In this episode of the Fiscally Savage podcast, Dylan talks about time — our most precious, nonrenewable resource — and the role it plays in the money equation, as well as the ways in which we can create more time in our lives.
- [02:16] The equation on how to make money
- [04:25] Why we do not all have the same 24 hours
- [05:00] How food can impact your 24 hours
- [07:18] How your living situation can impact your 24 hours
- [11:13] Why improving your life is an iterative process
- [14:47] How you can create more time in your day
- [15:29] How making your bed every morning can improve your life
- [16:20] How an everyday carry kit can improve your life
- [18:45] Why you should plan your meals
- [19:20] How task batching can free up time
- [20:32] How you can use your smartphone to manage your time better
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage podcast.
[00:00:15] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. Today, we’re gonna talk about your most precious, nonrenewable resource: your time.
[00:00:23] I was sitting there in the conference room at the office of the Big Four accountancy firm that I worked for. It was a global, international brand, top line revenue of $50 billion. And I had spent the last three years of my life preparing for this moment to get my first review. And I’m sitting there with my senior so excited to hear about how much value I’m adding to the team, how valuable I am, and that she could really see how I just fit in with the culture. And she looks at me and she says, “Your work is good. But I need more from you, Dylan.” My heart is breaking inside of my chest as I’m thinking to myself, well, how can I possibly give her more? I’m already working 60 hours a week and it’s not even busy season yet. What more am I supposed to do? And I’m struggling with this idea inside of me, with my self-confidence starting to erode like sands in a river.
[00:01:18] And it occurs to me that I’m not actually getting paid for the work. I’m getting paid for the work papers, that is, the end product. And yes, I’m putting in a lot of time. My commitment to sacrificing the hours of my life that I’ll never get back to this firm is not a dispute here. It’s what I’m able to get done in those hours that’s the issue. You see, ladies and gentlemen, I’m being paid for my results, not for my ideas and my progress. Those don’t count. And as I’m sitting there in the conference room, I come to the realization that I need to collapse time down so that I can get done in 40 hours what I’m taking 60 hours to do now. And so I resolved to learn the keyboard shortcuts for the tools that we have. And I master them to the point where me working with those tools was like playing a piano.
[00:02:16] What the story illustrates, ladies and gentlemen, is that there is an equation on how to make money, that is, money is equal to the time you give plus the value you add. That’s it. Those are the two inputs that result in the money: the time you give plus the value you add. And that money equation is horrendously simplistic. And I do not wanna leave you with the impression that just because it’s simple means that it’s going to be easy to work with that equation because it’s absolutely not. It’s not gonna be easy. But mastery of it will be worth it.
[00:02:52] And today, we’re just gonna focus on that time section because the value section is its own podcast entirely. But time is the one precious, nonrenewable resource that we all have. We can never obtain more. We can never manufacture more. And the minutes, and seconds, and hours, and weeks, and months, and years of our life that we exchanged for money, we will never get back. And at the end of the day, we’ll never have gotten enough in exchange. And yet that equation rules our lives. Whether you’re salaried or whether you’re hourly, it really doesn’t matter. You get paid and you require to that income to continue to live and exist in society by the time you give plus the value you add. And yes, there’s an infinite level of nuance on this and we’re not gonna get into it. We’re gonna focus on the time you give.
[00:03:53] So let’s just lay some groundwork down right off the bat. Your time is fixed. And whether you believe in fate, whether you believe in reincarnation, it doesn’t matter. The amount of time you have on this Earth is a finite resource. It is your most precious, nonrenewable resource. You have only so many heartbeats left to your life. You have only so many seconds left to your life. And once they are gone, once you’ve spent them, you cannot make more. You cannot obtain more. That’s it.
[00:04:25] And so, in the self-help space, particularly in finance, there’s a term that’s bandied about that I hear very frequently when we talk about the money equation, that is, money is equal to the time you give plus the value you add. And that is this idea that we have the same 24 hours. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m gonna be the first one to tell you that that’s utter bullshit. We do not have the same 24 hours because our situations are different. The life that we live that occupies that 24 hours is going to spend that 24 hours radically different based upon your situation.
