Appreciating New York City's Most Valuable Resource
In New York, you can get almost anything back if you try. If you lose your wallet, you can buy a new wallet, go to the DMV to get a new license, and get replacement credit cards. If you lose a spouse, well, you can get yourself another one. And, as my mama once told me, there is nothing you can forget to pack for vacation that you can’t buy when you get there. Obviously, there are a few exceptions to this rule, but the most important exception is that you can never replace your time.
You will never get the opportunity to relive today. Ever how good or bad it is or was, that time is gone after the day is done (unless you somehow have a DeLorean time machine). Think about it — we all have a finite amount of time in this city, whether it’s a short amount of time or a long amount of time . . . it’s still finite. And while we all have to be okay with that fact, we all should also be cognizant of how we spend the limited amount of time we have in New York and on this planet. Here are a few things to examine in your life to make sure that you’re making the most of your time here on planet Earth (or wherever you’re residing these days).
Yes, I have been guilty of it. I receive the invitation to the birthday party of the person I don’t know very well on a weekend that is already packed with activities all around New York City. But, because said inviter came to my last birthday party, I feel obligated to attend. I schlep all the way to the East side, stay longer than I intend to because I feel guilty leaving quickly, and I am then tired as toast the next day. So, not only did I do something in New York that I didn’t want to do on the evening of the party, I also hindered the quality of my time on the next day because I was tired.
THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE YOUR LIFE. If you feel obligated to repay every person in New York that extends you any sort of kindness, at the end of your life, you will have wasted a significant amount of time on peripheral people. Don’t get me wrong. All people are worthy of the attention of others. However, every hour you spend with someone who is not in, say, your top 10 friend list is an hour you take away from someone close to you. Including yourself.
Would you rather spend an hour somewhere in New York with Sally-your-hairdresser or your mom? Tom-the-guy-that-donated-to-your-Kickstarter-two-years-ago or your daughter? Or, perhaps, you need to spend some quality time alone figuring out your sh*t. And, maybe it is important to you to give some of your time to one of these people you don’t know. That is your decision.
I am here to tell you that you have a proverbial basket of, say, 100 apples. Choose wisely who you give those apples to because you may end up with an empty basket sooner than you would hope. I am also here to personally give you permission to decline politely when you’re not 100% into it. I don’t remember where I heard this, but if your answer is not a resounding heck yes, then it should be a hard no. If your answer is a maybe, you probably don’t care enough to give away one of your apples.
Many of us in New York have gone to a party out of guilt, but there are also other terrible reasons to misspend your precious time. One of them is pride. How many times per day do you check your social media in hopes of finding some new likes on your new mask selfie on Instagram? Don’t know? Well, your iPhone will tell you. Go to SETTINGS>SCREEN TIME and prepare to be floored. Mine yesterday was 2 hours and 26 minutes (hopefully, that will make you feel a little better). Why do you check so often? Because you get a little boost of happiness when you see that little heart pop up.
Now, let’s think of the other things we could have done in New York with that 2 hours and 26 minutes (or whatever your time was). For me, I could have written a letter to my dad, researched and planned for a fun new outdoor activity for my son, or reorganized the garage. (Or, actually, in 2.25 hours, I probably could have done two of the three). So, why are we choosing to spend so much time on our phones? Well, I don’t know about you, but I am not actively choosing. If you’re like me, you become lulled into the beautiful world of scrolling squares and extraneous external drama. It’s definitely alluring. But, again, when you do this, you’ve unintentionally given away one of your apples.
Now, hopefully the reasons you spend your time the way you spend it is not just pride and guilt. Hopefully, there are a lot of wonderful reasons for the blocks on your calendar (or lack thereof). But, the most important thing you can do is to look at all of those calendar blanks or boxes and ask yourself WHY you are doing each one. Chances are, once you get real with yourself, a few of those boxes will fall away.
Most people’s choices in New York of how they spend their time are dictated by society, necessity, and obligation. Get this, people — EVERY HOUR IS A CHOICE. Sure, you have to pee, eat, and sleep. But, outside of that, every dang moment you spend of your life is completely up to you.
The Strategic Outsource
Many people have written about this practice, but I would like take a moment to expand upon the concept of outsourcing activities in New York City. Here’s an example. For me, personally, sweeping and mopping floors makes me ANGRY. Like, curse-out-my-cat-do-a-shot-of-tequila angry. So does doing dishes. (Interestingly enough, laundry makes me zen and content).
So, if I take the money I bring in on a yearly basis and divide it by the number of hours I work I can reasonably value my time at approximately $70/hour. Thus, it is worth it to me to hire someone at $30/hour to sweep, mop, and do the dishes. (I’ll reserve the right to keep drinking the tequila).
Here’s the thing about that, though. If I outsource my dishes to another person to free up my time to do other things, I better use the time wisely that I have purchased for myself. It is pointless in New York to outsource if you do not maximize the time you have gained. If you don’t use the time you gained wisely, you are not only wasting hours, but you are also now wasting money. Seriously, if you outsource, your outsource must be strategic to be worth it.
I’m not saying that you need to write the next great American novel while someone in Indonesia responds to your fan mail (vintage Tim Ferriss, by the way). I’m just saying that if you don’t have a plan for your time, you might as well do your responding or your dishes yourself. If you make a conscious decision to give money to someone else to do work, then you should also decide to give your valuable time-apple to a worthy recipient.
The fact of the matter is that people in this world have very different values. One person could value quality time with his dog over everything else. Another person could value time poured into creating and nurturing a startup over everything else. A third could put her highest value on time alone in introspection. These are all valid ways to spend your nonrenewable resource of time. The most important thing to examine, though, is that you ARE examining how you spend your time. And that you adjust accordingly.
Are you giving your most precious gift to your most valued people? Are you making sure that you are giving away your time for the right reasons? And if you are taking someone else’s time, are you honoring them by spending your time saved in a wise way? The long and the short of it is that we don’t know how long or short IT will be. We’re only given a limited amount of minutes in New York and on this planet. Spend them consciously.