There's a famous quote from philosopher William James: "To kill time is not murder, it's suicide."
Throughout my experience as an entrepreneur, and no matter how many companies I've started, I realized that one of our biggest problems is the burden of opportunity: the tendency to take advantage of every good thing. I only have so much time during the day, and once I use it, it's gone. I can attribute my successes and my failures during my career to the moments when I decided to use my time for one thing over another.
Every decision in our lives, every action, and every impulsive reaction is the result of a brief weighing of our priorities, whether conscious or subconscious.
For example: A person will experience courage in the moment their convictions outweigh their fear. Another will leave for lunch when the desire for food outweighs their desire to work. An artist will create art when the value of painting outweighs any other distractions.
You'll only be truly successful when you honestly assess the value of your time and weigh it against the demands on that time.
Let's make this easy: If you value an hour of your life at $100, every request for help and every phone-call must be measured against that value.
Your time is the only asset that can't be borrowed our bought. You can't store it away for a rainy day, or put it in savings. Either you spend time, lose time, or someone steals it.
Has someone "wasted" your time, or pull you into a meeting you didn't schedule? If anybody treated your money the same way, it would be theft and they would be fired. Why is your time any different?
How to figure out the value of your time
Use this simple thought exercise to find out exactly how much you value your time. Imagine someone offering you money to leave what you're doing to instead stare at the wall, starting with $1. If you refuse the offer, increase it by $1. And so on. The moment you accept the offer and stare at the wall is the measure of your value of your time.
Assuming a 40-hour workweek, and accounting for various deductions, you must value your time in the thousands of dollars to become a millionaire in your lifetime. Is your personal valuation anywhere close to $1,000?
How does this apply to day-to-day business? Let's explore your life if you value your time at $2,000 per hour.
Were you stuck in a two-hour staff meeting? You were only "stuck" because you believed that meeting had a value of $4,000. If you didn't, you would have stood up and left.
Did you spend an hour reprimanding an employee, instead of firing them? Obviously, you feel that the benefit of your chastisement is worth at least $2,000 that day. Or, you believe that finding a replacement is not worth that amount of money.
Did you assume control of a project you had delegated to an employee after they made a mistake? The common error here is to value your work over their work. Obviously, the comparison is unfair.
The true measure in this situation is your work on this nonsense over work you could be doing instead. If you choose to take three hours to correct the error--do the work yourself, just to make a point--that point was worth $6,000 to you.
Nobody is surprised when they wake up on their 50th birthday to find they live in a run-down apartment and drive a beaten-up '95 Oldsmobile--just as Bill Gates doesn't wake up every morning surprised that he's a billionaire. They knew the value of their time their whole lives, and made decisions based on that value. They chose to be who they are, one step at a time
In the end, this means is self-control is king. Do we have the discipline to control ourselves in the time of difficulty? Can we value our time accurately and hold ourselves to that measure?
Dallin H. Oaks, an attorney, jurist, author, professor, and religious leader, discovered the tactic of weights and measures and put it eloquently:
"We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives [...] As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all."
It's time to measure yourself.