William Liao

September 19, 2021

How much of your time is this worth?

Not all things are equally worthy of your time. 

For example, most would agree that spending 10 minutes fuming about a mistake a driver made on the road is not as useful or meaningful as spending 10 minutes catching up with a friend or working on a project you really care about. 

In a perfect world, we would always be judicious about where we put our time and energy. We’d always manage to choose to catch up with a friend instead of granting an extension to our grievances about something that happened on the road. 

Of course, this isn’t the case in practice — circumstances and emotions do occasionally get the better of us. In fact, emotions got the better of me this morning when I spent far too much time lamenting about a driver who almost collided with my vehicle.

Thankfully, though it took some time, I was able to eventually do three things: 

  1. I took 5 deep breaths.
  2. Recognizing my frustration, I asked myself: “How much of my time is being frustrated worth? Will continuing to be frustrated result in anything useful for anyone?” (the answer was a resounding “no”.)
  3. I let it go and instead focused my energy on understanding what the experience could teach me.

In my reflection, it occurred to me that effectively directing mental and physical effort is a skill that can be cultivated. And every moment is a potential inflection point where you either recognize that you’re spending your time well or that what you’re doing simply isn’t worth another moment of your time. 

Because I was able to redirect my attention this morning, I have no doubt that I’ll be able to do it more effectively next time (because there will be a next time), and even more effectively the time after that.

In all activities, you can train yourself to recognize where time is being spent well or being wasted by making a point to ask yourself: “how much of my time is this worth?”

What you do after that is up to you. 

*In search of a set of perspectives or heuristics that would allow me to more rapidly recognize and reallocate misspent time, I’ve written about the extremely finite nature of human life (see: 26,718 days and 7.1e-9) and more recently about a way to frame how we spend time (see: productively channeling your energy).