[00:05:00] And there’s a number of different examples of this. Number one, and the one that impacts me the most, is food. We’re always needing to feed ourselves. And this is a fact of life. Food should be enjoyable. But how you obtain food in a given day and whether or not you’re intentional about it will impact so much more of your day. For example, if you’re going to work and you don’t know what you’re going to have for lunch, well, then that’s going to be a ticking thing in the back of your head. There’s some primitive part of your brain that knows that you have not secured your sustenance when the sun is highest in the sky. And as a result, that part is going to feel stress. Because that part feels stress, it will degrade your effectiveness throughout the rest of the day. And it’s a very small degradation, sure. It’s a degradation that’s so tiny you barely notice it. And yet it’s there. You might have as well put a pin in that one because, ladies and gentlemen, that is a theme in this show that comes up a lot. The little tiny deaths, the little tiny degradations we have in our lives, are absolutely huge when you add them all together.
[00:06:02] So that food situation is already going to take away from the value you can add into your day because you didn’t take the time to plan it, right? And so, as a result, your time’s gonna be less valuable. The other ways that food can impact your time is you might say my health is a priority. Hey, I applaud you, and health is a place in my life where I struggle the most. Well, one of the ways that you can be healthy is you need to eat well. And the way you eat well is you need to plan your meals. And when you plan your meals, this means that you have to have intentionality, know how to cook, go to the grocery store, cook everything, store everything, make sure you put it into your backpack when you go to work so you have lunch when you get there. And I say that for my benefit as much as I do anyone else’s because in the mornings I’m not fully awake and I frequently forget. Thank the Lord that I have my wife, who is so kind to put it out by my car keys. The point I’m getting to though is that I don’t have the same 24 hours as somebody who can hire a professional chef. And I don’t have the same 24 hours as somebody who can just eat out all the time because I can do neither of those things. On the one hand, it’s not within my budget. And on the other hand, it’s not something that I care to do because I can’t control the food I’m putting through my face. And so, as a result, I don’t have the same 24 hours as either one of those other two individuals.
[00:07:18] Another way that your 24 hours is degraded is your living situation. This is because your living situation will impact so much of how you can show up in the rest of the day. So, for example, if you live next to a construction site that is going 24 hours a day, it’s gonna impact your sleeping. And if it’s impacting your sleeping, that means you’re not gonna get as high-quality sleep. That means getting up earlier or staying up late is gonna be harder. That means the effectiveness that you have with working from home is again going to be degraded throughout time.
[00:07:47] Transportation is another great example of this. If you don’t have reliable transportation, it’s next to impossible to actually adequately plan for your life because that car is gonna crap out on you at a time and place of its choosing. Then to anyone who says, well, you could just take public transit, clearly never has tried in the United States because it is an absolute nightmare. And not to mention the fact, like in my case, where I live, I can choose. I can drive into downtown where my office is. I can pay the $10 to park. So there, I have already have two things. I have reliable transportation. I have easy access to the highway. And I have the money to park while I’m downtown. And that’ll take me 25 minutes. I can try to do it on public transit and it will take me an hour and a half. My ability to have a car that is reliable and the ability to pay for parking every single week means that my 24 hours has less in it than somebody who does not have that.
[00:08:40] There are literally thousands of these things that are going to impact your time that mean that we don’t all have the same 24 hours because we don’t all have the same resources to manage those 24 hours. Thus, one way is to maximize the amount of free time you do have. So when you look at all of those friction points, how can we start to limit them down in order to maximize the time that we do have?
[00:09:04] Food is an easy one. And one a great example that I’ve used before is I’m not telling people not to eat out or that they have to meal prep. I’m saying they need to be intentional about it. When I was in graduate school, there was a cafe in the business college. That cafe in the business college sold an Italian salad. And I will be willing to bet you that I ate that at least three days a week for my entire time in graduate school. Why? Because it was nutritious. It was filling. And it saved me time that I could use on other things. I just simply didn’t have the time to cook, to grocery shop, cook, and package it. More to the point, the grocery stores in Flagstaff where I went to graduate school, they closed at midnight. And I didn’t typically leave the business college until midnight. So I didn’t even have the option to go grocery shopping most of the time just simply because I was being intentional with how my time went. The trade-off, of course, was that I had to spend five bucks a day on that salad. But this is a way in which I maximize the amount of free time that I have to put towards the things that are my goals.
[00:10:09] At the end of the day though, because we have only a set amount of time and because we only have a set amount of resources, we can find ourselves extremely limited in how we can actually start managing the time equation. It often requires money we don’t have. And one thing to note with that, even in that statement, is that our ability to manage our time, we start running out of the ability to use free things and intentionality just based on our native parts that we’re born with and we start having to hire things off or pay for those services. I mean, as you advance your life, this is one thing that you’re going to have to understand. Your life will change as you move forward. That is to say, at this point in my life, I have reliable transportation because I have the money for it. But I’ve also paid $500 for a car that didn’t have any working gauges and broke down at least once a week because that was all I could afford at the time. As soon as I was able to, I bought a reliable car. And I have never had a problem with that car since — knock on wood.
