This week on the Truth for Teachers podcast: How to make time rather than hope to find it; invest time rather than spend it; and create a budget for your time the way you’d budget your money.
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I was an elementary teacher for 11 years before becoming an instructional coach. And like most teachers, I had a substantial amount of materials I’d drag to and from school on a regular basis: treats for a class party, organizers I’d found at Target, materials for science experiments, and of course, tons of papers to grade.
Naturally, I purchased that quintessential teacher item: the collapsible rolling cart, often known as “the cart of shame” because of the feelings it induces when you roll that same cart back into school the next day completely untouched with all of your papers still ungraded.
My “cart of shame” collapsed after a few years of heavy use, and I needed a replacement badly. I ran a quick search on Amazon, and sure enough, they had the cart in stock.
However, it was $34.99, which seemed a bit steep. Surely I could find it cheaper.
So, I spent some time combing through the listings on eBay. Aha! I found an auction beginning at 99 cents. I placed my bid. Now all I had to do was wait a week for the auction to end (although I’d spend that week checking it obsessively to see if I’d been outbid). I lost.
I decided to turn to an online group of teachers who sold used materials. I searched through the listings there but didn’t see any rolling carts currently for sale. When I asked, a couple of people made some suggestions, but nothing ever panned out.
I continued to comparison shop online, and eventually, I discovered a teacher store about a half an hour away which had the cart on sale. Finally! My perfect rolling cart and it was only $29.99! At last, I could check this item off my to-do list, feeling 100% confident I had achieved my goal of purchasing the cart for the lowest possible price.
As I got in my car to drive over to the teacher store, I paused. A thought suddenly struck me:
I had tackled this task repeatedly over a two-week time period, spending around two hours hunting for this cart, and now I was about to drive 30 minutes out of my way (and 30 minutes back home) in order to save myself … a whopping five bucks.
I was incredibly intentional about that five dollars but never even thought to count the cost of my time.
And so I had traded three hours of my time (a finite resource, which can never be recovered) to preserve the tiniest bit of money (which is infinite, because more can always be earned or received).
Maybe you’re thinking, Wait, money is infinite? Really, Angela? You remember the pay scale for teachers, right? There’s definitely a limit to what I can earn.
But don’t miss this: That salary scale is evidence that you will continue to earn money each year. Regardless of what happens in life, it’s a pretty solid bet that more money will come to you in the future.
Your time, on the other hand, is not promised, and it’s running out. You have less and less of it every day, and you can’t ever get more.
Why we don’t value our time the way we value our money
I’m guessing you’re very much like me in that story I shared, and you, too, watch your money very closely.
Even if you’re not strict about budgeting, you know the price of everything you buy. You count the cost before making financial commitments. You mentally weigh your options before taking the plunge to buy something that’s not absolutely necessary.
Almost all of us treat money like it’s a precious, scarce resource that must be closely guarded. And yet money is far from the most valuable asset we have.
You can always make more money. You can never make more time.
What if we gave the same level of thought and consideration to the way we spent our time as to the way we spend our money?
It’s common sense to create a financial budget so you know where your money is going and can make sure you have enough allocated for everything that’s important.
But have you ever created a budget for your time?
Have you ever thought to create a schedule where you map out how much time each week you are willing to allocate to various aspects of your life to ensure you are spending your time on things that matter?
If you’re like most people, the answer is no. Most of us simply wake up each day and try to cram in as many things as possible. Whatever is most urgent is where our time and attention goes. The things that are really important in life, but perhaps less demanding (such as nurturing our relationships with a spouse or parents, or taking care of our bodies) get whatever time is leftover, which is never very much.
But don’t beat yourself up about it. You were simply never taught to think about your time in this way.
Stop spending time. Start investing it.
When we take money more seriously than time, we tend to fritter time away in pursuit of the money. We’ll drive thirty minutes out of our way to save $5 on an item at a store, or spend an hour hunting down that 25 cent coupon we’re positive we saw the other day in one of these piles of papers.
