Our lives revolve around money: We need it to get shelter, buy food, get clothes to keep us warm (or stylish, for those of us a little bit more fashion-conscious), pay the bills… or splurge a little and get the latest gadget out there or go on vacation. After all, the world is a beautiful place and we all want to see some of it, right?

But most of us (especially those who are not so young any more) have lived moments in our lives when money seemed to be totally secondary -usually moments when we were in poor health, like the three days I spent in the ICU not so long ago: Since I did not have to worry about medical bills (courtesy of our universal healthcare system) I can promise you that the last thing that went through my mind was money, or lack thereof. Health was a much more pressing matter at that time.

And yet neither money nor health should be at the top of our list when we think about the valuable things in our lives. That place should be reserved for time -for, as I heard/saw recently (even though I seem to be unable to find where), time is the ultimate commodity.

Commodity not according to its first definition,

A raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.”

but according to its second one,

A useful or valuable thing.”

Because, the way I see it, there is nothing more valuable than time. More than our health, you may wonder, or than money itself? Yes. Let me elaborate.

As stated before, money is very important in our lives, but we can either adjust our lifestyle and spend less (minimalism) or we can re-organize our professional life and make more. In fact, technology allows for a hybrid occupational model that bridges the security of a full time job with a side of freelancing for additional income. Some ideas:

  • amateur photographers can make an income by listing their images on stock-photography sites like Shutterstock and Adobe Stock
  • fast typers can do work for transcription companies who hire independent contractors (after passing a test to check for speed and accuracy)
  • almost anyone can do work for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which includes tasks such as translating text from one language into another, rating search results, determining if a website is suitable for an audience, correcting spelling, or pulling usable information from images

Granted, you can make more money. But you can’t “make” more health, can you? Well, no, not yet. But what you can definitely do is take good care of it. Some ideas:

  • strengthen your relationships: Surround yourself with people that enrich your life and make you happy
  • pursue your passions: Practice an instrument, do an art project, take photos, build models, weld, bake gourmet cakes, or whatever else enriches your free time
  • maintain healthy habits: eat right, drink more water, sleep well, stick to an exercise regimen, limit alcohol/tobacco and be hygienic

So you can make more money and stay healthy, but there is nothing you can do (not yet) about time: it is a finite resource (we only have a limited amount of it) and to make things even worse there is no way to know when we will run out of it (euphemism for we do not know when we will die).

What to do, then? Well, naturally everyone of us will have a different approach. My suggestion is that you set your priorities straight: To do that, a possibility is to imagine that your doctor just told you that you have a terminal disease and only have a month left to live. What would you do with/in that precious time? -and transfer as much as you can from that response into your daily life. That will probably include things such as:

  • devote your professional life to doing things that matter, that have an impact on the lives of the people around you (near of far)
  • do the things that really add value to your life, discarding those that you do out of habit or social mores
  • decide who is worthy of your time and who is not. Do not be afraid to rearrange your social circles to fit your needs or interests

Now, while you were thinking about that little precious time left, did money ever cross your mind? Probably not. After all, as Steve Jobs (himself) said,

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful. That’s what matters to me.”

There you have it. So, what matters to you? Think about it (and share in the comments) -but don’t take too long. Time is too valuable.