Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

Reader challenge #4: Optimize your time-wealth

September 20, 2010 by Rolf Potts

As I stated in my introduction post, the No Baggage Challenge isn’t just about traveling around the world without luggage — it’s also an inquiry into simplifying material concerns and seeking rich life-experiences. This in mind, I’d like to invite readers to join the journey by participating in a weekly series of challenges, most of which can be applied at home. My sponsors will give out swag to honor the most compelling reader submissions (see below for details), but ideally this should be seen less as a competitive undertaking than a way to set personal goals and consider new ideas.

My first three challenges (“lighten your load,” “explore your own town,” and “unplug from the virtual world“) were specific and applied, but my latest initiative is broad and general and based on a very simple lifestyle equation: Time = Wealth

Which is to say, if you begin to see time as your purest form of wealth, finding riches becomes a matter of better optimizing the time you’re born with in life. All too often we judge riches in terms of possessions and bank accounts when in fact material riches are only useful to the degree that they allow you to do what you enjoy and value most. This isn’t a new idea: Read most any collection of ancient religious wisdom — from the Bible to the Hindu Upanishads — and you’ll be reminded that those who become materially rich aren’t guaranteed a richer or freer life.

In my first book, Vagabonding, I give strategies for using your time-wealth to travel the world — but this initiative need not be pegged to a six-month dream-trip to Africa or an multi-year expatriate stint in Budapest or Rio. Perhaps you just want to free up some time to do things with your family, or attend culinary school, or volunteer in your community, or drink more tequila and play more video games (if that’s your idea of time well-lived). For the sake of this challenge, I’m more interested in your strategies of finding time-wealth than I am your plans for using it (though I would like you to briefly mention such plans, so we can get a sense of your motivation).

Thus the specifics of the latest reader challenge: Explain, in concrete terms (and less than 500 words in the comments below), what you will do over the course of the next year to make yourself richer in time.

There are countless ways to do this, of course, and I’m not looking for spectacular innovations so much as practical, goal-driven strategies that are specific to your own life-situation. For some folks this might mean freeing up two hours a day by working from home instead of commuting to an office; for others it might mean packing a lunch to work each day (instead of eating out) and earmarking a year’s cost differential to fund a volunteer vacation in Central America. It could even involve finding practical ways to eliminate 20% of your weekly expenses and using the accumulated long-term savings to get out of credit card debt, take a year off from school, leave on a 6-month sabbatical from work, or retire five years early.

There are certain lifestyle and comfort sacrifices involved with these kinds of decisions, of course, but the reward — more time to do what you love — is a rich one. For example, when I returned to the U.S. from Asia several years ago, I didn’t move to a hip city like New York or San Francisco; instead I got a house in the Kansas countryside, where the cost of living (and property) is low. In addition to keeping me close to my family, this arrangement allows me to meet my annual expenses in 6 months of freelance writing and teaching work, and spend the rest of my year as I please — usually traveling. (Plus, even in Kansas, I’m never more than a $300 plane flight from either U.S. coast, should I feel like experiencing some other part of the country for a week or two.)

How do you plan to optimize your time-wealth in the coming year?

Using no more than 500 words, please share your strategies in the comments below. The deadline for submitting October 4th, at midnight — which means you have two weeks to come up with your plan. The good folks at Bootsnall will convene to choose the most compelling time-wealth scheme, and the winner will receive a Moleskine notebook, a copy of my book Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, and a set of ScotteVest travel clothing similar to the gear I’m wearing on my no-baggage journey.

[Even after the contest has finished, I encourage everyone to continue posting practical time-wealth schemes below, in the interest of idea-sharing and goal-setting. Clock photo by Flickr user h_is_for_home. Licensed under Creative Commons.]

Related posts:

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  2. Reader challenge #3: Unplug from the virtual world As I stated in my introduction post, the No Baggage...
  3. Reader challenge #2: Explore your own town As I stated in my introduction post, the No Baggage...
  4. No Baggage Challenge: The Travel Clothing By definition a no-luggage journey has to operate on a...
  5. No Baggage Challenge: The Ground Rules While circumnavigating the globe with no luggage sounds like a...
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  • Rolf

    Bootsnall has gone ahead and selected Michael Rae as the winner of this challenge. Congrats, Michael!

  • Michael

    Thanks!

  • Rolf

    Congrats to James Williams for winning the Week 4 Reader Challenge! The only snag is that it looks like we're missing an email address for James!

    Hello, James? Bootsnall will pick a new winner on Monday if James doesn't reply before then!

