Escape the “Groundhog Day” Cycle and Reclaim Control of Your Time
Many years ago, when I was writing the Love & Money column for The Wall Street Journal, I interviewed a longtime friend, Melissa, about paying people to do household chores. She told me she hires people for lawn maintenance or housecleaning because she’d calculated that she earns far more money on an hourly basis than it costs to hire the help.
She was effectively talking about the value of time vs. the value of money. And I totally get that analysis.
It’s a notion that rekindles in my mind these days as I consider all that’s going on in our world.
Right now, we all have so much time.
Honestly, though I’ve spent 15 years working from home, moments creep up on me now when I feel like I’m living in an age before clocks ever mattered. The upshot is that this Corona Moment is forcing all of us to assess what’s important in life and how we want to spend our time once time is back to normal.
For all the Sturm und Drang the pandemic has created, I feel safe in saying that a lot of people have become quite comfortable being at home all day instead of in an office building. And I feel safe in saying a lot of people right now are wondering how they might extend this lifestyle when the “all clear” sounds and Americans start filtering back into cubicles.
They already know that back in the real world they’re going to miss the freedom they have right now. The freedom to putter around in their PJs most of the day. The freedom to learn to play the guitar. The freedom to experiment with new recipes, or getting around to starting that Great American Novel they’ve been meaning to write for years.
And then the Big Bothersome Question slaps them back to reality: Yeah, but I have to earn a living.
Which gets back to my friend Melissa and that idea of how we value our time…
In this case, I am not talking about the monetary value of time. I am talking about the psychic value—the “I want to enjoy my life” quotient.
I write about this all the time from the perspective of my own life living as a work-from-wherever digital nomad. I look back on the years I worked in a cubicle in an office tower in lower Manhattan. I certainly won’t say those were troubling years by any stretch. I loved my job. Walking around New York City to grab lunch was fabulous. And I was really close to certain people who I miss at times. It was a great work-life.
But I also had to fight metro New York traffic every morning and evening…and then I had a subway commute…and I had to pay for gas…and I had to pay for monthly parking passes and monthly subway passes…and, frankly, I miss none of that. That was three hours lost every day. And hundreds of dollars in expenses every month.
Today, I think back over the last 15 years of working from home, and my life now as a digital nomad writing from a wonderful apartment in the heart of Prague, and I see how my relationship with time has changed. Time has become more valuable to me, precisely because I have more of it, which seems counterintuitive.
When your workday world is prescribed within a certain block between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and when your days are bookended by the same commute to and from the same office building along the same roads…and when you know you have to prepare dinner when you get home…well, time is nothing more than commoditized blocks arranged the same way, every day. It’s like living inside the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day—soon enough you place no value on what happens over and over again.
Time becomes monotonous. It works against you because you’re gaining very little psychic value—very little joy—even as time is slowly running out on all of us.
Because of corona, I think people are beginning to see what “freedom to live your day as you please” really looks like. And it looks so much more enriching than the monotony of another Groundhog Day.
Which brings us back to money, and the main point that I have so clearly buried here at the bottom: This life of workday freedom is available to anyone. As I and my Savvy Retiree colleagues write so often, oodles of ways exist to earn an income from wherever you want your life to be. It’s the transformative power of the internet and the e-income lifestyle it offers.
I have friends and colleagues living lives they love and earning great incomes in Mexico, Portugal, Colorado, the Netherlands, Greece, Ireland, Florida, Vermont, Uruguay, Australia. Their joy comes in controlling their own schedule. They earn when they want. They play when they want. And time is so much more valuable to them because it’s no longer commoditized and pre-arranged into unchanging blocks.
Small example of what I mean: I cannot tell you the last time I’ve thought about taking a vacation. My life is a vacation in that if I wanted to (and if Czech borders weren’t temporarily closed), I could decide right now to buy a ticket to Paris and go hang out with a friend for a week or two. I’d still have tasks to complete to earn an income, but I’d do those for a couple hours in the morning or at night and spend my days playing and eating in Paris.
And then, the following week, I could be in Laos or southern Argentina, or visiting my kids in south Louisiana.
What I’m saying is this: Time has value far greater than money, and because of the internet’s e-income opportunities, all of us can reclaim control over how we use the time we have remaining.
Written by Jeff D. Opdyke