- To expend, as in energy.
- To exchange some value for something else. For example, I spend money in exchange for goods or services.
I’m not so sure I like the idea of “spending” time. I can’t ever get another second of time back.
Time is not renewable, certainly not like energy or money:
- If I rest, rehydrate, and eat, I can restore my energy.
- I have many options for making more money. Since I’m a consultant, I can offer current or new services for money.
Investment sounds and feels different to me.
When I invest my time, I expect a future benefit for the time I spend. Yes, I just used the word “spend.”
Here’s the difference:
- Investment is for the long term. I don’t expect an immediate return for my time when I invest it.
- Spending is for the short term. I expect a more immediate return.
You might tell me I’m wrong. You think about time the same way, regardless of the verb you use. Good for you!
I get another valuable side effect when I think about “investing” time. That investment means I select my actions more carefully.
When I invest my time, I don’t have to “manage” my time.
Time “management” is the wrong word. Time marches on, regardless of what any of us does. Yes, I learned this transforming idea from David Allen’s Getting Things Done. When we choose our actions, we choose where to invest our time.
I suspect our actions result from our short-term or long-term orientation for the issue at hand.
Does Short- or Long-Term Orientation Make a Difference?
I take different orientations depending on where I am in my learning or a project.
For example, I’m early in my fiction career. I’ve sold a dozen short stories, and have not yet completed a novel. Since I want to get better as a fiction writer faster, I choose to write a little fiction every day. I invest my time in my long-term goal of writing fiction.
I’m an experienced speaker. Sometimes, I accept a speaking engagement because I want to explore a topic, without expectations of turning that talk into a book or other product. In that case, I invest the time, but it’s a short-term investment. You might call it “spending” time.
I did that last week. During the talk, I realized I might want to invest the time to create a short book about the topic. I’m not positive I want to choose that action, because I have many books on my to-write queue. That changes the short-term orientation to a long-term orientation. However, I did spend the time to create the talk.
Based on choosing my actions, I mostly think about investing my time—even when I expect a short-term outcome. You might think differently.
Regardless, I hope you think about how you feel about the difference between spending and investing.
That’s the question this week: Do you think about spending or investing time?