  • Dragonfly7

    Over the course of the next year, I have two goals. The first is to eliminate at least 20 to 25 percent of our credit card and student loan debt. The other is to be my true self and do more things that reflect my values and bring me joy instead of the facade I share with most other people. Both will require me to better utilize my time.
    The easiest way to achieve the first goal would be if my husband and I could manage to both be simultaneously employed full-time, a feat we've yet to manage during this recession. Until then, he is providing private tutoring in using the LEGO Mindstorms NXT on top of his part-time jobs, and he is making an effort to not eat out every day like he was over the summer. Between that and the things I have reduced or eliminated, that has reduced our monthly expenses by 8 - 10 percent. I haven't stopped seeking out full-time positions, but I am now applying for evening/weekend part-time jobs on top of that, or I may create my own.
    It is difficult to find work where one's skills, knowledge, and values intersect. Off the top of my head, I can think of fewer than ten full-time positions I have found in the past five months that met all three. The rest would require one or two of them to be restrained or compromised. Oddly, though, I am finding many more part-time opportunities that do need them all. With the hope that I can snag one of those part-time positions, as we move toward no debt, I intend to use the resulting free time to do more things that allow my entire true self to come out to play.

  • rose

    Thanks for posing such an excellent challenge.

    I'll pick three easy but significant ways to find more time for the next year.
    First, I'll reduce my television watching to just two hours a week. (I hate to think how many hours I've wasted watching mindless programming just because the TV was on!) Perhaps a more surprising choice is that I'll do less reading -- perhaps I've reached the point where I should spend more time doing things than reading about them. I'll limit myself to reading at bedtime or while waiting for an appointment. Finally, I'll do less internet surfing by avoiding humor sites and so-called productivity blogs. I'll install PageAddicit for Firefox to check weekly that I've been behaving.

    So I'll be consuming less information and doing more stuff.

  • James williams

    The question is, “What will I do over the next year to make myself richer in time?” While the question talks about steps to be taken this year, I don’t think it limits us to a payoff just during this year. Therefore, I’m going take a big-picture, top-down approach.

    I just turned fifty. I can’t avoid facts: I’m definitely middle-aged, on the downhill slope, entering the autumn of my life, an old fart. The good news is that, based on family history, I should be pretty spry well into my eighties.

    Let’s do the math. Thirty more years, rounded up, gives me 11,000 days, or 264,000 hours. I’ll spend a third sleeping, and another third between yard work and chores, daily exercise, and food shopping, prep, and eating. I’ll work at least 15 years, or about 30,000 more hours. That leaves almost 60,000 hours available.

    Sounds good to me!

    How can I grow my 60k hours, and make the most of them, both now, and in the future?

    First off, the greatest way that I’ll make myself richer in time, is to give myself more time in the long run. Not only do I want to live a longer life, but I want it to be a high-quality life as I age—more quantity, and more quality. Therefore I’m going to continue to do my best to be and stay healthy. Confession time here: I’m on my way to getting rid of half my weight. Yes. Half. It’s easy: eat less and exercise more. It’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The payoff happens immediately—I’ve already noticed more energy, I’m more mobile, and more alert.

    Secondly, I’ll have more time if I retire on time. I’m still planning to work 15 more years in my career. However, I don’t want to work until 70 or 72 just because I’m burning too much cash now. My wife and I are plugging the leaks in our wallets. We’re refinancing the house at today’s low interest rates, cutting 11 years off the mortgage in exchange for a very small increase (if any) in the monthly payment. After we get rid of our short-term debts, we could live on either her salary or mine, or we could both find half-time jobs, or retire earlier. That’s a huge payoff from just from embracing (and being satisfied with) a frugal lifestyle.

    And finally, I’m going to purposefully fill my life with friends, art, and hobbies. I figure the best way to be time-wealthy is to schedule time for myself. I’m going to go to more concerts, art shows, and museums. We’ll have more barbeques, picnics, or potluck dinners with friends. I’m going to spend more time on stained glass work, photography, and other hobbies. The key is planning and scheduling; then the good stuff will crowd out the wasted time in my life.

  • Mom1

    Good for you. You inspire me to get out there and take a walk!

  • whygo

    Great tips James!

  • adriftsoul

    good on you James! especially the weight & the mortgage - both are extremely hard work but well and truly worthwhile... you will love losing the debt - it's a great feeling - and cheers to the good stuff!

  • Michael

    Actually, I don't have much of a problem here that the previous challenge (unplug from the virtual world) didn't already cover, most of my time goes to my computer, so probably my most important thing is to cut out a substantial portion of that time, and then figure out what to do in all the free time, travel, learn a language, music lessons, exercise more, self defense, design, the list goes on, but I think theres another few things to help me optimize my time -wealth:

    1: I'm going to optimize my sleep to make sure I have enough energy to actually do what I want to do and not slump back into old habits, which for me I think means trying to become a lark rather then an night owl, theres something about early mornings thats magic.

