Time – A Gift or a Curse?

November 13, 2020

David Jaques

Life Hacks

Time is probably the only commodity that every country in the world recognises in the same way. No matter where you live, there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day. There are no separate standards and no economic differences in the measurement of time across borders. Why then, do some people appear to have more time than others? It all depends on our own perception and value of our time and how we measure it. There’s an old expression that “Time is Money”. Do you believe this? What do you value more, your time or your money? The two are remarkably intertwined.

In our younger days, say as students, we may find ourselves with a good amount of time on our hands, but no money to be able to travel, experience or buy new things. As we grow older and advance in our work lives, our incomes improve and we can afford more material things, but often the responsibilities of work and family mean that we have less time. Then, in the traditional world of retirement, we would hope to have an adequate amount of time and money for the rest of our lives. Although there is no clear journey for this, take a look at the table below and determine which quadrant you fall into. Unless you are born into a family with significant wealth, you will probably move through each of the quadrants at some point in your life.


If you work, then you should be compensated appropriately for the work you do. It’s a simple barter transaction, you are devoting time to your employer, in exchange for money, which supports you economically. Given the huge spectrum of work that exists, there are equally big differences in the way that we are paid for our time. If you are in a lower skilled job, you may be paid by the hour for your time, with an overtime rate if you work above a certain number of hours. I call this a “Variable Pay Rate” because you are literally paid for the number of hours that you work. But if you are employed in a professional capacity, you will most likely receive a pre-determined salary, but be expected to work whatever number of hours are needed to fulfil the responsibilities of your job. I refer to this as a “Fixed Pay Rate”. The interesting paradox here is that while a full-time, salaried job will generally pay much better; and include paid vacation time and other benefits, it gives us far less control over our time than a job that is paid by the hour. Many companies also offer equity plans to give employees an ownership in the business for which they work, which can be a great incentive to encourage people to “invest” more of their time in their work.

The concept of investment applies equally to both time and money. Let’s assume that you have an amount of money that you will not need for the immediate future. You may seek an investment for your money that will generate a return, so that your money will grow and be worth more. The same is true of your time. If you have an amount of time available, try to engage in something that will enrich your life and make it more valuable to you in the future. This is more easily recognised with the benefit of hindsight, as the future is difficult or impossible to predict; so here are some simple examples: 

·     If I had invested US$10,000 in Apple Computer stock one year ago, my investment would now be worth US$18,600.

·     If I had invested one hour of my time every day for the last year in learning a new language, I could have reached a level of fluency by now.

Who would not be happy to have made a handsome return on their money and become fluent in another language in one year? But which goal is more easily obtained? One year ago, no one could have guaranteed that the stock price of Apple Computer would have increased so much, and if the price had fallen, that money would have been worth a lot less by now; but if you believed in yourself and had the time available, then you could have guaranteed that your life would be richer by investing the time in that language.

You probably have no choice but to dedicate a certain amount of your time to your work, and hopefully you receive satisfaction from your work, in addition to monetary or equity compensation. But in addition to our work lives, we all have some amount of discretionary time, which should be used for pleasurable activities. Consider giving the gift of time to a family member or friend in need. Consider giving the gift of time by volunteering for a cause you believe in. Consider giving yourself the gift of time to pursue activities that truly make you happy, and remember, that as with money, we need to budget our time in a responsible way.

I live in a neighbourhood of affluent people, many of whom have an abundance of time on their hands and it saddens me to see how many of them turn to negative and petty activities, such as complaining about their neighbour’s landscaping or objecting to a renovation design; simply because they cannot think of something positive to do with their time. None of us knows how long we have on this planet, and while boredom can be a curse, once time has been used, we never get it back. Let’s use it wisely.

Hi, I’m David. I’m from London, but after living in New York and Amsterdam, I settled in Silicon Valley, California where I’ve lived since 1994. From the relatively safe life of working for a global bank like Barclays, I became fascinated by startup companies, innovation and ways in which the world could be changed for the better. So I opened my mind, became a risk taker and a life-long learner.

As founding CFO of PayPal, Treasurer at Silicon Valley Bank and Director at Blue Run Ventures, I’ve been recognised by the global Fintech community as a pioneer in the payments industry. I have served on the boards of public and private companies as well as a couple of non-profit organisations.

But what about me? Well, I like running, skiing and mountain climbing in my free time; plus, I love to travel and see the world. I have two adult children, a wonderful wife, some cats and a harrier puppy.

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