Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quanto custa o seu tempo? / How much is your time worth?*

"Quanto custa o seu tempo?" Pode ser lido em português aqui.

* This is the translation of a text I published in Portuguese this week in the online magazine Papel. As far as I have the time to do it, I'll try to translate my new texts as I write them, as well as some of those that have been previously published. The translation will not be perfect (I'm not a translator), but at least my blog readers who can't handle Portuguese will be able to read them too.
For most people, money is the main yardstick when it comes to assess someone's success. It's no wonder, since it can be exchanged for almost anything: a big house, a luxury car, long holidays at exotic places... But if it is true that money is incredibly valuable, it is also generally agreed that it is not the most important thing on earth. Family, friendship, health and so many others usually come first on opinion survey results.
And yet... when we look at our daily lives, we see that we usually do not behave in accordance to these priorities.
When we work, we trade the result of our labor – and the time we dedicate to achieve it – by money. We can make a simple calculation and divide our monthly income (or annual income, for those working on their own like me) by the number of hours spent working. This way, we get an approximate idea of how much one hour of our time is worth.
Why would we want to do this? For me, once the threshold of basic housing, feeding, health insurance, education and comfort is met, time becomes a more valuable asset than money. Unlike money, I can use extra time and spend it with my family or friends or take better care of my health – by exercising, walking or spending more time cooking my own meals, for instance. This is why I find it useful to know how much one hour of my time is worth. And I have got used to evaluate potential new jobs not just in terms of how much more extra money or professional satisfaction they could bring me, but also in function of how much time they will take away from me.
At a certain point, I started making a similar exercise when I go shopping for non-essential items. To my surprise, I found that in more than one occasion my initial decision to buy something ends up radically changing. I don't need new clothes, but when I go through a storefront and see the most lovely dress on sale for half the original price, I feel really tempted to bring it home with me. But then I make a quick mental calculation and conclude this dress will cost me an afternoon's worth of my time. Suddenly, it doesn't look like such a big bargain anymore... Would I rather spend another afternoon – possibly on a weekend - sitting by my PC wearing a lovely new dress, or jump into my old jeans and head out with the kids to play some football? Or, if the weather doesn't allow it, make a batch of delicious cookies and savor them in front of the fireplace while playing a board game or reading a book? I don't need to think twice. I come back home empty handed but with an empowering sense of freedom...

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