    2: Work on other ways to get the energy to do more then sit and stare at a computer screen all day, no matter if I get the required 8 hours (which on paper should be fine,) I feel drained when I wake up, no energy to do my morning set of exercises, so this, I figure, will mean:

    optimizing my sleep

    acting energetic

    eating right

    less computer

    evening/morning routines

    more stuff to look forwards to

    and more

    3: Look through all the other reader comments and try and learn from them, see if any strategies could apply/help me.

    Less planning more doing, that's what I really want to be doing, I just want to walk my talk, do something on a list and become a better person because of it.

  • Two years ago I put my things in a storage locker and started doing world travel. As a web developer I can work from anywhere as long as I've got a half decent internet connection. However, when I'm on the road I still find myself working hard enough that I struggle to find time to enjoy and do all the things I want in the city/country I'm staying in.

    I don't believe that "time" is the ultimate wealth, but actually time+health, so I feel it's important to not only free up more time to do what you want, but also to "schedule" healthful living.

    1. As a web developer I'm online all the time. It's so easy to get distracted by facebook, email, or friends on IM or Skype. I actually don't need to be online except for about an hour a day (besides meetings). 95% of my work I can do on my laptop. As I discovered on a recent road trip across Canada, I get way more done in the same time if I'm disconnected from the net. So I've started making a daily routine to be online at 10am-11am, and 2pm-3pm to check mail and chat with people I need to. My evenings are still my own, and if I decide to surf aimlessly, so be it :).

    2. Since I've been traveling I've been paying $120/month for two storage lockers. I plan to sell off 90% of that stuff (a few big furniture items) and get down to just a couple small boxes I can store at friends places.

    3. Whether I'm traveling or not, I find myself almost always eating out. Not only is this very costly, but most restaurant food is loaded in fats and sugar. It's so easy to just say "hmm.. too busy this week and better things to do than spend time cooking". But I'm now dedicating time to cooking each week (Sun, Tue, Thu), which leaves me with leftovers the next day and a quick calculation has me saving about $250 per month!! This is enough for a round trip ticket to South Africa every 5 months! :)

    4. In the past when I've dedicated myself to exercising on a regular basis, I've not only feelt healthier, but had significantly more energy and focus. I've already started a new routine and starting to feel this already.

    Something I've already noticed with the new plan is that I've started knocking things off my long-term todo list. Things that would be nice to do, but "I just never have time for". Even with adding exercise and cooking to my schedule, which seems like it would cause me to have less time, I'm now finding time to do something I've always wanted... learn Spanish (practicing 6 hours a week). Most of my "time-wealth" was simply locked up in a lack of focus. Living just a bit healthier has given me that much more focus.

  • adriftsoul

    7,300km (4,500 miles) of bitumen was ridden on my Vespa scooter and my partner's Ducati earlier this year from Brisbane through the Australian outback to Longreach and then north-east to Cooktown and back down our beautiful Queensland coast.

    Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef was amazing as was visiting lots of waterfalls, rainforests and amazing beaches such as Whitehaven Beach - staying at pubs and backpackers with about five days worth of clothes on our motorbikes - necessary for the heat & humidity of Far North Queensland!

    We met some lovely people and had a great relatively inexpensive time. This is what preceded it.

    An older apartment near the city in a vibrant, eclectic neighbourhood took our fancy and could also be afforded on one income if necessary. Walking to work and reading lots of library books on money saving tips along with budgeting, graphing our debts (car, university and home) and putting goals in place enabled us to become completely debt free in five years and before turning 28... it really was hard work!

    Our bike trip was so rewarding after working really hard to become debt-free. Rolf your tips for reducing baggage and using our clothing pockets are very much appreciated! (I got so sick of daily re-packing!)

    Daily time wealth strategies for the next twelve months are continuing good sleep routines, minimising possessions and focussing techno-blurred vision. Trying flexible and more interesting work arrangements (a new job hopefully for me, starting and finishing earlier, reducing on call hours and negotiating less days each week in the office and unpaid leave for longer trips).

    Long term, our time wealth strategy goal is to gradually replace our incomes with close to positive cash flow investment properties. Positive cash flow means the rental income pays for all of the property expenses, including loan payments & interest. Interest rate rises, vacancy risk and unexpected maintenance need to be taken into account - like saving for a rainy day.

    To improve income during this time further study, online possibilities and working holidays are being investigated - not as travel writers or photographers Rolf and Justin (!) but perhaps Antarctica or international charities?

