Time Really Is Money: Five Tips For Maximizing Both

An informative and entertaining new book about time offers some valuable and useful insights about money too.

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Time is money, they say, and it’s hard to argue, especially after reading an informative new book by Lesley Alderman, The Book Of Times. This clever and entertaining compendium contains everything you’d want to know about the ticking away of seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, decades and centuries. Not surprisingly, given that its author is a noted financial journalist, there’s much to be gleaned from the book about spending, saving, investing, working and other money-related topics. We asked Alderman (who interviewed me for the book) about the intersection of time and money. Here are five interesting takeaways:

1. Don’t just do something, stand there! “It turns out that wasting a little time at work every so often is good for you and your productivity. That’s especially true when you waste time by cyberloafing: A recent study demonstrated that one of the best things to do following an intense bout of work is to surf the web. Do that, and you’re likely to be more effective and less prone to boredom than your perpetual nose-to-the-grindstone colleagues. There is one exception, though: email. Reading it tends to make concentration at work more difficult.”

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2. Think green to make more of it. “The gist here is  simple: if you want to be productive, think about money. That’s the finding from a series of experiments that primed subjects to think about money or time. When participants thought about money, they tended to spend more time working and less time on social activities during and after the experiment. In other words, they were more productive. If you want to be happier, though, think more about time. Participants who were primed to think about time were more likely to be social, to hang out or plan to hang out with pals.”

3. Do sweat the small stuff—if you want to get rich. “If you want to earn more, spend more time at the gym. Again, there’s a study that shows this is so. Specifically, employees who regularly exercise earn 7% to 11% more on average than those who don’t work out. That’s likely partly because the discipline required to exercise frequently — and frequency, by the way, is more important than intensity — also tends to enhance one’s earning power. But it’s also possible to develop discipline through exercise, which can’t help but help in your career. Plus, we know from previous studies that overweight people tend to earn less than people of normal weight.”

4. Take shorter vacations—but more of them. “There’s solid research to suggest that the best way to maximize pleasure from vacations is to take more of them and to keep them short. That’s in part because we tend mostly to remember the highlight and end of the trip, but also because we get as much if not more joy from planning and anticipating a vacation as we do from going on it. So the more trips you can anticipate, the happier you’re likely to be.”

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5. When in doubt, ask a 53-year-old. “We might think of wisdom as kind of a battle between experience gained and analytical abilities lost. That is, on average humans start to slowly—very slowly—lose their ability to understand complex variables around age 20. On the other hand, experience makes us smarter, so the older you are the more experience you have. When it comes to financial decisions, the ‘wisest’ age is 53, when experience and analytical skills align most effectively. That’s according to four economists, who authored a study that looked at financial decisions over the typical human life cycle. For example, when they looked at borrowing decisions, the economists found that middle aged people generally paid lower interest rates and fewer fees than older or younger borrowers. They estimated that 75-year-olds pay about $265 more each year on home equity lines of credit than 50-year-olds, and 25-year-olds pay $295 more. Middle age may get a bad rap, but financially it’s where you want to be!”