The Shocking Mistake I Made About Time and Money

If you want breakthrough, to really multiply your impact, not to just double but go 10x or 100x, then you’ve got to change your mindset regarding time and money. The problem is we commonly view time as flexible and money as fixed, when it is actually the opposite! A time-rich, money-poor mentality holds us back, and keeps us from fully living out our calling. 

When I was younger it seemed I had a lot more time than I did money. The shocking mistake I made was to mix up scarcity and abundance regarding these two resources. I commonly thought of time as flexible when it is absolutely fixed, and I thought of money as fixed when it is unlimited.

As I’ve aged, I feel more keenly the limitation of time, but surprisingly, my mindset about money hadn’t changed all that much.

Time Is Not Flexible

We see time as flexible. We speak of time as if we can create it, control it or add to it. We say,

“Make time.”

“Take time.”

“Take a time out.”

Time is fixed. It’s exactly the same for everyone, everywhere. We cannot set aside time or store time, however, we do spend time, waste time, and run out of time.

And we don’t kill time, time eventually kills us.

Penny-Wise but Time-Foolish

We see money as fixed. We make a salary or hourly wage which doesn’t change all that much. To manage our money we live within our means, keep projects within budget, and make our sales goals. All as if there’s a limit to money.

“No complaint, … is more common than a scarcity of money,” Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations.

So we are thrifty, which is a good thing if done in the right way. We follow the motto, “A penny saved, is a penny earned,” but how much time did we use to save that penny?

  • I know a leader of large nonprofit organization who routinely purchases airline tickets with a 7 hour layovers in order to save $200.
  • Or the organization that can’t come up with funds to properly train their team leaders, yet over the year spends twice that amount visiting teams to resolve conflicts and replace team members.

To paraphrase the old saying, we are penny-wise but time-foolish.

The Consequences of Mixing Up Scarcity and Abundance

One problem with mixing up which is the scarce resource, time or money, is that we do not recognize opportunities. With all the time in the world, who needs to seize the moment. There will be many more moments if I don’t take this one. Right?

Opportunities usually involve some outlay of cash. We’re unwilling to risk it. We want to keep the limited money we have safe. Since we may not easily see that money again, we don’t want to invest in anything that is not a “sure” thing. But opportunities are rarely sure things. They only look that way after someone else has cashed in on them.

So we trade time for money. It’s a losing battle. Trading something fixed – time – for something unlimited – money – just doesn’t make sense.

Invest Time And Money Toward Your Greatest Contribution

Since we have a fixed amount of time, we must be sure to use that time for the most important contributions we can make.

In my work, my best contributions are writing and speaking on leadership issues, and meeting people and sharing how we can help them and their organizations to become more impactful. Yet, it’s so easy for me to get sucked into creating websites, brochures, financial systems, databases, and a hundred other administrative tasks.

It feels like if I do these administrative tasks we’ll be better off financially since we don’t need to pay someone else to do them. The reality is that by doing these things I limit my impact and our financial results.

My best contribution is in publishing new books and workshops, not databases and brochures. So, it is foolish for me to use my time to save money on administration, when I would produce much more impact and the money to pay for administrative services if I spent my limited time writing and creating workshops.

Let me leave you with two questions:

  1. In what ways are you mixing up scarcity and abundance regarding time and money?
  2. What is your best contribution that if you gave your time to it, you would produce the most impact?

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    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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    6 thoughts on “The Shocking Mistake I Made About Time and Money

    1. Hey Keith, great thoughts and ideas to chew over and consider especially as I am transitioning into my next season of life and ministry. How to steward my time and gifts are the key issue it would seem. This would seem to be true in light of what Jesus says in Matt. 6:25 and 33 about how we use our time versus money and resources. Thanks for the thoughts, challenging and confirming. Brad B (soon to be neighbor in Wa.)

    2. Keith: A very helpful observation, and with your personal examples, a very challenging and strategic blog for us to consider. Keep up the critical thinking!

    3. An interesting twist — and indeed challenging to think about.

      It seems that when we are not investing in the areas of our best contribution, we act as if we’ve forgotten what our best contribution is! And, while that is not true, the tyranny of the urgent certainly knows how to deceive us into thinking that this is our best contribution.

      • Tammy, yes, urgency is a factor. Step back from the urgency. What causes it? I wonder if we don’t feel a hundred things tugging at us partially as a result of our scarcity mindset regarding money. If we created and used money (a tool) in the right ways we could pay for the support needed for many of our hundred urgency things. Again, allowing us to get back to our best contribution.

        You bring up another good point: Do we even know what our best contributions are? I suspect that most of us don’t, as this is something I regularly coach leaders about.