    Being debt free has resulted in us both being much more relaxed and open towards creating new experiences in our lives. It is our priority to continuing to use all the money saving tips possible whilst paying off each property and planning new travel adventures - whether afternoon drives or motorbike rides, long week-ends or longer trips?!

    The ideal would be to have enough rental income to not need work at all within 10 years. Who knows?!?!

    There is so much more of Australia and the world to see and like Rolf, taking our time and really living each experience - every day - both at work and during holidays is the focus.

    Prioritising time with family and friends is so important, as more and more health issues plague our loved ones. Cheers to health, happiness, experiences & good times!

  • Ericpegler

    I am turning 50 on Thursday and have been taking a hard look at my life. The last 2 years have brought many challenges including a the birth of our special needs son Alex. He has brought much joy to our lives as well as many new perspectives. After his 1.5 million dollars in medical bills and my wife having to quit her job we have learned to live a more simple life and realized what is really important. We are posturing ourselves to do some vagabonding in one year with a family of 4. My daughter is 9 and in 3rd grade. My son is special needs and is 2 years old. I think it would be great to prove that an around the world trip on less than $100.00 per day with no baggage with a family of 4 would be doable. We have pared back on the extras and are enjoying just being in the moment. Keep it Simple Silly (KISS) and enjoying the little things takes the stress out of life. We create so much of our own insanity. So our plan is to make less plans do less and LESS = MORE is the way to get more TIME and TIME=WEALTH. So we ask the question? Do we really need it? Why do we need it and then we wait a day or two and if we really need it we rent it or check it out at the library or buy it at Goodwill or a garage sale. We have donated a lot of our stuff and we just say Oh Well about many things in our lives. We are no longer Type "A" driven but have just realized that life is passing us by. Let go of the things that are bogging us down and enjoy the day! We are preparing to rent out our house and have a year to get out of debt. I am excited to be blogging about our trip. Launch date is June 1, 2012. Alexander the Great conquers the globe!

  • Franzk9

    Practicality often takes a backseat to whim, and then there is responsibility. Having our first child earlier this year we have begun prioritizing (again) those goals we find important. This has led us to take the following steps since my wife and I both agree time is more important than most any other tangible item:

    1- We are renting out our current home and moving to southern Oregon into a smaller house (though on more land) with substantially less costs not to mention being around family.

    2- We have begun budgeting to make sure the travel we want to do becomes not just a fantasy but the reality of spending an uninterrupted month in another country. This includes cutting out all those small expenses at home that could go much further in another place such as few and far between restaurant visits and coffee, how far and often we drive (and attempting to bike in more places), and asking ourselves two or three times if an item we are going to purchase is needed- the answer is almost always an emphatic "NO!

    3- We are down to one vehicle which is a challenge, but saves a considerable amount.

    4- Pay cash for everything possible and not fall into the world of forgotten plastic expenditures that only seem real when you look at your account statement.

    We are well on our way and have taken tangible steps to achieving our goals. My wife reads a minimalist blog which inspires us both to do with less though we are not down to 100 items of ownership. Setting realistic goals in which there are constant achievements (not buying that coffee = instant savings growth on an almost daily basis). We look forward to our next trip and taking Rye our son on his first cross border adventure, with few items carted along, and maybe his own travel vest.

  • T J Lee

    I find this challenge so interesting in the context of where I live in – “hot house” Singapore, literally and metaphorically. It has evolved over the past 40 odd years from a land-intensive economy to a labour-intensive, and then a capital-intensive economy. Now it is heading into a knowledge-intensive economy to stay ahead. I wonder if the next progression would be towards a time-intensive economy to handle the complexities that is overwhelming our lives. Will we come to a point when we need some sort of time machine to help us get by?

    Optimising time is instinctively, our first response to create time-wealth. We use the internet, mobile phones, and computers to perform faster. These performance enhancers are double-edged swords as they also attract more work. Others such as online self-service portals and kiosks that help cut down travelling, waiting and queuing time; actually transfer work-time from service providers to the end-users. We should evaluate the time-wealth these conveniences offer before adopting them.

    Eliminating time stealers is my current strategy to create time-wealth. The major one for me is in finding things and the procrastination that comes when you cannot find the things you need to get things done. I am cutting down the number of physical things that I have, by digitising as much as physical information as possible to have their images stored in little hard disks and disposing the originals. I will reorganise both virtual and physical things into a logical hierarchy to simplify storage and retrieval. Effectively, having fewer things to find and having faster access to them creates time-wealth.

