What is the Value of Time?

We’re all guilty of thinking about it sometimes. The classic scenario is the employee who can choose to either get paid for overtime worked or bank his or her overtime to be taken as time off later. It launches the classic argument – what is the value of time? Does it have a monetary value? Is time worth more than money? Every person will answer this question differently based on their personality, their priorities and their attitudes.

I was enticed to give this question some more thought recently when I read about a study that was conducted by two researchers at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. The study concluded that people who attach a monetary value to time are less likely to be happy than those who don’t. They based this conclusion on three experiments:

In each [experiment], a sub-group of participants was primed, through survey questions, to think about their time in terms of money. This sub-group subsequently showed greater impatience and lower satisfaction during leisure activities introduced during the experiments. However, they also reported more enjoyment and less impatience when they were paid during one of those activities, which was listening to music.

To be honest, this result doesn’t particularly surprise me when I think about. As you can no doubt see, I have advertising on this blog. I’m not shy about stating that one of the eventual goals of this blog is to create a partial side income. I think this is the case for most bloggers, particularly in the personal finance community. But it takes a long time and a lot of work to create any kind of substantial revenue from a blog. If all I did was focus on the financial aspects of blogging, I think that, much like the study participants, I would become very impatient and unsatisfied with the activity of blogging. That said, I created this blog because I love reading blogs and so far, I love writing them too. This is a leisure activity, and I don’t associate it with monetary gain. Consequently, I derive a lot of pleasure from the act of blogging. I could easily extend this to many of my other hobbies. For almost 8 years now, I have run a very niche website/program for a small group of people with absolutely no monetization, and yet its been a tremendous source of happiness over that period.

As I was struggling with my decision to leave school, a few months ago I stumbled on a book at the library called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Curiosity got the better of me and I borrowed it. It was so good, I ended up reading it in two days flat. One of her central tenets is the following:

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make someone else happy;
One of the best ways to make someone else happy is to be happy yourself.

Happiness is part of a terrific cycle, and she aptly applied it to the act of volunteering, which probably defines the act of committing time without monetary attachment. Happy people are more likely to give their time to others for free (i.e. volunteer). And studies show that people who volunteer are more likely to be happy. Personally, in an effort to boost my teaching experiences, I volunteer twice a week tutoring at-risk high school kids. Its a selfish and selfless act, all bundled into one. And its frequently the highlight of my week. But if I attached a monetary value to the act, it would no doubt be ruined as there is no immediate financial benefit.

Our society so frequently associates life milestones and goals with financial achievements that it leaves us always pursuing the next financial goal. So I’m going to go on a limb here and commit personal finance blog blasphemy – its not all about the money. (Gasp!!) The study I mentioned in the beginning may not be revolutionary, but its a good reminder to slow down and appreciate, rather than monetize, the time we have. Oh and when I was back in industry, I always chose time in lieu over overtime pay.

So readers, how do you value your time? Have you noticed the monetization of your life?

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3 thoughts on “What is the Value of Time?

  1. When tasked with a chore or project I will take a look at what my time is worth in doing the project or spending my energy and time on other endeavours. Since our son was born Sept 2011 I would really rather spend time with him and outsource some other chores/projects in life.

  2. there are different types of time, for me. School time is busy productivity time…. blog is fun waste of time, and my wife is special enjoy time. “Spend yourself in a worthy cause” and the entire quote that follows is one of my ways to think about time:

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