is really avoidance of other more productive activities, or procrastination of restorative actions such as exercise or meditation, it is an expensive habit.

2. If John owns a small business and he spends four hours a day on administrative and low-value tasks as opposed to revenue generation, that is $48,000 a year.

3. If John spends four hours each Sunday cleaning his home that, is a $200 clean.

The third step is to be financially mindful - for each task you perform ask yourself "Is this really the best use of my time?" If you can't answer Yes to that question, then make a different choice. An informed one.

A good way to look at this more systemically is to map your time and the activities you perform across a typical week, from the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed, and start counting the financial costs of the activities you perform. Chances are you will make some changes to your time-investment portfolio.

A strictly financial analysis might superficially suggest spending 24 hours a day working. However, when considered more deeply, the things we do to genuinely recharge are what make us most productive at work, leading to better long-term financial outcomes. Arianna Huffington's book Thrive explores our "busy" culture, finding that excessive work hours dramatically undermine creativity and productivity.

According to Huffington, one of the most valuable investments we can make with our time is sleep. Extensive medical tests undertaken after she collapsed at work in 2007 while chief executive of The Huffington Post revealed all she needed was to get more sleep. She has since become evangelical about the benefits of sleep, devoting a whole book to the subject. Like meditation and exercise, getting enough sleep enhances cognitive performance and helps you achieve, and earn more.

So, as we approach 2018, question whether this might be the year to spend more money outsourcing activities which can be done better and more cheaply by others, to enrich your life in every respect.

Catherine Robson is an award-winning financial planner and host of weekly business podcast Success Stories. Twitter:@CatherineAtAff

This story It pays to think about your time as money first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.