    Rearranging time around my personal disposition and circumstances will also create time-wealth. Instead of commuting to work early in the morning, I should spend my first two hours on the most important paperwork of the day because I read, write and analyse faster when it is quiet and I have a clear and rested mind.

    Shifting my work time to someone else to handle my routine work can create time-wealth as well. This may be extended to specialised work as well by outsourcing to specialists in different time zones via the internet. The arrangement offers round-the-clock work progress. In theory, the idea should help me deliver higher value quicker. If these options are not feasible in my current vocation, I should consider a more suitable one.

    All these strategies are contingent with staying healthy. Time is stolen from us when we fall sick or our lives shortened. Time and money spent on exercising are actually time and money otherwise spent during an illness. Testimony to staying healthy creates time-wealth comes from Theresa Hsu, centenarian social volunteer in Singapore. Mostly vegetarian, she advises eating sparingly and eating raw as it cuts down time to shop, wash, cook and clean up. Her lifestyle have certainly created a lot of time-wealth. For the rest of us, there is a thought to take away – time-wealth is like a vacuum waiting to be filled. Make it count !

  • MtnView

    I’m learning that it’s not a matter of how much free time I have, but whether I’m using it to do the things I love. Two years ago, my husband and I owned a home in a sleepy Boston suburb and I worked within walking distance of our house. I had a steady government job that provided 11 paid holidays plus three weeks of vacation… which we lived for, because there wasn’t much to do in our town, and we were dying to get away! My husband and I had forgotten to value the few hours of free time that we had each day, so there we were, doing yard work, stripping wallpaper, and going to the dollar store for entertainment, none of which we really enjoyed. We decided to move to an area where we could 1) be more active outdoors every day, 2) simplify our housing situation, and 3) be part of a larger community. After selling our house, quitting our jobs, and giving away half our possessions, we now rent a three-room apartment on an alley in San Diego and have jobs with an hour’s daily commute which give us each two weeks of vacation. Do those sound like poor tradeoffs? They could be for some people, but we’ve made choices according to how we want to spend our free time. Being a curious person, I love living on the alley and seeing people outside my window as I read the newspaper; in our former town, I only saw minivans driving by. We’re taking advantage of the sidewalks throughout the city – which our former town lacked – to walk every weekday morning, greeting our neighbors and their pets. After work, we no longer have to maintain a house, so we’re able to enjoy the nearby park, zoo, and free concerts instead. I’m also fond of seeing how far I can get from my apartment on foot – I call my journeys “epic walks” – and I plan to do at least one per month, exploring other neighborhoods, enjoying the architecture, and stopping in locally-owned cafes for refreshment. My husband and I still look forward to vacation (right now, we’re planning two weeks in Germany and the Czech Republic), but we’re also learning how to enjoy each evening and weekend and regard them as opportunities for exploration.

  • Oh, I am sooo the wrong person to ask. Even now that I live abroad temporarily, I waste my time. It's actually quite depressing, and I should definitely do something about it. Let me get back to you...

  • Michael

    surely this should mean this challenge is aimed at you, and encourage you to find some more time form the other great suggestions here?

  • Miriel

    These are the things I've worked on to save time.
    1) Know thyself. I know I perform best under strict guidelines and time frames, thus I have regular work hours - What I will do - apply the same discipline to my irregular creative work-life. Set word and time limits.
    2) Household labour is divided, my housemate cooks, I clean, and we work to our strengths to be most efficient.
    3) Planning. Dinner and lunches are planned and shopped for a week ahead. What I will do - stop using shopping time as leisure time. It's not and I end up with things I don't need. So the concrete thing I will stick to is the Shopping List.
    4) Structure: I leave work at work, it has regular full time hours that leaves afternoons free, thus I have personal time (for writing among other things) at home, alone, when my housemate is at work. Similarly, she gets the house to herself in the mornings. Evenings are household times. - What I will do. Turn off the TV at 8:30pm. That is what recorders are for.
    5) I don't drink alcohol much anymore. It means I can drive, which is the quickest way for me to travel to and from work. Plus hangovers equal wasted time. - What I will do - not drinking doesn't mean I'm not social. I will joing a social-type-writing club for social engagement + interests + inspiration.

  • Finding time-wealth and then doubling it!
    A story involving me and a big LEVER.

    I work in Munich, Germany for a big US multinational (my boss is in the USA). I work a 9 -5 job (usually more), 5 days a week and company policies make it very difficult to change this. Therefore I need a big LEVER to make the company give me more time rather than more money.

    Digging out - A strategy for escaping from the 9-5 prison.
    I have a very specialised job, that is hard to recruit for.
    The effects of the crisis are still strongly felt in this company so I money is tight.
    I have had three job offers in the last six months from competing companies. This is my big lever!

