Time Is Money?

time is money?

I came back into Seattle last night after two weeks traveling around the world. In the morning I went up to my local Starbucks, on 45th Street in Wallingford. These two corporate guys were sitting there, wearing suits and carrying briefcases.

In Seattle, you don’t see people dressed like that as much as you do in other cities. Over here, a shirt with a collar is considered “dressing up.”

As they were talking, one of them said, “Well, we should go. Time is money.”

I looked up from my nearby table. Time Is Money, hmmm.

Have you heard that one before? Hold on, we’ll come back to it.

First, think about something. has at least 270 books on time management, but most of them fail to consider a basic question:

How can someone actually manage time?

When you manage people, you give them tasks to complete and check in on them once in a while.

When you manage a project, you make neat little spreadsheets, break out the Getting Things Done book, and chart your progress along the way.

But with time, none of those things apply.

You can’t tell time what to do.

You can’t give time a raise when it performs well and fire time when it doesn’t meet your expectations.

Nope, you can’t manage time. Too bad about all those books. Someone should have said something before the 270th author started writing.

Like it or not, time just marches on.

More Bad News

Unfortunately, there’s more bad news about time. (Sorry.)

Like money, time is limited. But unlike money, once time is gone, there’s no getting it back. You can’t earn back what has been spent.

Time is closely related to the concepts of regret, inaction, indecision, and wistfulness.

All those things we left behind at some point.

Damn… don’t you hate that?


Time can not be managed, and when it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

But if you’re waiting for good news, you won’t be disappointed.

Here it is:


There’s still time to start that business, take that trip, start running those two miles that will help you run the marathon six months from now.

Or better yet, fill in the blank for yourself based on what you’ve always wanted to do (but have kept putting off for some reason).


“There is STILL TIME for me to ____________________”

Got it?

If not, you may need more than a few seconds to think about it. It’s worth your full consideration, even though time is money.

Whatever you choose, hold it close to you. Make it your focus, and don’t let anyone take it from you. (Any number of people will try to.)

Back to Starbucks

The guys in the suits have left, but I’m still thinking about what they said: “Time is Money.”

According to the time-is-money people, I’ve been wasting a lot of time this year.

  • I traveled to Iraq, Mongolia, Pakistan, and 20 other countries — all without an agenda, or anything really important I had to do there
  • I spent an absurd number of hours standing in line or sitting on park benches waiting for train or bus stations to open up all over the world
  • I opted out of the next phase of graduate school and worked toward building a career as a full-time writer

Before that, I spent four years working for free in West Africa, so you can probably guess what I think about the link between time and money. No, there’s nothing to that idea. So much for that, right?

But wait. Maybe I’ve got it partly wrong too.

Time is not the same thing as money, but it does have tremendous value. I don’t want to be like the Ozymandeus that Percey Shelly wrote about:

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.”

Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Nope, don’t want that.

Instead, I want to treat valuable time with the respect it deserves. I WANT TO DO SOMETHING REALLY GREAT with the valuable time I have.

How about you?

The Best Strawberry

Oh, and by the way –

Research shows that the average user clicks away from blog posts somewhere around the 300 word point. Since you’ve broken the curve and made it further than that, here’s an old story that always makes me smile.

Image by myriorama

The story is about a Zen student who is running from a tiger in the forest.

The tiger is catching up to him, and the only way out is to jump over a cliff that leads to certain death on the rocks below.

With no real options, the Zen student jumps over the cliff, and just manages to grab on to a branch halfway down.

Beside the branch is a bush of wild strawberries, and the student reaches over with one free hand and takes one.

With the tiger above him and certain death on the rocks below him, he slowly eats the strawberry.

And as he does, he thinks, “This is the best strawberry I have ever tasted.”


Thank you for your attention. Now, get back to work.

Because Time Is Money… right?



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  • Kyeli says:

    I love the story about the strawberry. 🙂 Thanks for reminding me of it.

    Pace and I long ago decided that hurrying is the worst thing we can do in any given situation. At best, hurrying will gain us an extra five, maybe ten, minutes, but at the cost of huge extra stress. There’s no point. I long ago unsubscribed from the “Time is Money” newsletter, and I’m far, far happier for it.

  • Priyank says:

    Very nicely written, especially liked the story at the end of the curve. I get many people asking me similar questions. Travel? Why? What? bah

  • Hayden Tompkins says:

    I think it was Steven Covey (maybe?) who said something like ‘time management isn’t management of time, it is actually management of people’.

    Great article!

  • Jim Kohnman says:

    I can’t really pin it down, but I LOVED this post this morning. I like that you travel the way you do. That’s the way I tend to do my trips, no agenda and just kind of go with the flow (for the most part).

    Anyway thanks for a great post!

  • Saravanan says:

    The last story was great.

    I agree that I got time for everything I want to do or I wanted to do. But there are certain situations where you really repent for the time spent. I was not there next to my grand mother when she was in her last stages of her life. I really felt very bad that day thinking about my loss. You do miss certain moments in life which is worth living for if your time management is not proper.

  • Blayne says:

    I find you site so inspiring. My wife, two kids, and myself recently sold everything, and are about to embark on an indefinite trip around the world. Here is an essay I wrote that sort of help inspire us to take this leap. I fits very nicely into this conversation about “Time”. I hope you enjoy it, and take the time to visit our site.

  • the wYman says:

    It is true that we can not manage time, but we can manage our use of time. I just listened to a video on why we should not multi task. To accomplish writing a book or solving a problem we need to use a minimum of one two hour block of focused work. If interrupted it takes one hour to get back to the point we where before the interruption. That is a waste of precious time that we never get back. Enjoyed the article.

