The True Cost of Time Management

Can you imagine a time when time didn’t matter?

For most of us, we rule our lives with time.clock alarm sleep wake wait

The clock that hangs on the wall or comes up on our phone reminds us that the seconds are ticking by.

What do we plan to do with our time?

The best and the brightest have their time management down to a science.

They empty their inboxes.

They check off all their tasks.

They’ve got time under their complete control.

But what if it’s an illusion?

What if we’re really letting time manage us?

I’ve been thinking a lot about time for a couple of reasons.

1) There never seems to be enough time

I’ve said (and heard) this complaint ad nauseum.

What we’re less willing to talk about is why we feel this way.

Have we done a very good job of weeding out the not-so-important time drains from the priorities?

Saying “yes” to that small favour a few weeks ago may not seem like a big deal … until we add up all of those small “yeses” and discover we’re spending a lot of time on stuff that just doesn’t matter.

2) Time feels like it keeps going by faster

Maybe I’m alone, but as a kid, time seemed to drag.

It felt particularly slow in grade school.

Then, around junior high, a switch was flipped. The days started going by faster.

Now, as an adult, I feel like I blink and the day is gone.

Frankly, I think part of it comes from how much adult life gets driven by a clock.

I bring up time today because it continues to be one of those asset classes we ignore when we talk about managing our finances.

How we manage our time can have a huge impact on reaching our financial goals.

To be clear, I’m not just talking about hours worked and money earned.

Managing this asset is about more than time exchanged for money.

It doesn’t help that many of us *think* we’re doing at least a semi-decent job of managing our time.

In some ways, our obsession with time and managing it down to the minute has created a forest/trees problem.

For instance, more than a few people pride themselves on multitasking

They literally see themselves as doing more with time.

Or so they think.

But the studies continue to suggest there’s a cost for switching between tasks versus staying focused on one thing.

Of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule, but what if we gave ourselves a break?

For the next week, I want you to try an experiment.

First, turn off the notifications on your phone.

No pinging and no buzzing for a week.

Instead of helping us manage our time, these notifications distract us from the thing right in front of us.  stock market money app techonology smart phone learn invest

Second, give yourself one hour a day where you intentionally avoid looking at the clock.

Set a timer if you’re worried about going over, but for one hour, ignore the time.

Finally, block out your time in at least 15-20 minute intervals.

If at all possible, try to avoid jumping around on tasks that “only take a minute.”

If you want to reply to email, great.

But reply to a chunk of emails during 15 minutes and try to avoid interrupting yourself with random tasks.

Then, at the end of the week, look back over your days.

How do you feel about time?

Did less choppiness during your day help you feel more productive? Did you by chance get more done?

Want more of this type of information?

Carl Richards


Carl Richards is a Certified Financial Planner and a columnist for the New York Times, Morningstar magazine and Yahoo Finance. He is author of 2 books, The Behavior Gap & The One-Page Financial Plan. Carl lives with his family in Park City, Utah. You can find his work and sign up for his newsletter (which has an international audience) at

'The True Cost of Time Management' have 2 comments

  1. July 23, 2015 @ 8:41 pm Paul

    As a percentage of your life, one day is far longer when you are a child than when you are an adult. As you age, the ‘day percentage’ gets smaller. We also get used to seeing the small details – so many things that were new when we were children, we have now seen so many times, or our internal values filters remove from our conscious that we mark far fewer items consciously that help us mark the passing of time.

    Time – the most valuable of all treasures.


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