    I put all these three together and asked for a raise not in money, but in time, by asking for one day off a week.
    The amusing thing is that my boss read my request letter and immediately made plans to give me a $ raise from another budget. I had to be very clear with him that I am not making a cloaked request for more $ and that I REALLY am asking for time. My request is now with HR and the German team. Please wish me good luck.

    Plans:
    If I get the extra time, I will do two things.
    1. See more of central Europe. There are so many amazing places to visit here. Vienna, Zurich, Prague, Krakow, Bratislava and Berlin are all cities that I have not visited since moving here two years ago!
    2. Spend time working on my private business ventures. I have one protein product for sale on Amazon.de, and I have started a blog. Hopefully, in the next 2-3 years, these private ventures will lead to me digging out of 9-5 completely.

    Doubling up. - I use the strategies below practicing doubling my time-wealth so that if the LEVER works I will be ready.
    I already use these at my 9-5 job to deliver the best results and early mornings and weekends.

    1. Concentration. I practice deep immersion in what is in front of me. For example, I could easily read some rubbish fiction while travelling in the Bavarian alps and miss the wonders. Instead, I marvel at the alps in joy. Another example: I could easily surf the web instead of writing my blog. Instead I work with focus for 1.5 hours, take a break, then work again.
    2. Discipline. I get up and fully use the time that is available to me.
    3. Rest. I get good sleep so that I am fully awake.
    4. Health. I study what the best foods are in the world and try to eat only those foods.
    5. Energy. I exercise most days.

    I am ready for my any extra time=wealth!

  • First a word about what we have done to get to where we are… when I met my now husband 10 years ago, he came to MN with 2 degrees and a boatload of college debt, and no job. With a young child in the house and all of this debt, we struggled for 8 years just to get to break even - over $150,000 (school loans, medical bills, a $60,000 mortgage). We are now mere months away from being debt-free, which was the first and biggest goal we had to complete before radically changing our lives. Debt was the chain that kept us bound to the 9-5 grind (and still does, for a few months longer).

    But our dreams for the future are much, much different. Five acres to call our own, debt-free, even if we have to live in a camper or pole building to make that happen. On this parcel we can raise enough food to feed ourselves and extra to feed other local families. Along with this, we will need to convert both of our current careers into work that is more flexible and more meaningful, and get my husband off of his commute. We are still exploring these options, as it takes time and creativity to leave 20-year careers behind and set out in new directions.

    To ensure we continue to make progress in this goal, we have dedicated one evening/week to hanging out at a local coffee shop (the distractions at home are too many) to focus on exploring opportunities to advance in the direction of our dreams. Some nights that means job hunting or updating resumes, some nights that means researching workshops or on-line courses that would help us gain additional knowledge or skills in our areas of interest, sometimes the evening is for reading real estate ads and pricing out 5 acre parcels in a variety of areas around the country.

    One thing we have learned – if you do not schedule time for taking steps toward your goals, you will just keep doing what you have always done (path of least resistance). Dreaming about a different future does not make it happen – you have to have a goal and an action plan, and schedule those actions into your calendar.

    Cheers -

  • I gave birth to my first child three months ago, so at this point in my life, my time is not my own. The few hours I have to myself after my baby goes to bed are spent acquiring knowledge in order to simplify and enrich my family's life. I agree that time is money, but I also believe that knowledge is power. (Although my BS degree in Individualized Studies says otherwise.) Through seeking knowledge and know-how, I empower myself to simplify and change my life. The skills needed to live a rich and full life, I believe, are learned.
    Along with that, my husband and I have reduced our possessions by 1/2 in the last year. (Learning how to do that was a struggle!) We don't have TV and we just got rid of our cell phones. I am learning how to make a variety of home-cooked meals and how to be frugal when it comes to groceries and cleaning supplies (for the house and for the body). I breast feed our baby and he wears cloth diapers in order to save money. Also, right now my husband is gone 10 hours out of the day because of his commute to work. We are planning on moving (for the 13th time in 6 years) closer to his job so he can have more time to finish college.

  • Shadowmoss

    I have realized that the first step for me to having more 'me' time is to get out of debt. I leave next week to work in Honduras with the idea that I will combine living in a place where my income will give me enough extra (due to low cost of living) to pay debts down with the opportunity to explore a part of the world I've wanted to see. Actually, I guess that is the second step, as I haven't had a TV at all in at least 5 years, so I don't spend hours watching what I don't have.

