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Time Makes You Rich

What really makes you rich? It’s not always money, writes Brenda Ward. She spoke to an expert who believes time is our biggest and most misused asset.

19 October 2021

What happens if you lose all your money, asks Kiwi productivity and business coach Sarah Greener. Over the years, you might be able to build your savings up again.

But what about your time? If you waste your days on meaningless tasks, doing things you hate for people you don’t respect, you’ll never get that time back.

The message she’s spreading is that too many of us are misusing our time.

“We all know wealthy people who are unhappy,” she says.

“If you’ve got a million dollars and you’re still every day doing things that don’t light you up, that aren’t in alignment with your priorities, you’re still going to be miserable.”

Greener says investing your time wisely will help build the wealth that’s your health and relationships.

Greener says we could reach our life goals more easily if we made a switch and started valuing time over money.

Part of the problem is that we believe too many myths about time, Greener says. Here are a few of them.

Myths about time

Busy equals successful: Being busy isn’t a good thing. If you’re overwhelmed by your schedule it’s often just a lack of priorities, says Greener.

It’s probably that you have so many tasks, you don’t know what to work on first.

“Being effective is what you should strive for,” Greener says.

When busy people are overwhelmed, they don’t make good decisions.

I’ll have more time when... We tell ourselves there’ll be more time next week, or next month, or “when I finish this task”, or “when I retire”. “But there is no more time, it’s simple maths,” she says.

You can do anything: No, you can’t. Sometimes you should simply delegate a task or accept that someone else could do it better or more quickly.Work out what’s most important to you, Greener says. “What are the things that are so important in life that if we took them away, your life would be empty?”

Multitasking: It’s simply not possible to multitask, argues Greener. Your brain doesn’t work that way. “The moment something becomes important, you’ll focus on that. For example, say you cross the road, looking at your phone. If something comes up that’s a big deal, you’ll stop walking.”

Being a perfectionist: If you pride yourself on being a perfectionist, you should let go of that trait, says Greener. “Perfect means it never gets done.”

No time for myself: Too many people put everybody else first. “It could be clients, family, your work team.” Some people feel: ‘I’m a helper’. But you don’t have to put yourself at the bottom of the list.

Get started

So, how do you get the life you want?

The way to get started, says Greener, is to think about your ideal week and what you’d really want to do in it. Is it spending time with family? Is it fitness? Maybe your passion actually is your work?

Come up with your three to five priorities, Greener says.

“A question to ask would be: what lights you up? If you’re at the world’s most boring dinner party and someone starts talking about a topic, what is it that you’ll then stay until the middle of the night talking about?”

If you put answers for those questions, you’ll see that there’s a theme. ‘My health’s important’, or ‘my family’s important’, or ‘my money’s important’.

Take back control of your time and spend it doing things you enjoy.

Here’s three-step way to refocus on your life priorities:

Plan. Set aside an hour to work out your week ahead. Get a pen and paper and plan your week. Write down the important things you have to do to get closer to your vision.

Schedule. Go back to your tasks and set a time frame for each goal. Be kind to yourself and don’t try to fit more in an hour than you can.

Do it. If you don’t get it all done this week, maybe take it out. Or delegate it to someone else.

Make decisions easy

If you suffer from ‘overwhelm’, it could be due to ‘decision fatigue’, says Greener. The part of the brain responsible for decisions and willpower seizes up.

“Like reps at the gym, your muscles start to fail. You only get so many decision points to make in a day. The outcome is you end up making the easier decision – or none at all.”

We all make dozens of decisions before we even go to work in the morning. Do I get up with the alarm or hit the snooze button? What do I wear? What do I eat for breakfast? Where do I have coffee?

Make life easy by reducing the choices, to reduce your decisions. And work out which decisions will reduce other decisions.

A routine can help. Eat the same thing for breakfast every day. Have a Monday outfit, a Tuesday outfit and so on. Make sure everything has a home, so you’ll never lose your car keys.

For your bigger goals, says Greener, decide what you want to do, and say no to everything else.

Don’t be sidetracked by emails – don’t open them until after lunch. Use an autoreply saying if it’s urgent, to call you.

Stop hoping and start doing. Greener calls ‘hopium’ the drug of the masses.

“Goals don’t show up if you’re hoping. Your goal should be where you want to be in 10 years and then it’s reverse engineering. Where do I need to be in five years?

“I’ll take one step to do today to get me closer to my goal.”

A hard lesson

Greener says she learned the hard way she needed to prioritise, when she and her husband started a business.

“Long hours were okay for a little while, but over time it became a really bad habit.”

Then on Christmas Day 2016, she ended up working because some staff didn’t show up for work. Her then five-year-old daughter was at home with a babysitter, and phoned her mum.

She said: “Next time you’re both going to work on Christmas Day, can you let me know, because you should be at home with me reading my story and not at work.”

Says Greener: “It was a total stab in the heart.”

When she went home to her daughter, she decided to change her life.

“I realised that I was grumpy and tired when I was home, because I wasn’t sleeping well. I was stressed out. I wasn’t making time to do the things that were important to me.”

Many of us get stuck saying we don’t have a choice: we have to go to work.

We all need to earn money to put food on the table, but Greener says you have a choice of where you do that work.

“Sometimes it might just be parts of the job that you don’t like. Work out what bits are great and find a way to reframe the bits that aren’t so great.

“Your time is how you leave your impact on the world, your legacy, your children, your relationships, the people you touch. You do that with your time.”

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