3 Lessons I've Learned About Time

Happy Monday, dear friends!

I hope some of you are enjoying a bonus Sunday with the holiday!

Last week, as part of my daily drawing exercises on Instagram I drew this set of playful, colorful watches. As I drew them, I was suddenly reminded of a charming and poignant movie I saw months and months ago called About Time. Have any of you seen it?

The film was disguised as a romantic comedy (and was promoted as such), which is maybe why I never bothered to see it in the theater. (Something you should know about me: I think there’s nothing more luxuriously girly than watching a great rom-com when Jason is out of town in the comfort of my own bed with my favorite yoga pants on. It’s just delightful.)

After the movie ended, I remember just sitting there in bed, struck by all of the philosophical questions that were raised about this powerful force called time. Questions about how we choose to spend it, what we’d do if we could expand it and travel through it, and the beauty of the seemingly mundane moments in the practiced pace of our daily lives.

As these thoughts came back to the surface of my mind, around the same day I had a Skype call with a friend and fellow creative in which she was asking me about things I’d learned on this journey to owning a creative business. I was surprised to find that SO many of them boiled down to lessons on time:

  • Charging clients what you’re worth is about valuing your time.
  • Being more productive is about getting intentional about your time.
  • Completing “less, but better” projects is about recognizing the limitations of your time.
  • Prioritizing projects is about demonstrating your values through your time.

It’s about TIME.

Time is the most precious, non-renewable resource we have.

Time is the currency of our human lives, with the all-important caveat being: we do not get to replenish the piggy bank. However many days and hours and moments we have until we’re no longer here, there’s no getting more of that so we’d better treat our allotted moments for the precious things they are doing things that matter the most to us.

To further emphasize this fact, in today’s newsletter I thought I’d share just three of the many lessons I’ve learned over the past few years about time, and how each one has helped me live a brighter life and run a brighter business.

+ What you do with your time should be a direct reflection of your values.

People have said “you vote with your dollars” as a way of saying that we demonstrate what’s important to us by the things we spend money on (ie. you opt for the more expensive organic veggies because you care about eating food without pesticides.)

Well, in this case, I say “you vote with your minutes.” You show what’s important to you by the way you appropriate your time.

But, this doesn’t always feel like it’s the case, does it? We can say that family is important to us or that we value deep friendships, but if we choose to work the day away instead of making that phone call to Mom or finally mailing that birthday card, what it appears that we’re saying is: work is more important than those other values. (Hi, I’m especially guilty of this.)

Knowing that I vote with my minutes, I’ve learned that it’s important to take a step back, evaluate how I’m spending my time and to ask myself: Does my schedule accurately reflect my values?

If it doesn’t — if, say, working time is incredibly disproportionate to family or friends or relationship time — then that’s when it becomes clear to me that I need to start making the time to employ those values.

“Making time” usually refers to something we value — something we WANT to do — but something that doesn’t fit into the habitual schedule of our daily lives. It’s something that requires a conscious reallocation of our time to achieve.

This practice of evaluating my time and comparing it to my values has been essential in making sure I’m living authentically — in making sure that what I do aligns with who I am.

+ Time that is budgeted is spent more thoughtfully (and efficiently).

Now, let’s get more practical for a moment. We can have the best intentions about spending our time on what we value, but it always seems to get away from us, doesn’t it? How can we make sure that minutes and hours don’t just slip away from our days? The answer I’ve found is through budgeting.

Budgeting is an incredibly helpful tool to help us consciously spend our money, right? It creates a mental boundary that keeps us from mindlessly allocating too much money to something we don’t need. Well, why wouldn’t we want to do the same thing for a resource even more valuable than our money -- our time.

When I was starting my design business, I couldn’t figure out why it felt like I was working all the time yet never making enough money to sustain myself. That was until Jason did a simple exercise to show me just how much time was leaking out of my day. “How many hours a day realistically could you work on client projects?” he asked. My answer was five. “Now multiply that number times 20 week days in a month.” My answer was 100, roughly how many “work hours” I could charge for each month. “Finally, multiply that number by your hourly rate to get your potential client revenue for a month if you were fully booked and if you spent the same amount of time you quoted clients on their projects.” It was $7,500!

That was thousands of dollars more than I was making at the time and it was all because I wasn’t using my time thoughtfully or efficiently. I would quote a client a certain number of hours but without an intentional way to track my time, I was spending way too long on things and letting hours creep by without noticing.

Here’s the lesson there: Your brain needs those hard stops, those boundaries, in order to operate at its most efficient capacity. Once I started blocking out my time (two hours for this task, 45 minutes for that), my project estimates started getting more and more accurate and I was able to fit in more clients each month.

I truly believe that budgeting my time saved my business. It was that point when things turned around and I was able to get my head above water financially.

Whether it’s your business or your life, experiment with the idea of blocking out tasks on your calendar. I know it might seem overly regimented, but it can be highly effective in actually giving you more freedom within each task because you’ll be at ease with the control you have over how you spend your days.

+ Down time is not wasted time.

I used to feel guilty for spending time relaxing. A moment away from my business or work felt like a missed opportunity to accomplish my goals sooner and faster. But, I’ve now experienced enough phases of burnout to know that down time is absolutely necessary. Rest is an essential part of my creative process. (And, yes, sometimes rest looks like an entire Saturday under the covers watching Netflix.)

Here’s what I believe:

If it’s spent with intention, it’s not wasted time.

If I know that I’m having a lazy day because I need to re-charge my batteries, then I have no reason to feel guilty. If I know I’m taking two hours away from my computer to go on a hike with Jason because being in nature grounds me and inspires me, then that’s time well spent.

It’s the mindless, intention-less time that’s the wasteful time. The involuntary scrolling of social media feeds. The 8 minutes spent reading a celebrity news article you got click-baited into because you’re resisting whatever creative work you’re afraid to dive into. Those are the moments that I've trained myself to become aware of. Those zombie-alert moments when my conscious mind kicks up its feet and the habitual mind takes over.

If we want any hope of making that time I mentioned earlier, we have to recognize when we're spending down time thoughtfully and when we're spending it mindlessly. Cutting out social media and senseless blog scrolling has been one of the best decisions I've made for my productivity (and my self-confidence for that matter.)


I'm sure I could go on and on because I truly do feel that this shift in being more intentional with my time has created so many positive benefits in my life over the years. I hope that you'll take a few of your precious moments today to think about your own schedule and how small changes in how you view your time could add up to a larger impact.

Because I value this limited resource we all have so much, I can't tell you what it means to me that you all continue to spend yours reading my words each Monday. I choose to spend my allotted hours writing to all of you because I truly value this dialogue we continue to have. I love hearing from you all, and I love knowing that these weekly letters help you stay mindful and ever-evolving toward your best and brightest self.

Thank you so much for that! Now go have a great week!