    Once I have my debts paid, I will continue to get rid of things (down to less than 1/4 what I owned 2 years ago now) and try to move on to other areas of the world where I can find work until I have enough put back that I feel I can stop working for the paycheck and just find interesting things to do, paid or not.

  • I'm going to base myself in S-E Asia very soon, which will help me make the most out of life. I look forward to the opportunity to be inspired by both the locals and the travellers in the cities/towns I choose to linger in, and that inspiration will go into my writing and photography. I also hope to learn some Thai and maybe some Mandarin (I will also be going over to Taiwan). I look forward to discovering the quirky artistic flourishes all over the place that make Thailand so special, and get a better feel for its neighbours, like Malaysia and Myanmar, as well.

  • Isaac

    "Explain, in concrete terms (and less than 500 words in the comments below), what you will do over the course of the next year to make yourself richer in time."

    will stop explaining, to begin with...

  • Big kudos to all the responses so far, I'm loving the feedback and learning from you all!

    I totally agree that finding ways to save time in life is a priority. Equally important, is ensuring that I have plenty of energy left over to make great use of that extra time! It would be useless to free up a couple hours but not have sufficient energy during this time! And equally important to both of these is to apply my freed up time and energy objectively. (even if the objective is to spend this time serendipitously)

    Tips like regulating time spent on email/reading news/blogs, moving closer to work to cut down commute, negotiating remote working to eliminate commute time and generally cutting back on all the "fat" in life that is not related toward achieving my goals/objectives are all being applied to free up my time.

    I see three factors which ensure I’m being as effective as possible in my new free time- I call these "energy return on investment practices." First, in the words of Sublime, "first take care of head." To me this means using some freed up time for personal time/meditation, reading philosophy, journaling, engaging in deep conversations, and generally paying attention to my surroundings. Next, to ensure I have plenty of energy, I am on an efficient & effective exercise program, approx. 30 mins per day. I've found this is just enough time to get the juices flowing before hitting diminishing marginal returns. Equally important is nutrition, tons of great info out there on this so ill save it, main point is pay attention cause you are what you eat (or in this case, I am what I eat;)

    "Before choosing a long rabbit hole, I ask myself how this would compound my life experiences" Great point reader above! Journaling and meditations help me evaluate which rabbit holes I want to take on.

    So in summary, I’m using practical tips to free time, "energy return on investment practices” to increase energy and journaling, meditations and deep connections with friends/family to ensure that I am using my time and energy to turn these dreams real!

  • Spired

    Love the challenges and blog Rolf.

    I've been putting into action 3 commitments to make each moment more compelling. First, I choose my rat/rabbit holes, I immerse myself in whatever it brings and finally I look for compound interest. Let me explain.

    It's my rabbit hole
    Borrowing from Srikumar Rao, it's not really a time management problem but a self management one. We all need to spend half of each day eating, drinking, sleeping, and managing the side effects of those activities :) Yet some people are able to set aside distractions and choose their paths. Instead of surfing the web aimlessly or reacting like a rat chasing a treat, I'm consciously choosing my path. When I don’t have a clear goal, it means setting time limits in front of screens and taking things slower than usual--letting go of impulses and taking the time to figure things out. I set a timer on my phone for 15-30 minutes and make that the limit for doing email or reading the news. It’s ultimately about choosing your surroundings--the friends, places and ideas that make your world. Whenever I feel a little off track, I ask myself, am I leading myself well and time just seems to appear.

    Immersion
    Once a path is chosen, I see it through. It’s always okay to change your mind but once you’ve started something (that's not fun on the surface) you might as well make the most of it. Even on something as forgettable as a long daily commute, I challenge try to find something new, something comforting or something beautiful each day—the change of the season, a random act of kindness, an appreciation for air conditioning…

    It’s only time wasted when you dwell on it and make it painful. I take 30 seconds and figure out how to make “wasted” time an experience—learn to draw by sketching the people in line in front of you, practice meditation, or revive a foreign language by translating all the objects and conversations you hear. When we get lost when travelling it becomes an adventure, but when we get lost at home it just becomes pure frustration. I choose my own adventure.

    Compound Interest
    Albert Einstein said that the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest. I strive to make this work for me…not so much in the monetary sense but in having each experience, each rabbit hole build unto the next great experience. That means making friends along the way, diving deeper into the questions you want to answer, practicing skills and building your toolbox. Life experiences accrue to make you who you are. The Economist reported that people who live abroad are more creative at problem solving (http://bit.ly/baq5M0) . So, before choosing a long rabbit hole, I ask myself how this would compound my life experiences. If it doesn’t seem to add something fun or compelling, there’s always another path.

