Time Our Most Valuable Commodity

standing on a swing in the water at one of the beautiful beaches in Cambodia with a sign for "sweet time"

Understanding Its Worth and How to Make the Most of It

standing on a swing in the water at one of the beautiful beaches in Cambodia with a sign for "sweet time"

Let me preface by saying, I appreciate the time you are taking to read this article.  Among the recurring statements I encounter as a travel and life coach is ‘I don’t have enough time.’  Individuals ranging from 18 to 80 years old find themselves constrained, unable to pursue their passions, embark on their dream vacations or sabbaticals, live the life they aspire to, or even allocate time to connect with those they hold dear.  Here, I aim to present strategies that can transform one’s outlook on time, foster a deep-seated appreciation for its value, and provide practical insights for efficient time management.

Perception of Time

The age-old adage ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ holds true. Conversely, time can slodge on when faced with challenging or mundane tasks.  It’s remarkable how the same unit of time can feel so differently when applied to various aspects of life simultaneously.  A weekend or holiday goes by in the blink of an eye and arriving someplace you dread can immediately feel tedious and prolonged.   

As I prepared for my first year of backpacking, each passing day served as a poignant reminder of the precious nature of time, evoking a range of emotions. There was excitement, anticipation, and wanderlust as I looked forward to my journey.  There was sadness as I closed this chapter of my life.  Frustration and irritability surfaced as I faced the daily grind of a challenging workplace and counted down the moments until I could finally walk away.  

Evolution of Values

Values evolve over time. In youth, there is the desire to fit in and be accepted by peers.  In the late teens and twenties, it’s living with reckless abandon, experimentation, establishing independence, and developing what we hold important.  Then there is the desire to earn money, save money, spend money, and escape debt.  We sacrifice one value for another.  And time often gets undervalued and underappreciated.


Work Time

Consider your work time as a straightforward equation:

Your Time + Relevant Experience/Knowledge (time spent on skill and practice) = Salary

Employers compensate you for your time.  Hours in a day or a week, retirement years, sick days, overtime, holiday time.  As well as with who, how, and what you spend your time doing.  Whether you’re negotiating a contract, aiming for a high-paying job, or accepting a minimum-wage job, understanding the value of your time and what you’re willing to sacrifice for a job is crucial.

Why Weekends and Holiday Time Have Been Undervalued

How do you spend your weekends?  Is it catching up on laundry or cleaning the house?  Is it sleeping in, feeling exhausted and burnt out from the work week?  Getting swallowed up in a Netflix binge?  In a Pew Study published in 2023, it was reported that 46% of Americans reported that they took less time off than employers allotted.  These reasons included:

Feeling like they would be falling behind on their work.

Guilt that co-workers would be responsible for taking on additional work.

Fear that it would affect the possibility for career advancement.

Fear of losing their job.

And worst – 12% stated managers/supervisors discouraged time off.  

The Value of Time Off

Your personal time is meant to be fulfilling – this should be your most valuable, your most cherished.  This time you should feel excited about, rejuvenating, and re-energizing.  This could be anything you adore, from visiting with friends to exploring and appreciating nature to snuggling in with a good book.  Reducing the burdens of responsibilities and prioritizing time for enjoyment.  

Travel offers a great number of benefits including reduced stress, depression, and anxiety as well as improved mood, and stimulated creativity.  It is possible to return to the workplace invigorated and inspired.  It is to the benefit of employers to understand and promote this, however, as a society we have been conditioned not to think this way.  Each year I had to emphatically justify my request for vacation time in July to enjoy a part of my summer rather than during our slower season in dreary, cold February.  

Reevaluating Your Work Mindset

Are you passionate about what you do? 

If so, great!  Work, like in most facets of our lives, will have challenges and moments of difficulty.  Leaving each day feeling good about what you have accomplished and showing up and looking forward to your time is what we should all strive for. 

Another healthy mindset approach is leaving the feelings and responsibilities of your work AT work.  

If you dislike what you do, your coworkers, or an unreasonable boss, ask yourself: is it time for a change?  Persisting in a job you resent, adds stress to your life.  Identify your pain threshold and determine what you’re willing to sacrifice for your values.  If work-related stress seeps into your personal life, and you spend a significant amount of time feeling frustrated or angry about your job – it’s probably time to reassess your situation.

Remote Work

Avoiding the work creep can feel inescapable.  Work finds a way to slither and slide into our minds.  Defining clear working schedules and separating this from daily admin, social notifications, or your family members vying for your attention, helps build more productive work habits.  

While traveling this can feel really challenging.  We are fortunate enough to be somewhat schedule-independent.  In Austria, we work in the mornings and evenings and play outside during the day.  Alternatively in South Africa or Spain, we play in the mornings and evenings outdoors and work during the heat of the day.   We try to maximize and prioritize our pleasure time each day as well as our work responsibilities.  On the flip side, we never quite have that holiday or weekend.  An alternative approach is having clearly defined work hours, work days, and weekends.  It’s a work in progress. 

Relationship Time

Relationships with partners, family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances consume a large portion of time in our lives.  Nurturing healthy relationships and not feeling consumed by negative relationships is a blend of healthy boundaries, being present, and prioritizing self-care. In this delicate balance, it’s essential to not only invest time in the people who uplift and support us but also communicate openly and honestly, resolving conflicts when they arise, to not expend more time and energy harboring negative feelings.

I got married for a visa.  This is not entirely wrong.  Our time together hinged on the capricious outcome of visa extensions. Weeks, months, and even years were spent anxiously awaiting bureaucratic decisions that determined whether we could stay together in the same country. When external authorities dictate the time you can spend with your loved ones, you learn to cherish every moment.  Making the most of each day becomes not just important but imperative.

The Simple Act of Showing Up

How often do you see a couple on a date at a restaurant swiping their phones and not talking to each other?  Put down the phone and stay present in each other’s company, creating memories.  Engage in meaningful conversations and quality time with loved ones.  

Recent years have seen a disturbing rise in being stood up or ghosted. Plans made in advance were canceled at the last minute or abandoned altogether, leaving little room for alternatives. While emergencies
arise, society has, normalized and accepted this behavior.  What remains overlooked is the theft of someone else’s time.  Respect each other’s commitments and be sincere.  It is kinder to decline the invitation than over-commit and not show.  

Letting Go of Negative Relationships

Recognizing when someone drains your mental energy and affects you negatively—these “energy vampires” deserve less of your precious time.  Unfortunately, relationships are complicated.  It’s not black and white and not all these relationships can or should be cut off.  Awareness of how these people affect you is a great skill, and knowing where to draw the line and implement healthy boundaries to protect both your emotions and your time.  This can be a transparent and supportive conversation suggesting a pause in the relationship until they take the initiative and necessary steps to get the professional help they require.  

Personal Time

Ultimately, time is our most valuable gift. By appreciating its worth, making deliberate choices, and crafting experiences that prioritize joy and fulfillment, we can transform time from a fleeting currency into a purposeful existence. 

I worked with a 22-year-old guy in a restaurant and dreamed of going to Australia.  He planned to retire at the age of 50 and then he would go.  Prior to being a coach, I fervently tried to persuade him to go sooner.  He was young, capable, and could easily find work as a cook abroad.  He could do all the things he desired while young and able, rather than waiting.  No one can predict how life will change both personally and globally in a span of 28 years, so take the damn trip.

It is never too late to be bold and challenge yourself.  Learn the things you have always wanted to even if they’re scary and out of your comfort zone.  Trust that change and growth take time.   The last thing you want is to look back on a life filled with regrets for the things you never did because you didn’t make the time. 

Prioritize the moments that bring you happiness.

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