Earning Bankable Time: Finding More Value Outside The Work Day

Last weekend I was listening to the THRIVE Talks Podcast's Season 2 finale with artist consultant Pennylane Shen and she mentioned a phrase that I never heard of before that stuck with me: "bankable time". She referenced it in a conversation about how a frequent question she gets from artists - how they can make more time - and how "bankable" time such as going for a walk, surfing the web, or reading a book is beneficial to clear one's head or find inspiration.

As someone who for years would complain she didn't have enough time or money for anything, the idea of putting a value on time that wasn't directly related to work was interesting. I looked to see who coined the original phrase and came upon this article in the Financial Times by Nilanjana Roy from 2016 "How I Became a Time Millionaire". Roy describes bankable time as leisurely time earned after certain professional goals, and years of paying one's dues, have been made. Affluent professionals, after years of working, become frustrated with the inefficiencies of being too busy to fit in work, family, hobbies, and exercise, and search instead to reach a level of professional success where they are rewarded with ample time and flexible schedules.

As I shifted into my new position as a contractor, I already experienced first-hand the value of having a somewhat flexible schedule and office environment. But what grabbed my attention most in Roy's article was her reference to Mason Currey's Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, one of my favorite books, and her insight from Currey's book that work satisfaction plays a large role in productivity and that creatives exercise an "iron control" over their time, "spending [it]...as much as we're conditioned to think of enjoying spending wealth." According to her, the brightest humans are the ones who find a way to work only a few hours a day, with the occasional marathon session when necessary. Time is then left spent to take up hobbies, socialize, etc.

Whenever I think about hobbies, I always think about how ladies of leisure or royalty historically were tasked with taking up sewing, singing, drawing, writing, etc. so they could entertain their husband and his guests and find a way to occupy the endless hours they have available because they don't need to (didn't have the right to) earn a living. Having free time is certainly a luxury, and in our work-obsessed culture we're encouraged to believe that every single minute must be accounted for to maximize our personal productivity. However, the idea of "bankable time" instead makes me think of time as being something that is earned and deserves to be enjoyed. I value my time and get very frustrated when it's wasted because of inefficiencies, which is why moving from full time to contractor works for me. As someone who has worked as a freelancer, I've also been very used to the idea of knowing my worth by the hour.

Last month I started to unconsciously think about how it's not necessarily about trying to "fit it all" into my daily schedule, but instead being efficient with my time and making sure more time is spent on things I cared about. Some things I started doing that I've already witnessed the benefits of are:

- Biking to work instead of taking the subway. My commute is now under a half hour, I save money, and get some exercise before sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day.

- Testing doing the 7 minute workout instead of lifting. My daily schedule is different every day, and I don't really want to invest time in getting better at lifting weights when doing the 7 minute workout each day pretty much gives me the same results, with a lot less risk of injury.

- Do just one important task each day. Focus on doing the most important task of the day first, however long it takes, and then using the rest of the day for emails, reading, running errands, socializing, etc.

- Have a fixed list of things that need to get done each day and week, and then once completed, not add more things to the list. This helps me to stop doing "busy work" that doesn't actually provide value and acknowledge that I need time to relax and unwind after getting things done.

- Investing more time in doing things I want to "practice", primarily cooking, baking, yoga, writing, and drawing, versus things I don't. In a heartbeat I will admit that I find an hour I spend trying out a new recipe is more valuable to me than wasting an hour watching TV or spending money at the bar.

It's easy to let our days run on autopilot, not feel present, and wonder what we actually did this week. Being more conscious about our time is just as important as being conscious about what we buy and consume. We also deserve to allow ourselves time "off", whether we get PTO from our boss or have to give it to ourselves.

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