Living the “fewer things, better” way means that you invest your time the same way you’d like to invest your money.
You see, time (like money) can be spent, or it can be invested. You can spend your time and money on things that are gone quickly, or invest them in things that will pay you back dividends later on.
The time you’ve put into listening to this episode or reading the blog post version wasn’t spent. It’s not gone now — it’s going to return to you later on, in the form of better work/life balance. That time was invested.
For each minute you invest in reading how to simplify and streamline your life, you will get back dividends later on: more focus, time, and energy.
Plan to make time, not hope to find time
People who manage their money well tend to make choices with the long-term plan in mind. They don’t just buy whatever feels good in the moment, if they know that means they won’t be able to save up for a vacation or whatever else they need the money for.
People who manage their time well do the same.
Allowing an hour to escape you while you scroll through Instagram is a time expense you just cannot afford if you feel like you don’t have enough time to sleep. Put down the phone (I know it’s hard), get your work done, and then relax.
When we don’t plan our time (just like when we don’t have a plan for our money), it slips away from us very quickly, and we often don’t even realize it. “Didn’t I just get paid? Where did the whole paycheck go already?” isn’t much different from “Wasn’t it just 8 pm? How is it midnight already?”
When you need more money, you don’t just hope for it, or try to “find it” someplace. The most reliable way to get more money is to look for ways to make it.
So, don’t try to find time; make time for the things that matter.
Do you REALLY value your own time (and insist others do, too)?
I hope you’re nodding along here, agreeing with me on a theoretical level that time is as important a consideration as money.
But let’s make this personal. It’s YOUR time that is valuable, not just time in general.
See if you can relate to any of these statements:
- The things I’m doing help others: I don’t want to let them down by saying no.
- I’m afraid people won’t like me or won’t think I’m a team player if I protect my time.
- I don’t like conflict, and it’s uncomfortable for me to set boundaries with others.
These feelings are all very common amongst teachers, and they’re a big reason why we have trouble saying NO.
Here’s what I want you to know, not just on a theoretical level, but to really internalize and live your life by:
Your wants and needs matter just as much as everyone else’s.
You are no more important and no less important than anyone else. Therefore, your goals and priorities deserve equal weight and consideration. You deserve to have time for things that matter to you and which help you stay healthy mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Your beliefs about the value of time will teach people how to treat you
When you begin to respect your time as much as you respect your money, the way you interact with people around you will change.
You will see your own needs as being just as important as the things others need from you. Your sense of purpose and vision for how you want to spend your time will give you the confidence to prioritize your goals.
That confidence will make you feel much more comfortable in saying, “I can’t do that today because I have other commitments.”
And I think you’ll be amazed at how others respond.
There are so few people who are truly intentional about their time, so the people who ARE tend to garner tremendous respect. Having the ability to evaluate priorities thoughtfully and say “no” with confidence when needed is almost like a superpower in this day and age.
People may not like the fact that you are less available to cater to their every whim, but they will admire the way you set boundaries because it’s something they wish they could do, too.
They will begin to ASK rather than TELL you what they need.
They will stop depending on you to pick up all the slack and take more initiative themselves (or ask other people to pull their weight, too).
When you consistently demonstrate to others that you value your own time, you will find yourself experiencing a new freedom that you never thought was possible. You’ll realize that you have the power to question the status quo and let go of expectations that aren’t working for you.
I hope this post has helped you understand a little bit more about why I am so passionate about helping teachers be intentional with their time. I want teachers to know that your time is valuable because YOU are valuable. This is why I created the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club: To help teachers find ways to do the job they love, and do an awesome job for kids, WITHOUT wearing themselves down to the bone in the process, WITHOUT sacrificing their health or family.
If you’re interested in joining the club so you can have support, resources, and community around this goal, we’re going to be opening up for early bird access beginning June 5th. The summer cohort begins July 1st. You can go to 40htw.com to get on the waitlist, and I’ll send you some free resources to help you start figuring out ways now to be more intentional with your time.