Money Can’t Buy You Time—Learn How to Spend It Wisely

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by Elizabeth Lang

Staff Writer, Wise Bread, an online personal finance resource

No matter what’s in your bank account, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. While we all have obligations like work, school, or caring for others, we do get to prioritize how we spend our time–and those decisions can directly affect how happy we are.

A recent study commissioned by American Express coined 'LifeTwist' shows that 83% of Americans believe that making time for the important things in life is essential to feeling successful. How can you make time for the things that are most important to you? These five tips can help.

1. Make a List

Make a list of the things that are most important to you. You may think that it will only take you a few minutes to come up with your list; but try to spend a full hour whether you spend that time all at once or ruminate throughout the day. Why? Because while you may be able to quickly come up with a list, you’ll likely be swayed by what you think should be important to you. And unless you give yourself enough time to really give it some thought, your initial list may not reflect what is truly important to you.

If you get stumped, ask yourself, “What are the biggest changes that I’ve gone through in my life?” The LifeTwist survey showed that 59% of Americans say their positive and negative life changes helped them understand what is most important to them.

2. Track Time to Develop Goals 

Make a note of how you spend every hour for a week. Then categorize your time based on your list of important things and see how well it matches up. For example, sleeping and exercising may fall into a category of “being healthy.” If your time doesn’t reflect your list of most important things (and chances are it won’t), set personal goals with a realistic amount of time that you’d like to spend on the things that matter to you.

3. Make it Part of Your Daily Routine 

Find a way to do your top four most important things every single day. Stanford physiologist BJ Fogg recommends that to form new habits, you tack the desired habit onto another routine you already have.  For example, if spending time with your dog is really important to you but you only get a chance to walk him twice a week, you might start playing with your dog for 10 minutes every night after you brush your teeth.

4. Stop Doing Things Just Because You Think You Should

There are lots of things we do because we think we should do them–maybe it’s working out or keeping your yard looking nice. But if these things aren’t important to you, stop doing them. If you can’t give up something completely (such as working out), find a way to do it less. For example, perhaps you work out every other week day rather than every week day. Over the four months of summer, you will have spent half the time in the gym, resulting in more time to enjoy other things that matter more.

5. Believe You Have Enough Time

The best way to find time to spend on what matters most to you is to change your attitude. I used to walk around telling myself “I wish I had more time to do…” but it wasn’t until after reading 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam, I started telling myself, “I can make time for what matters to me” that it actually happened.  Change your perspective to realize that you control the time you have and that will lead you to spend more time on the things that matter.

Click here to share your own #PassionProject and find out more about how American Express is enabling people to pursue their passions.  

Elizabeth Lang is a Staff Writer for Wise Bread. And is a regular contributor to the American Express Tumblr community.

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