[00:11:13] But this is part of the key. As you move forward, one of the, as you’re working with this money equation and improving your life, money is equal to the time you give plus the value you add. So when you do that, as you move forward, as you’re able to add more value, you can take the money to also start working on getting more time. This is an iterative process. And I can already hear a lot of the excuses that people will come up with, reasons why they can’t. That they are not privileged or that they have it rougher or they’re in this different spot for me. Well, ladies and gentlemen, eight years ago I was on food stamps, working three jobs, and had no prospects to possibly ever get myself out of debt because even in my best months, I was still coming up short, provided that everything went exactly according to plan. Whenever my tires went flat, or the heating went out, or I even had to buy something for the baby, it was an unplanned expense. I went further and further into debt. So I get it. And I understand what it’s like to be in those situations.
[00:12:15] But part of our job is to acknowledge reality quickly. We all start in different places and that’s a reality. Different people have different advantages, skills, and abilities. In my particular case, one advantage I had is that I grew up working a lot of hard jobs. I worked construction. I threw hay on a horse farm. I’m used to staying up late. And so, working as much as I did was something that I absolutely could do. My wife was in graduate school at the time as well and she was able to backfill for a lot of places that I couldn’t be. That is an advantage I had.
[00:12:50] But when we start to understand that we all start in different places, then the only thing that we can really do — if we decide that we wish to improve our lives to move forward — is to do what we can with what we have where we are. This only makes it more important to learn how to play the game well, not less. When somebody comes to me and says, well, I have this issue. In my case, I was diagnosed with ADHD, a pretty bad version of ADHD. And anyone who knows me knows that if you wanna ever get my attention, just throw something shiny and I will probably go chase it. And yet I’m able to focus through past one of the hard professional exams in the United States while going to graduate school full-time. Why? Because I learned to play the game really well. And you can, too.
[00:13:40] You got to do what you can with what you have where you’re at. Focus on what you have. Focus on the skills you have. There are lots of skills and advantages that other people have that I don’t and vice versa. And if they’re focused on what I have that they don’t, they’re going to miss out on focusing what they have that they can use. There are cases in which they can acquire the skills that I’ve acquired for myself over the years. And there are cases where they’re not gonna be able to. So focus on what you have, and focus on what you need that you can develop.
[00:14:12] And again, this goes back to our ability to create and expand time that we have for the money equation. Money — is equal to the time you give plus the value you add — is going to change as time goes on. So if you know you need something. Well, I need a little more money. Okay. If I add some more value, I can get some more money and that enables me to get this other thing that’s going to free up more time. So now, I can free up and increase the time part of the equation, which then I can use to get more skills that therefore I can add to get more value. Focus on what you have. Focus on what you need. Focus on learning how to play the game well.
[00:14:47] But I’m not gonna leave you with just laying out the situation without some really good suggestions. So let me give you some small tips on how to actually create more time in your day. Time, your most precious nonrenewable resource. How can we get more of it when we know that we have only 24 hours; that the number of heartbeats, seconds, moments in our life is set and finite? How can we take advantages to maximize our time available?
[00:15:14] Well, number one, ladies and gentlemen, is get your shit together. I know that sounds harsh and yet there it is. There are many paths up the mountain. But to get to the top of the mountain, there is exactly one way to do it. You have to go up. And step number one is get your shit together.
[00:15:29] One thing that you can do to get your shit together — and this is not my idea. I believe that it was Admiral McRaven who said it first in a speech to a graduating class at some university somewhere — but make your bed. It’s a task. It sets the tone for the day. I very pointedly told my wife that I was gonna start making the bed every morning. And then I started doing it. And then I started realizing that when I walked out of the bedroom, I walked out with a sense of purpose because I had already been successful at the first thing I had set for myself in the day. It set a tone. And as a result, I was more intentional just automatically because I made my bed in the morning. The other knock-on effect is I felt more confident because if someone came into my house, I wouldn’t be conscious about how my bedroom looked because the bed was made. It was a small thing that I didn’t, until that moment, know was stressing me out, and yet there it was.
