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.]

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