Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Time and Value

(Fire update:  Not as nearly good news today.  The fire jumped the River and fire lines and started a second fire working its way up the canyon, about linear miles from my parents' house.  The fire has actually gotten into some of the structures of the nearest town as well.)

This week  I had need to talk to a lawyer - nothing alarming, just the fact that given all we have been through over the last two years, a will and certain directives (Power of Attorney, Do Not Resuscitate, etcetera) are in order . We had a pleasant initial conversation and later in the day I received the letter of engagement  along with fees for service.  There is a ranking of fees, based on whether one is an attorney, a law student, a paralegal, or a clerk (the caveat, of course, is that none of them "get" all that money; some always goes to firm).  It a helpful tool in terms of speaking with them going forward; knowing the going rate, one can ask the question "Do I really need to talk to them?"

Time and value of course, time and value.

I have a value as defined by my current position, as I have for my previous positions.  It is not just my salary (as our Personnel departments are always quick to tell us), but a combination of salary, benefits, and the other sorts of "extras" that may accrue.  In my daily work life, I do not consider this as much as I should - often I am too eager to do something or get involved when the real question should be "Is this truly worth my time?"  The value of my time gets lost in such a thing of course, because in point of fact I am employed by the company and so at some level, I need to do the work - there is no method for me to "make people use my time wisely" by charging them more.  But neither is there value in doing the sorts of things that - literally - are not worth my time.

That said, how do I measure time and value in the real world?

On our hike, we consumed days covering up to 15 miles a day.  The only value we realized is the value that we derived internally - and I suppose what is more ridiculous, we were paying for the experience so in that sense, we were not accruing financial value, we were expending it.  Most of us were likely on PTO; were we not, not only would we be paying for the privilege, we would be losing money every day we were on the trail.  Even our guides, bless them, likely made not a great deal of money - but if I asked them, they would  tell me this is exactly what they wanted to do.  

And yet, I suspect not one of us regrets going.

Friend of this blog Leigh Tate at Five Acres And A Dream will often comment how, during the high days of the harvest season, her time is almost completely spent in gathering and preserving the harvest.  There is no "cash" value to be realized for such an event, except for the inherent value of knowing where every scrap of food came from and having a larder full for the coming season that is not dependent on delivers making it to the grocery store or supply chains getting snarled.  

But Leigh herself has often said that she does put a value on this - not just the cash value realized from their own independent living, but the value that it contributes to their own life, a value in a lifestyle of their choosing and how they are spending their time - a value, like that of our hiking guides, that is not purely realized on the basis of how much money is coming in for the time spent.

I do not suppose there is a clear answer here, as everyone will ultimately have a different understanding of this issue - for some, time and value should always be monetary and directly linked, for others one weighs more heavily than the other, and for others, they can easily shift back and forth based on the circumstances.  But what struck me as I looked at this list of costing was really the meaningful question to myself:  Not "Am I spending my time wisely?", but rather "Am I valuing what I do based on the time I spend doing it?"

Or asked a different way, do I truly understand the value of the things I am doing and the answer is a clear "No", why am I doing them?  And if that is true, would attaching a per hour cost of such things help me to see more clearly?


  1. Anonymous3:51 AM

    How one values their time spent in making income or leisure is hard to do. Some consider income a duty and do it regardless if it makes them happy. Others will happily quit a high paying job and choose another activity that gives them joy and satisfaction. But those pesky bills ... boy do they make decisions for us.

    1. They do indeed, they do indeed. And often we suffer from chains of our own making - decisions made in early life that we continue to pay for (literally, in this case) for a great many years after.

      I have contemplated what life would have looked like on an alternate timeline if, for example, we still lived in our original house and I had not quit my job for real estate. We likely would have a paid off home now worth 2-3 times its original value.

  2. I never think of cost in regards to time spent doing something I love. It is what it is.

    1. Certainly not wrong Ed. The thought just hit me that if I valued my other time as I valued my work time, would I do the same things? That brainless entertainment I surf to find - what is the value of my hourly rate on that, and is it the best use of my time?

  3. For some people, being able to work outside (or anywhere) doing what they love, is priceless. The pay is icing on the cake, so to speak. You may know someone who has said "I'd pay to do this all day", or however.

    Praying for you, TB. May God's mercy watch over you all.
    You all be safe and God bless.

    1. Absolutely, Linda. My Sensei does not make the actual value in his labor of teaching us and operating the dojo, but I suspect he would tell you it is worth every second he puts into it. And I have known people that love their career fields with the "I would do this even if it was minimum wage or volunteer."

      Thanks for the prayers. Still holding our breath.

  4. Wow, TB, I'm honored to receive such a nice mention on your blog!

    The cost/benefit ratio of any given thing or project is an ongoing analysis, isn't it? And, unfortunately, it's not an exact science. I really like that you took the focus of the question from the value of the time invested, to the value of the thing being invested in. Or perhaps even the results of the thing. (Like a job. I doubt I've ever truly enjoyed any of the go-to-work jobs that I've had, but I did value the lifestyle it gave me at the time, whether of necessity or choice). Finding that value really helps after enthusiasm wears off.

    1. You are more than welcome, Leigh. You and Dan are a great inspiration to me.

      It is cost/benefit (although, of course, I failed to name it as such while you got right to the heart of the matter). And the output has to enter the equation: there are many aspects of my current line of work that I do not necessarily enjoy, but it has allowed me to travel regularly, greatly assisted in paying for college for two of three children, and has allowed me to travel home more in the last two years than I could have done in previous 11. That is something that is not captured in a straight calculation.


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