Valuing Your Time

When your schedule's as full as mine, it's really hard to stick to a writing everyday routine. This isn't an excuse, but it's a challenge to overcome. Most of us try to portion time out from activities we don't particularly enjoy to pad our writing time. Unfortunately, we must engage in those unpleasant activities for some reason. While we may not enjoy them, we value them.

tr.v. val·ued, val·u·ing, val·ues

  1. To determine or estimate the worth or value of; appraise.
  2. To regard highly; esteem: I value your advice. See Synonyms at appreciate.
  3. To rate according to relative estimate of worth or desirability; evaluate: valued health above money.
  4. To assign a value to (a unit of currency, for example).

You can imagine value as expressing any of those four definitions. For example, consider your own time. No matter where you live, you have to clean it on occasion. You have to take out the trash, wash the dishes, sweep and mop, and you have to do your own laundry. How much would you pay yourself an hour for that kind of work? How much time would it take you to do the work, given your level of skill?

I'm not particularly efficient at cleaning, and I'm a bit of a perfectionist. If I tried to clean my entire home, I know that it would take me about four to six hours (depending on how much of the house I'm doing). Given how much I'm paid for my work as a counselor, I'd like to be paid at least $15 an hour for the work of house cleaning. That amounts to between $60 and $90.

Now that I know how much I value that cleaning time, I know whether I can afford to hire someone to do it for me. Because I share costs with my housemate, I spend about $59 a month to have people come to my house and clean it for me. That's a bargain, given that my fastest hypothetical time would have cost me $60.

Obviously, I value the time that I or someone else spends cleaning the house. I enjoy having a clean home. Who doesn't? I appraise a clean home highly. By spending money rather than time, I save four to six hours and $1 to $31. One unpleasant activity gone. So what do I do with all that extra time?

That's the question that I know have to answer. I want it to be writing, but the temptation to fill that time with other pleasurable activities is high. That's because, generally, we have a lot of things we enjoy doing--spending time with friends, watching television, surfing the Internet, etc. So we don't just have to find out what we value about the time we spend doing unpleasant activities, we must also find what we value about the time we spend doing pleasant ones.

What do you value about your time with friends? For me, they are my rock. My soul remains fixated to this earth because of the people around me. They are indispensable to me, and I think that this is the time that I value the most. Give that the cost of losing this time is too high, I prioritize this the most.

What do I value about my time watching television? I gotta have my shows. But maybe not all my shows? I could trim the amount of television I watch, since the marginal utility of television decreases quickly, especially when I let myself become trapped watching shows of mediocre quality or less. This is a pleasurable activity that I could manage to take some time out of to focus on other tasks that I also find pleasurable.

What do I value about browsing the Internet? Much of the same. I'm both educated and entertained by the Internet. There's no end to what I can do when I'm sitting in front of a computer with wifi capability. Because of the breadth of this activity, I think I need to spend more time cataloging exactly what I'm doing with my time on the Internet. Once I've figured out what I spend my time doing, I can look at each of those activities and appraise them accordingly.

All that time I save, once I've gone through these calculations, will be time I can use to engage in writing. To get those words done and beat NaNoWriMo's 50,000-word challenge. I thought I'd share some of the thoughts running through my head this morning. Now get out there, vote, and then get to somewhere comfortable and do some writing. If you're like me, it'll do you a world of good on this very stressful day.