Spend Your Time? Invest Your Time?

Spend your time? Invest your time?

My guess is you're reading this post because you’re either a writer or hope to become one. Whatever you do, you know that words matter. You know their meanings can be obvious or subtle, and they carry an influence on those who say them, read them and use them.

Somehow it came to my attention that we tend to talk about our time in two distinct ways. Listen to others talk about their time and you’ll notice that some talk about how the spend their time while others talk about how they invest their time. Now, which way do you tend to talk about your time? It’s worth, I believe, finding out.

I’m sure I’m not the first to notice what a huge difference in attitude about our time those two terms reflect. In fact I suspect this was pointed out to me by someone I no longer remember and I now tend to think I observed the differences all on my own. Perhaps I did, but I doubt it.

Let’s look at the definitions.

According to Google spend is defined as: pay out (money) in buying or hiring goods or services. “the firm has spent $100,000 on hardware and software”

Contrast that with invest, again according to Google: expend money with the expectation of achieving a profit or material result by putting it into financial schemes, shares, or property, or by using it to develop a commercial venture. “the company is to invest $12 million in its new manufacturing site” (Emphasis mine.)

I’m betting the ‘firm’ mentioned above believes the $100,000 they spend on hardware and software is gone. If they had talked about investing, they’d focus more on the return or profit they made. Investing can mean making more money rather than having the money just disappear.

It’s not too far fetched, it seems to me, that when I talk about spending my time, the unconscious image is of my time disappearing. When I speak about investing my time, the unconscious belief is that I’m getting a return on my investment — my time is ‘growing’ rather than disappearing.

As an example, when I talk about spending say $100 on say a blue jacket, I consider the money gone. If, however, I tell you I’ve invested in a blue jacket, not only am I implying it cost more than I’m used to paying, I’m assuring myself and you that I’m getting a good return on my money. I see how my choice of words in this case might influence my belief system about time as well as money. I’m working to think more about investing my time than about spending my time.

Talking, and thinking about investing my time gives me a more prosperous feeling about my time, influences the way I make decisions and, when I’m really paying attention, helps me feel more appreciative about my life.

I notice I sometimes worry about how I spend my time. Using that phrase seems to signal a concern that translates roughly ‘I fear I’m doing it wrong.’ When I reframe the issue, which can be anything from a brand of toothpaste to the kinds of books I choose to read and people I choose to spend time with, from spending time to investing time my body relaxes somehow. This seems like a good thing to me.

I invite you to experiment with the differences between spending your time and investing your time. You might even want to bookmark this post so you can come back and comment about what you discover.

Write and invest your time well and often,

Writer, life and writing coach, book ghostwriter, Grandmother, Buddhist. Liberal who listens to the other side, political activist-www.DemocracyCounts.org

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