[00:16:20] Here’s another way that you can do this. Create for yourself an EDC, an everyday carry. Now, there’s a lot of different circles that talk about everyday carries. And if you go to the EDC subreddit, you’re going to find a lot of crazy stuff. But I’m not advocating any of that. What I’m advocating is that you understand the things that you need every time you walk out the door.
[00:16:39] So like with my kids, and anybody who has kids is going to understand this, when the kids walk out the door, you gotta have some snacks, and you gotta have some water bottles, and you gotta have a hat, and you gotta have all the things. And if you live in a place with seasons like I do, there’s going to be different EDCs for different parts of the year. How do we handle it? In my case, every time I walk out the door, I need my wallet, I need my car keys, and I need my backpack. I need my water bottle, I need my phone. Okay, cool.
[00:17:07] I need to create a system such that every one of those needs for when I walk out the door is a known quantity and I just don’t have to think about it. How do I do that? Well, I have a tray that sits right by my door. And when I walk in, everything in my pockets goes onto that tray. My car keys and my wallet always sit on that tray. They don’t belong anywhere else in the house. That is where I put them. That is where they live. And everybody knows this. And so, if I need my wallet to say, do an online purchase or something, I will get it, I will use it, and then I will take it back to the EDC tray and put it there. The other things that have started to accumulate in the tray are the things that end up in my pockets throughout the day. So it’s kind of been a self-evolving situation. Also sitting there are my headphones, my earbuds that go with my phone, the bracelet for when I go out walking at night — that goes on my wrist so that if somebody finds me unconscious, they know who to call — chapstick that has sunscreen in it that I frequently need because I’m pasty and live very high, at a very high elevation and therefore I kind of need to have the protection.
[00:18:06] But you get the idea. You have things planned out so that when it’s time to leave, you don’t have the stress of walking out the door. I have, in fact, my own EDC backpack for work that has everything I need. It has its own water bottle that goes in it. It has my work ID in it. It has all the cables and redundancies I need to do my job and my notebooks that I use to track my daily plans are right next to it. And I go in the office on Wednesday mornings. So on Tuesday night, I pack up everything into that bag and it’s right there so that when I bleary-eyed, uncaffeinated in the morning stumble out of bed and start making my way towards the door, I just have to grab the backpack with the full knowledge that I have everything I need.
[00:18:45] The other last thing in the get your shit together is plan your food. Even if it is I’m just gonna go get Chipotle today. Just have an idea of how you’re gonna eat. This is a primal need. It’s the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Tier one: physiological needs, which includes food, and shelter, and warmth — all those things. If you don’t have a plan on how you’re gonna feed yourself, I will promise you there’s a little tick, tick, tick in the back of your head that is stressing you out because at the end of the day, we are all biological machines. And food is really important. Planning that is going to free up time.
[00:19:20] After you have your shit together a little bit, one thing you can do is to start looking for places where you can batch tasks together. Let me give you an example. I take my kids to school. It is some papa-daughter time that I very much value in my day. Every morning, we walk out the door at the same time. And on the way to their school, we talk about their day and their intentionality and what they’re most excited for and what is gonna be their biggest challenge throughout the day and how they’re gonna handle it. And we come up with a plan, which is always kind of a ridiculous game I play with my daughters.
[00:19:50] And I also pass four different grocery stores. And so, if I know that I need to procure food through the day and I need to go grocery shopping, I’m going to hit it on the way back for two reasons. Number one, I’m already in the car. And number two, I’m passing it in the morning when people don’t grocery shop so it’s easy for me to get in and out. Rather than doing my grocery shopping in the afternoon where every time Dick and Harry has decided to go into the grocery store and they’re all gonna stand in the aisle in my way, there is no one in the store in the morning. As a result, I get more time — my precious, nonrenewable resource — because I literally can just go straight through every aisle with no obstacles in my way. It’s a great way to batch things together and to find efficiencies.
[00:20:32] Lastly, ladies and gentlemen, your phone is a digital Swiss Army knife and you need to start using it as such. I use Google Calendar for literally everything. And I do that because I can integrate it into my phone. My wife also uses Google Calendar and we share our calendars so that I can see what’s on hers and she can see what’s on mine. How many of you have had conversations with your partners, with your friends, with your coworkers trying to get on the same page for scheduling and it’s just like this impossible task that goes on and on forever and you just kind of wish that you didn’t have friends or coworkers or wives because I just want out of this conversation? Or is that just me? God, I hope it’s not just me.
