Benjamin Franklin, a man acknowledged as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America wisely stated the commonly known aphorism “Time is money” in an essay he wrote that appeared in George Fisher's 1748 book, The American Instructor. Franklin hit the nail on the head for the importance of time and its scarcity created when an individual chooses to use it unproductively. Time is the most valuable asset someone can possess as you can never get it back. Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, states “the key is in not spending time, but investing in it”. As previously mentioned, once time is used as an asset for which one can invest in, it is then that true freedom is discovered and the means through which they can follow their ambitions are made abundant.
I envied all of those who owned phones in primary school, desperately waiting until the beginning of high school until my parents deemed it appropriate that I should own one. When I got my hands on one, I used it on the bus to and from school instead of reading books which were significantly less stimulating to the human brain. Little did I know that this desire would be the cause of my inability to focus and use my time productively. I became engrossed in my phone and soon enough, I detested the thought of reading and when asked to read Chinese Cinderella for school towards the end of the year, I failed to complete the book. I lost all motivation. I preferred to spend my time scrolling through my Youtube feed and playing games on my PlayStation 4, all of which were far more stimulating than words on the page which require effort on my part to consume. If you don’t understand the problem that was created through my phone consumption, I’d suggest you reread the previous sentence.
Overstimulation accustoms the brain to require larger releases of dopamine in the shortest period of time. Generally speaking, the things of which you or I do in our day to day lives that create a quick and easy release of dopamine are more often than not, a complete waste of time. For example on weekend nights, I made it a habit (more than I would like to admit) of playing computer games with my friends. If we weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of this certain situation, it can be made evident that there are better ways to invest our time, rather than just spending it.
Have fun with friends (temporary)
Staying inside, lack of exercise (becomes habitual, unhealthy)
Can’t interact with friends in person (narrow intellectual stimulation, topics of conversation don’t stray far away from gaming, lack of physical contact)
Doesn’t improve any money-making or social skills (the two skills are necessary for success in the business world)
Often results in arguments (reflects in relationships and leads to resentment in other friends of whom you argue against)
Overstimulating, making other less stimulating activities harder to focus on (trouble focusing on homework or reading, as there is always something more rewarding you could be doing)
Economists use the concept of ‘opportunity cost’ to express the opportunity foregone of some resource when the resource is used elsewhere, however the same concept can be applied to time as time is the most valuable resource a person can possess. Here it is made evident that the opportunity of playing video games is to have some fun, but the opportunity cost are the five disadvantages listed below it, which if you need help understanding, are all aimed to invest in yourself and stimulate growth. Before decisions can be made about which opportunities are more significant or useful, it is imperative to understand that each person has their own values and beliefs as to what a good use of time is.
Over the past few months, I have been simplifying my life down to the absolute basics in order to maximise the time I have to do the things that truly matter. I consider there to be four essentials: studies, sports, social and hobbies for growth. The essential idea behind this is that these four essentials result in development and character, skills and knowledge. Notice that I said hobbies for growth and not just hobbies in general. Each person should have hobbies that fit either one of the three criteria points here: a hobby that makes money, a hobby that keeps you in shape or a hobby to keep you creative. If referring to the video gaming example above, if you can find a way to make money from video games, then by all means make it a hobby. This is what is meant by each person having valuing their own use of time according to their desires.
There is a reason I have stopped watching Netflix and playing video games, it is a misuse of my precious time. A secondary effect of stopping these over-stimulating activities is it allows me to maintain higher levels of focus for longer periods of time without the temptation of distraction. This has a domino effect into the efficiency of our work during our time, leading to more free time. If I can write an essay in ninety minutes as I’ve done with this personal essay, but it has taken you over three hours to complete a similar task due to a lack of focus and discipline, I fundamentally have more time of which I can invest elsewhere. I use my time to read, to learn, to develop skills, to socialise with my peers and family and to look after my body. It is through these five investments that one can truly live a life free of stress and worry. You can never gain more time, you can only use the time you are given with more consideration of its value. I’ll leave you with a quote from Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a roman philosopher: “People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy”.