  • LLB

    I find myself increasingly unhappy with TV and newspapers, as well as with most magazines. As a child of the 50s and 60s, those are major cultural reference points for information and entertainment, but they are a vortex of time-wealth that can be better spent. The Internet can also be a wormhole, sucking the time out of life. There are so many things I want to do! Learn Italian, read a jillion books, take long walks with my husband, volunteer at the Zoo (maybe I can get you some elephant pooh). I will stop reading the newpaper cover-to-cover, favoring summaries on trusted and useful websites, listen to NPR only at the office and not on my commute. On my commute I will continue to study Italian. I will stop watching TV unless it is background while I am cooking, or a movie I REALLY want to see. No more LOLcats. I will devote my new-found time-wealth to learning, growing and volunteering. And my savings on subscriptions to magazines I feel compelled to read because I bothered to subscribe? I can plow them into my travel habit!

  • Ying

    I've always had a fantasy to sell all of my possessions and have everything I need or want in one suitcase. This frees up time in that you don't have to care for and worry about stuff and selling possessions gives you money to buy more time so you win both ways. I'm finally realizing this fantasy and while it can be painful to part with photo albums and other sentimental things, ultimately getting rid of things from the past frees you to live in the present and the only baggage you carry is a suitcase. When I'm finished with this project, I'll be able to travel with complete freedom from attachment to stuff or places from the past and I expect I will be fully present in each new experience knowing there's nowhere else I need to be.

  • Vagabondastrologer

    ironically, i have just embarked on a year of living dangerously, so to speak. i took some money out of my retirement to help my daughter with the down payment on a home she bought. it has a separate apartment upstairs, which i now can live in rent free for one year. i cut my hours down at work to 15, just enough for spending money and health insurance. i have one year to figure out how to uncuff myself from the 9-5 grind.

    the way i see it, there are two aspects of the time/wealth issue: more money coming in and less going out. with that in mind, we are planning a huge vegetable garden for the spring, i have started baking my own bread, and craigslist is our new best friend. not only environmentally positive, but also cheap. i have plans to begin making craft items that i hope to sell on etsy.com. that way i can work from home, giving me the time i want to spend with my granddogs, the garden, and the great lakes of minnesota.

    one of the most empowering books i ever read was 'Your money or your life' by joe dominguez. just taking note of every penny you spend opens your eyes to how you 'spend' your life. that four dollar mocha in the morning amounts to over a thousand dollars a year. that's a trip to australia. maybe you'd rather buy the mochas than travel to australia. but at least you are now aware of making the choice. it's very empowering to be in charge of your life.

  • Lately, I have been waking up 2-3 hours earlier than usual to allow myself more time. It is amazing what I can get done in the mornings before anyone is awake. From reading, to just sitting and thinking, to taking an enjoyable shower, to working if the situation calls for it. A warm cup of tea in the mornings is always nice to have the time to be able to enjoy.
    I have always hated alarm clock sounds so I installed an app on my computer that wakes me with music from my iTunes. Ahhhh, lovely.

    On 18 October I will be quitting my part time job working as a service adviser at an automotive repair shop and going full time with my online business and blog. They are both things I enjoy and that I have plenty of time for as it is, so I will be freeing up several hours a day by quitting my day job.

    I have been freeing myself of commitments slowly but surely.
    One way I found effective in freeing up time is creating scheduled times to do things like laundry, house cleaning, grocery shopping (basically once a week, on a Saturday), etc.

    Another important thing I NEED to start doing is taking a day off from my business and online stuff. It is easy to find myself checking my email every couple of hours to see if I've made any new sales. But if I don't check it at all for a day, nothing bad will happen. The world won't explode. The sky won't fall.
    I'll be working on that specifically the next month. 1-2 days a week completely free from my business would be great.

    I will have a school commitment the next 3-ish years for my vet med tech degree. The degree is a back up plan in case I ever need a job. I can get a fairly well paying one with this degree.
    An online business and school commitments go fairly well together, though.
    It is exciting!

    -Star

  • The next 8 months are full of some major life events. I'm getting married in November, seeking/interviewing for full time jobs, and completing a graduate degree in May. Not to mention my time commitment to engineering organizations, regional professional groups, and planning a district convention for college band students.

    Needless to say, my plate is full at the moment which is kind of ironic since one of the fundamental principles of my degree is “lean” thinking.

    After a camping trip last year during my busiest and most stressful semester, I realized the importance of making time to get away. At the conclusion of college in May, I plan to move with my “then wife” to a new city where we can start fresh. A new community and no extra commitments will enable us to spend more time together sightseeing, enjoying the local restaurants, and planning our next travel adventure to one of the 22 states we yet visited.

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