Time is Money: Strategic Lifestyle Planning and Return on Investment

by David Bohl

I have always advocated that people should create Strategic Lifestyle Plans for themselves.

What is a strategic lifestyle plan? Very much like a business’s strategic plan, a strategic lifestyle plan is a way to develop a thoughtful design for your life that delineates what you most want out of life.

As individuals, many people create their career plan and then adapt their lives to those plans. They then get all caught up in day-to-day operations of their jobs and their lives and lose sight of the big picture. That’s why, often times, they find it difficult to discover a balance in their lives.

By conforming your life to your business or career, what you’re really doing is expending massive amounts of time and energy managing your life. You’ve almost created another job or business (full- or part-time) for yourself.

What you wind up doing is constantly “finessing” your life to fit your job, and I’m not talking about the economics involved in the type of lifestyle that you’re able to sustain with your career.

Instead, I suggest that you define and create a life and lifestyle in support of your values, beliefs, and goals – first, and then plan your career or business around that strategy.

Once you’ve done that, you can think very clearly about how you’re spending your time – how you’d like to focus on the things that matter the most to you and how to reduce or eliminate the things that simply don’t serve you anymore.

One way to look at this is by using another traditional business measure, that of Return on Investment, or ROI. ROI is a performance measure utilized to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a variety of Synergistic Investments. The goal of any business is to capitalize on, or maximize, the total returns on every investment that it makes.

As we have come to know, time is the new currency in our lives. Because time is money, we know that our time is our single most important investment. We then can apply an ROI standard to everything that occupies our time.

Have you ever reluctantly accepted an invitation to attend a party where you really liked the hosts but knew that you didn’t prefer to see most of the other guests in attendance? And didn’t that party turn out to be as bad as you expected? A better investment would have been to get together for dinner with the couple privately. How about when that friend called and asked you to play a round of golf with him and two others who you’ve been trying to meet? You stink at golf, spent hours on end dragging your tail around in the hot sun, and had a miserable time because there was never a “right” moment to talk business. Wouldn’t it have been a wiser investment to wait for a better opportunity?

Figuring out how to spend your time isn’t always as simple as in the real-life lessons that I’ve shared with you. Like anything else in life, you’ve simply must find your own way of doing things without having “THE answer”, extensive mathematical computations, or an elaborate computer program.

I like to keep things simple, so here are some guidelines that I rely on to help me decide how to invest my time (or how to analyze how I wasted my time so I don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over again):

Discover Win-Win Situations

I’m extremely fortunate in that I get to live a Win-Win situation every day. I discovered years ago that I love to relate to people one-on-one and turn them on to new things and ways on thinking. My personal mantra is to empower people. I get to do this every day, not only in my business, but also through volunteer work I’ve chosen to undertake. I’m able to live my values and beliefs in both my professional and personal life. That’s the biggest Win-Win I can imagine.

A Win-Win is any situation where the returns are great and can increase over time, and risks and losses are low and few relative to the opportunity for gain.

The intangibles in Win-Win scenarios are sometimes difficult to identify and quantify, so look hard for them. Many of them may also be long-term, which is an added bonus.

Win-Wins can be as simple as turning your professional expertise, passion, or hobby into a money-making supplemental income, investing “down-time” – the time you’re out mowing the lawn, commuting, or waiting in the doctor’s office – taking a podcast telecourse or listening to a book that you’ve been meaning to read. You might argue that the former of these things don’t qualify as “Wins”, but you’re taking care of business that needs to be done and doing something that you choose to do. What could be better?

Evade Lose-Lose Situations

This one is obvious. I won’t go to a 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM movie showing because I get up at 5:00 AM and that bad decision will wind up affecting me the entire next day, both professionally and personally.

I won’t go to a “Networking After 5” event where there’s free food and alcohol, because, generally speaking, people become focused on eating the free food and drinking the free booze and, once they have, they’re out of there. Very little “Networking” ever takes place. Most of the food is usually fried, so I really don’t need it, I don’t drink, and it’s a business event where almost no business is discussed – three strikes and I’m out. Again, my personal and business lives take negative hits – Lose-Lose.

Redeploy Your Assets

Time is a commodity. We only have so much of it. It’s also dynamic – it’s constantly changing, and so are you.

In business, Asset Redeployment is a strategy whereby company assets are relocated in an effort to increase profitability.

Personally, you should always be ready to make the best use of your assets – your strengths, character, virtues, convictions, values, and beliefs.

Because you’re always learning and growing, you need to be flexible in order to be more productive and to make the most efficient and effective use of your time. Always be at-the ready to reorganize, reallocate, and redistribute your talents.

Determine Risk: Reward Ratios

In business, this measure is used to compare the expected returns of an investment to the amount of risk accepted to obtain those returns.

What does this mean in practice? Many of us have been taught that if we just work hard enough and long enough our lives will turn out fine, eventually, and it will all be worth it in the end. As a result, we often defer things – we take few risks – until the “timing” is exactly right. We get in the habit of always postponing things until “tomorrow” because it seems like the prudent and least risky course of action.

Because it is often impossible to determine what benefits an action taken today will bring in the future, we find ourselves paralyzed by indecision. We make things harder than they have to be.

Life is too short. The riskiest course of action is often times doing nothing, or doing the same thing. When we aren’t moving and growing, we’re stagnating or falling behind. We’re wasting our precious time.

Invest your time today. Try something new. Experience life. Don’t look back upon your life and wish that you’d have invested your time when you had the chance.

Start living today.

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