[00:21:08] But real talk here, I share my calendar with my wife so that she doesn’t have to have that conversation ’cause I married her ’cause I like her and I’d like her to stick around. And so, she can just look at my calendar and see if I’m available. If she needs me to be somewhere, she just puts it on my calendar. We’ve had a conversation on how we set this up and how we’re gonna run our household. So if she needs me to show up for the kids, she puts in a calendar invite, I get a notification in my email, and she puts in the address so I know right where to go. And I can plan around it. We don’t have to spend all this time going back and forth and back and forth.
[00:21:38] I also have an app on my phone that, my friends say, hey, let’s hang out. Cool. And I can send them an invite that gives them all the times that are available in the windows in which I’m willing to meet people and they can pick and choose what they want. I don’t have to go back and forth. And ladies and gentlemen, it is shocking to me how many more person-to-person invites I get now because they know it’s gonna be frictionless and easy. I’ve made it easy to be able to meet them, for them to find a time that works for them, and it’s enjoyable. There isn’t the stress of trying to having to get on the same page. So not only have I saved time, but I’ve also created opportunities for more value, especially more value to me, because people are important. Relationships are important. And after two years of a pandemic, I really think that we need a lot more person-to-person contact than ever before.
[00:22:27] As you go through this process, ladies and gentlemen, you’re gonna find new friction points. This is an iterative process. It’s going to evolve over time. So write down the friction points. Come up with a plan. If you have a friction point that’s going to be happening over and over and over again, figure out a way to make it part of your routine. Find a way to make it part of your everyday life in an easy and frictionless way. Figure out what the friction point is and maybe even ask yourself, do you need that thing?
[00:22:57] Great friction point a lot of people go through is the Starbucks line in the mornings in the drive-thru. On my way to drop off my kids in the morning, I pass — and I kid you not — eight Starbucks. And every one of them has a line that is sneaking around the building. Don’t know about you, but Starbucks isn’t my favorite. And so, I spend 18 bucks a month on a coffee thing to come to my door that gives me a different type of roast every single day. It’s delicious and I like it. And I make the coffee at home. And as a result, I’m getting superior coffee at a fraction of the price and a fraction of the time. It’s a great example of friction points and being intentional.
[00:23:37] Going through the process of claiming more sovereignty over your time, you’ll notice that a little bit goes a long way. And as you start to do this, you’re gonna start finding your boundaries and things where you are unwilling to give up and things that you can shift around and lines you have to draw with friends and family because your time starts to become precious. It’s always been precious. But you become aware of it more when you start being intentional with it. You also start to find ways to communicate more effectively so that you can get the most of the time that you have. You find yourself becoming more reliable. And pretty soon, ladies and gentlemen, you start to wonder how you were able to get so much done in so little time.
[00:24:20] And I know exactly how you feel because it was 9:30 in the morning in the MBA lounge, I was two years into my program. And I had been in that lounge since six o’clock in the morning. I had three and a half hours head start on everybody. And one of my fellow students walks in and she looks at me and she tells me, “Man, you’re crazy. I can never do what you do. I don’t know how you do it.” And I struggled with that because I always thought of her as a peer. And here she was telling me that not only was what I was doing impossible, but that she could never do it. So what was different about me? And more to the point, wasn’t I the bad student and she one of the golden students? I mean, I graduated undergraduate with a 2.7 GPA. And I started to feel alone that I was doing so much in this program to study for the CPA exam and network and stay at the top of my class.
[00:25:15] And I came to understand that I’m not better in any way. I’m just more serious. I’m more intentional with my time. And so it looks like I shoehorn a lot in. It’s just that I have a lot more time because every part of my day has an intentional piece to it. I have good, clear boundaries with myself of when I show up — six o’clock every morning. I make and I put and set up the coffee machine in the MBA lounge the night before so that in the morning when I walk in at six o’clock, I can just hit brew and it goes. I clearly communicate with all of my teams and shared my calendars with them so we were all on the same page and every one of them had permission to put whatever they wanted on my calendar at any time. They all knew where they stood with me. And every meal that I consumed, from breakfast to lunch to dinner, I had planned out and knew exactly what I was going to eat and when every single day.
[00:26:08] It was not that she couldn’t do what I was doing. It was that she was unwilling to be as intentional as I had become. And when we walked across the stage, both graduating with distinctions, with multiple offers, I walked across totally confident that I was ready for the long hours that were ahead of me and that I was going to be the best public accountant that the university had ever produced.
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