Three years ago I was in a very unhappy place. I was consistently broke I was overworked and I could not see a way out of my deadend career to either financial freedom or professional success.
I was working the usual 9-5, however, the role came with alot after hours and weekend activities that quickly ate up my time. Not only did I have usual administrative tasks during the day, I also had to spend a lot of time before and after work hours, preparing, chasing down vendors and doing the million and one tasks required to organize events.
It was a pretty weird time for me. I was always stressed and strung out. And yet, in spite of this, I would always be the first, or second, to offer my time if some task came up that needed to be done.
This all changed when I started to learn how to code. I could see in this new skill the opportunity to build a real career. One that could bring me fulfillment in a variety of ways. I’ve always been big on remote ever since I was a kid and this could be my ticket.
The thing is, learning to code is hard. It takes time and it takes energy - both of which I was giving away readily every single day. For the first time, I started to think about my time, examine why I felt like I didn’t have any and try to come up with a solution to this problem.
Robert Kiyosaki in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad talks about the concept of paying yourself first. What he means is that you should treat your savings as untouchable. It goes into whatever vehicle you have for storing it first. Before the landlord gets his rent, before the debtor collects. First things first - pay yourself.
This doesn't mean you don't fulfill your obligations and flake on your contractual obligations, on the contrary it means you tailor your oblilgations to ensure you can handle them and still be able to pay yourself first. It means you take what's yours from the top and not the bottom.
The concept has always stuck with me, and as I started to think about this most precious of resources - Time - it struck me as odd how many principles we apply in protecting our money, money that is ultimately replaceable, while ignoring how we protect our time which is irreplaceable.
I started to apply this approach to my life. Work hours would be work hours, a contract is a contract, however, I would keep every little second, minute and hour I could for myself. I would also try to cut down on other areas in order to make up for the time I needed to invest in learning how to code. No longer would I hang around at the office after hours, chatting away or doing idle work, no longer would I spend lunch breaks catching up on the latest office gossip, no longer would I say yes to every extra task and volunteer any more of my time than needed to fulfill my obligations to my employer. Instead, I would use those pockets of time to do what I needed to get me where I needed to be - learn this new skill.
I started to pull back. Started saving up time by reducing hang outs, TV, idle rest time. I made a lot of sacrifices to get that extra time back, time which I made sure to then pay to myself first in pursuit of this new goal.
Three and a half years on and I still live by this principle. I’m now a fully remote Software Developer and I’ve been remote for the last 3 years. I treat my time not only as my most valuable asset, but ensure that outside of work and other contractual obligations, every second of time is spent how I want it to be spent. It is - in the immortal words of Smeagol - “My Precious”.
Money you can get back, make more of, invest and multiply, or a win a bunch of in a lottery. Time, you don’t get back. You have what you've been given and that’s it. How much more careful should we be of how we spend our time.
Pay yourself first, and then spend it on things that build you. And just like with money, watch the compounding interest accrue as the days, months and years go by and bring closer and closer to the life you’ve always wanted.