You want to do a lot of things. You want to be successful, you want to be happy, you want to be rich, you want to travel the world, you want to be infertile, you want to have a child, you want to be a bodybuilder, you want to be a stripper, you want to be a t-shirt designer, you want to be a professional gamer, you want to be a farmer, you want to be a millionaire, you want to be a cancer researcher, you want to be a mother, you want to be a father.
Take a good look at how you spend your time, and ask yourself if your schedule really offers you a good deal of free time. I know that many people think of their free time as “free”, but it’s simple mathematics that tells us that time is never free. Even if you have the time of your life, that doesn’t mean you can do it all. There will always be a limited amount of time, and you need to make the most of what you have.
What if we measured success in time instead of money? What if we stopped focusing on what we deserve and instead focused on the love, laughter and joy of the moments that make up each day?
In the world of personal finance, we often talk about financial freedom and FIRE. We make plans to save, invest in ourselves and grow our piggy bank. We’re aiming for specific dollar amounts: $1 million, $2 million, and so on.
It is through these characters that we define ourselves and our particular quest: LeanFIRE, BaristaFIRE, CoastFIRE, FatFIRE and many others. We strive to save our money, and while we do, our vision is focused on our monetary goals.
But what happens when the race to financial independence ends? When you think of your trip, what do you see? When you look at the numbers on your giant spreadsheets, what do you see?
If you are lucky enough to reach the end of your journey, you will discover the real prize waiting for you. Ultimately, it’s not the money that counts. The freedom of time awaits you .
What is the freedom of time?
In America, we traditionally measure success by the number of things we amass and own. We admire the big houses, luxury cars and extravagant vacations, and spend our days making money to pay for all these treasures. But in doing so, we neglect our most precious resource – our time.
Freedom of time means understanding that time is limited and precious. We cannot rewind time or ask for more as our days begin to shorten. We cannot ask for time to be stopped because we did not make the best use of the minutes we were given.
The freedom of time allows us to manage the minutes of our day. It essentially allows us to become timekeepers, personally responsible and in control of our waking hours.
We may not always be able to do everything we want to do, but we can do more of what we love every day. When we get time off, we can focus on the things that are most important to us, which means less time spent on the things that don’t matter.
the clock strikes life
I think I’ve always been aware of how many hours of my life are ahead of me. While most kids are excited about their upcoming birthday, I cried as my birthday approached.
I didn’t want to grow up. Growing up, my dad couldn’t tuck me in lovingly every night before I went to bed. And sooner or later, I’ll be too big to crawl up to my mom and give her a hug.
In my teens and twenties, I had forgotten about the bells, but when an unexpected medical condition nearly ended my life, the ticking got louder again.
The passage of time seems sharper and clearer as we age. It’s hard to ignore wrinkles on the face or graying hair.
The birth of the freedom of time
This awareness of time helped me quit my job nine years ago. I didn’t want to waste valuable time standing here. Thanks to our savings so far and the continuation of my husband’s career. I didn’t have to.
I don’t have complete freedom of time, but since quitting my job, I can cuddle with my babies, volunteer, and most importantly, live in the moment. Since then, I’ve stopped splitting the hours of my day between work and the road.
Of course, everyone knows that kids have their own schedules. Even though I left the profession, I was not given freedom of time. My kids woke up every three hours when they were babies and they still get up too early in the morning.
This past year was my first glimpse of freedom in time. For the first time, I didn’t wake up to the sound of an alarm clock or children demanding attention. During the pandemic, I homeschooled our two boys so we didn’t have to worry about school attendance, sports or extracurricular activities.
My schedule wasn’t completely free, but I suddenly realized I had more time than I ever imagined.
Traditional finish: Waiting for freedom of time
Traditional retirement tells us that the fun will begin thirty or forty years after retirement. If we follow these rules, we will patiently wait for two weeks of vacation a year and a pension that will not appear for decades.
At the same time, most of us put off achieving our goals:
- One day, I’ll write a book.
- One day I will spend countless hours photographing the people and things I love.
But aren’t we pushing away our dreams for a future that may never come? What if we don’t reach retirement age or aren’t healthy enough to enjoy it when we do? What if we push our goals so far into the future that we never find a way to achieve them? Can’t we live a full and fruitful life before that time comes?
Steps to achieve time freedom
Free time is certainly a good thing, but most of us can’t quit our 9-to-5 jobs. We can strive for financial independence, but that journey can take decades.
So what can we do in the meantime? Can we start today to achieve our goals? Can we conquer the freedom of time without waiting for the 9 to 5 workday to end?
I think so. Here’s how:
Step 1 – Discover your hobbies
What’s most important to you? If you didn’t have to work, what would you do with your time? Will you spend that time creating, volunteering, playing sports, learning new skills, relaxing or enjoying the company of loved ones?
To focus on time freedom, you need to have a clear idea of how you want to spend the minutes of your day. What brings joy to your world? What would make you jump out of bed without an alarm clock waking you up?
