In the nerdy financial world, an “audit” is an examination of someone’s accounts or how they spend their money. Such an exercise can prove helpful if you are nearing retirement and are not sure how much you spend from month-to-month to live comfortably. Or it can be helpful if, like many people, you have collected accounts from various employers or life insurance policies and are not sure what you (or your spouse) have and if you still need it. While these types of exercises can help course-correct your financial ship, that type of audit is not what I’m purposing today. Rather, I’m suggesting a time audit.
Given the drastic changes to our routines in the last year, it seems a perfect time to reflect on how we spend our time and the associated feelings that come with those activities. Such an exercise could help us course-correct to better align our time to our values, in much the same way that a financial audit can help us adjust how much we need to save, etc. Research has shown that those who value time and leisure over work and money are happier. This supports one of our firm’s guiding principles—money is the fuel, not the destination. But in our busy day-to-day routines, much time can pass without us reflecting on whether our time, energy and money are focused on the right things.
Author, professor and happiness researcher, Ashley Whillans, suggests tracking what you do on a mundane day—like a Tuesday. (I propose doing the same on the weekend as well.) She then suggests evaluating what you are doing and how do you feel in the early morning, mid-morning, early afternoon, late evening, etc. Be honest with yourself if there are activities that are pleasant or unpleasant and consider why they are one or the other.
Here are a few questions to help:
When you feel happiest, what are you doing? Can you add a “happy” activity to something more mundane to increase your joy?
When you feel most frustrated, what are you doing? Can it be cut from your routine or an adjustment made?
Where do you see trends with your mood and what changes can you make?
Maybe you note that on your daily drive you felt productive because you listened to a podcast. But you were frustrated on Tuesday evening because you worked on the obligatory laundry pile or some other chore. Next time, could you listen to a podcast while you complete the chore?
Perhaps you serve on a committee that met virtually in 2020 but has started meeting in-person again and the commute has made it more difficult to fit in your exercise routine, affecting your mood. Could you request to attend every other meeting remotely to allow some balance?
Or maybe you noticed your mood was great on Saturday afternoon when you took a walk with your kids in the sunshine. Perhaps one or two days a week, you could spend 15 minutes of your lunch break walking around the block and watch a few videos of your kids before getting back to work.
Lastly, I’m sure we could all benefit from reflecting on our time spent on social media.
Whether a “time” or a “financial” audit, reflection is a worthwhile exercise that we should prioritize. Even one small course-correction can improve happiness and satisfaction, so why not seek it out?
The opinions expressed are those of PYAW’s Investment Team. The opinions referenced are as of the date of publication and are subject to change due to changes in the market or economic conditions and may not necessarily come to pass. Forward looking statements cannot be guaranteed.
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