  • Nimish says:

    Hi Chris,

    I’ve been a silent listener and admirer of you and your words. Today I felt that I should raise my hand and say, “Hi! I’m here!”.

    I enjoy your writing very much and vicariously live through many of your experiences.

    Today’s post drove me to just stand up and be counted, even though I haven’t really said thank you to you before.

    So, all I want to say is – Thank You! You made my day today!

    Mumbai, India

  • Meg says:

    I am a relative recent reader of your fabulous blog and I normally do not post comments on any blogs I follow, but thank you for this post! It was stumbling on your blog that inspired me to start my own and get back to doing something I am passionate about, so thanks for that. I completely and infinitely agree on your views about time and believe if more people had that sort of perspective there would be a lot more “happy” people out there in the world. I hope you have continued happy and safe travels!! I look forward to your future posts! Cheers!

  • Marilyn says:

    The strawberry story was really great; one should appreciate the simpler things in life, even when we are NOT dangling.
    Life can take on a significance while we munch on the sweetness of life and in the face of the ‘tigers’ in our lives.
    Aweseome site and I look forward to your insights and dry humor.
    Well done; best regards from Victoria.

  • Heather says:

    Thanks for reminding us what non-conformity is all about. Somehow your list reminds me of a quote from Queen Elizabeth I – may be mangling it – “genius consists of being patient and letting time pass.” I suppose this is the flipside of Carpe Diem and tells you *when* to seize the day. Or something. I could go on like this all day, but I’d better get back to work. 🙂

  • Aaron Fraser says:

    I, like others it would seem, am normally happy to just read the article and move on. However, this post compelled me to reach out and simply say “Thanks.”

    Your stories, writing and adventures are truly inspiring.


    Aaron (Aussie living in Italy)

  • Carolyn says:

    Had to join the others; I lurk and love reading here regularly. I couldn’t agree more with this one and had to say so. I wrote a similar post myself back in May but it was time for a reminder. 🙂

    Great work!

  • Melissa says:

    Great post, I really enjoy it and also liked your quick story at the end. Have a nice day and thanks for the words.

  • Chris says:

    Thanks everyone, I’m glad you all liked it!


    Yes, that does come from Steven Covey – here is the full quote:

    “The clock represents our commitments, appointments, schedules, goals and activities – what we do with and how we manage our time. The compass represents our vision, values, principles, mission, conscience, direction – what we feel is important and how we lead our lives.

    “The struggle comes when we sense a gap between the clock and the compass – when what we do doesn’t contribute to what is most important in our lives. The key is not ‘managing time’ but rather managing ourselves.”

  • Eric M says:

    Hey Chris– nice post. Time isn’t money… it’s far, far, far more valuable, and (wonderfully) as you point out, also infinite. Amazing how that works, isn’t it?

  • Jenny says:

    Time is money, time is gold. Like my grandfather used to say.
    But grandma always balances with “let’s get a pizza and drive”

  • appu prabhakar says:

    really thought provoking post indeed…… time cant be managed, it can only be utilised properly according to one’s needs…and it is never late to start….. made me think eventhough i had this idea in my mind already……. thank you chris…..

  • AlphaOnOne says:

    I have enjoyed reading several of your posts and work. I particularly liked your manifesto thought your list of 10 ways to unremarkably average was quite interesting. I think this post has an important message in saying that it is never too late to start trying to accomplish things.

    I do think your condemnation of time management books is off the mark, however. Unless those books are trying to explain how to slow down or speed up time which isn’t possible (or at least we don’t understand the physics enough to pull it off) it does not really apply to what you were saying. Those books are most likely just trying to allow people to manage themselves. Some people are not good at this and lose a lot of time because of this. As you said once time is gone you cannot get it back.

    Some people need help in managing what they do with their time (time management) to accomplish things they want to do.

    Maybe those books are helpful to them, maybe their not, but they are out their precisely because time does march on and you can lose time.

    Time can equal money. I just depends on what is important to you, and how you spend your time.

    If you spend it doing things like helping others and not necessarily to gain for yourself, then some people might view it as money lost.

    That is their point of view and you hold yours that there is more to be gained with that time. I think yours is the more righteous point of view and more power to you.

  • Jimmy P says:

    Time is an illusion. The past is just our memories, the future only our imagination. 🙂

    Nice article. It seems quite commonplace in modern day society to put on hold our desires, to offer up so freely a commodity of immeasurable value, in exchange for something as worthless as money. Trading their lives for a tomorrow that may never come.

  • Daniel Edlen says:

    Direct pointing! Love it.

    I just wrote a post about being in the moment too:

    Life has value. Money is a false placeholder for societally determined “value”. With money as the primary focus, people are chasing the wrong thing.

    Beautiful inspirational post, Chris.


  • Daniel Edlen says:

    Direct pointing! I love it.

    I just wrote a post on my blog yesterday about being in the moment. It’s about Prince. No, really.

    Life has value. Money is a false placeholder for societally determined “value”. That value is really the externalization of Life, not Life itself. Work, product, service, things flattened and commodified by placing “value” on them exploits and diminishes the real Life that went into their creation.

    chartreuse just wrote a great post about transparency that goes hand in hand with this, and with your wonderful guest post on Zen Habits you have linked to here at the bottom.

    Beautiful, inpsirational post, Chris.


  • Victoria says:

    love the zen story, thanks for sharing!


    Dear Chris,

    you are damn right about living life the way it has to be. whatever be the reasons, everyone has the concerns for money in their lives. But, they should not overturn their reasons for living

  • ajamcodes says:

    I do agree that time is money and it is applicable to all the alive people

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