Try to create a clear vision of your future. If time were an infinite resource, what goals would you want to achieve?
If you’re not sure, ask yourself an important question. If you knew your life would be over in a few days, what would you want to do in the time you have left? Think carefully about this question and focus on the answer you found.
Yes, you are still limited by schedules, but you have the freedom to decide how to spend your free time. The truth is that we are always temporary. We need to sleep, eat and perform physical functions every day. Ignore the time constraints of work and find free time for the rest of the day.
Step 2 – Break down your goals into manageable tasks
Once you’ve identified your passions, it’s time to break down your goals into actionable tasks. You don’t have to retire to write the book you’ve always wanted to write. Every book starts with the first paragraph, so focus on a few pages at a time. You don’t have to quit your job to run a marathon. First, you have to go outside and walk through the neighborhood.
The same is true for any major objective. It’s harder to work at work, but small steps can help. When you divide tasks, it’s easier to allocate small chunks of time to each task.
Step 3 – shorten your working day
Then take a good look at your work. Most of us spend more than eight hours on work-related activities. We spend time getting ready for work and driving to work, and many of us work after hours.
Can you set limits on this overtime? Can you change the time you spend commuting or reduce overtime? Is your supervisor open to schedules with fewer hours or remote options?
How much time do you spend thinking about work after hours? Can you find ways to spend less time and energy on work-related activities that don’t generate additional income?
If possible, schedule it at the end of the work day. This means shutting down the laptop and turning off email and text messages.
Step 4 – Plan your time
It may seem that free time and planning are incompatible, but I disagree. To focus on the important things, you have to make time for them.
Make arrangements to spend your time the way you want to. Add these events to your calendar just like you add dental appointments or parent meetings.
Don’t focus on large amounts of time in the beginning. Start with small periods, even ten to twenty minutes, and gradually increase them.
If you have children, work around their rest time. For example, you can draw or write in the morning when your children are still awake, or in the evening when they are already asleep.
If you have a partner, ask him to look after the children for a few hours a week. Then switch places so your partner can focus on their passion projects.
Take these events seriously. When they appear on your calendar, stop what you are doing and focus on the task at hand. Don’t do chores, prepare food or do other household chores. Enjoy the time you’ve taken for yourself.
Step 5 – Remove commitments from your calendar
Speaking of calendars: This is the time to cross off obligations from your monthly to-do list. What meetings, gatherings and other obligations can you eliminate from your life?
Do not hesitate to give up something that does not bring you joy, if an activity seems useless or exhausting, delete it from your schedule.
Imagine that time is infinite. What are the barriers that keep you from scheduling time for activities and events that matter? Can you remove them one by one?
Step 6 – Prevent jet lag
If you don’t have a job, you can stare at the clouds and mindlessly scroll through social media. But unless you have complete freedom over your time, you should avoid this waste of time.
There are two ways to achieve this goal. First: In the morning, don’t look for your phone on the nightstand. Instead, jump out of bed, take a shower and get on with your day.
I always feel better when I work out first thing in the morning or write a blog after dropping the kids off at school. First, highlight what is important. If you don’t like this, set a timer for twenty to thirty minutes and put the phone away when the time is up.
The same goes for time-consuming activities at the end of the day. If you know a series on Netflix is going to keep you up all night, set yourself a time limit for watching it.
Step 7 – Plan time for rest, relaxation and recreation
Most of us are hounded by the events of daily life, but we don’t make special time for rest, relaxation or leisure. Instead, we collapse from exhaustion on the couch and don’t get up until the end of the night.
Take advantage of your free time to relax. Make time in your schedule. It means grabbing a book, taking a walk, lying in a warm bath. It doesn’t matter what you do. Make sure this activity helps you relax.
Take advantage of this time to take care of yourself and help your body regenerate.
Step 8 – Stop wasting time on things you can’t change.
I wasted too much time with unhealthy relationships, worry and regret. I focused on things I couldn’t change, and when I was younger, I was too focused on climbing the ladder of success. Our time is limited. Try not to waste it on pointless activities.
Achieve time freedom now
If you feel stuck, listen to Steve Jobs’ graduation speech at Stanford in 2005. In it he said:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like this: If you live every day like it’s your last, I’m sure one day you’ll be proven right. That has stuck with me, and every morning since then, for 33 years, I look in the mirror and wonder: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today? And if the answer is no too many days in a row, I know something has to change.
The thought that I am about to die is the most important tool I have ever encountered in making the big decisions in life. Because almost everything – all outward expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – all of that just fades away in the face of death, leaving only what really matters. Thinking you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. They’re already naked. There’s no reason not to follow your heart.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it on someone else’s life. Don’t fall into the trap of dogma that consists of living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly: Have the courage to follow your heart and your intuition. You already know a little bit about what you really want to be. Everything else is a sideshow.
You may not be completely free with your time right now, but you can set the course for change. Pursuing financial freedom will lead you in the right direction, but don’t wait until retirement to enjoy your minutes. Determine what is important to you now and make time and space for that!
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