What exactly is a time millionaire? And could you be one too?

Posted: 10 November 2021

By Luke Upton

“Who Has An Itch

To Be Filthy Rich?

Who Gives A Hoot

For A Lot Of Loot?

Who Longs To Live

A Life Of Perfect Ease?

And Be Swamped By Necessary Luxuries?

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”

This was the question asked by Cole Porter in a song written for 1956 film High Society. Most of us would probably, say a resounding “I do” to the question, but what if it wasn’t just money that could make you a millionaire?

The idea of a time millionaire was first coined by author Nilanjana Roy @nilanjanaroy in a 2016 column for the Financial Times, for her they are those who measure their worth not in terms of financial capital but according to the time they claw back from their employment to use for leisure, recreation or personal improvement.

“Wealth can bring comfort and security in its wake,” says Roy. “But I wish we were taught to place as high a value on our time as we do on our bank accounts – because how you spend your hours and your days is how you spend your life.”

Certainly, for most life is busy. There’s work, where technology ensures it often leaks out from its prescribed time. British people work the longest hours in Europe, effectively an extra two-and-a-half weeks of unpaid overtime a year.

Busy times.

Family life. Are the kids doing enough with their sports, dance classes and music lessons? Do you see your parents enough? Exercise. Are you keeping active? What about quality time with your partner? Then there’s culture. That pile of books on the bedside table that remain stubbornly unread. When are you going to watch the new season of Succession or Squid Game? And what about volunteering and good causes, where do they fit into your schedule? Anything else? Probably yes.

What has Covid-19 done?

The pandemic induced lockdown eased for many one major time pressure – the commute. But it’s also made many of us reconsider our priorities. My colleague Alex Williamson has written well on one of its side effects –Why almost half your staff are thinking of leaving and how to stop them. The enforced experiment in forcing many of us to work from home, saw the opposite from what many had warned if this happened – productivity and profits didn’t collapse. Now people are thinking what else the experts have got wrong?

Is it time for you to be a time millionaire?

A reorientation of our approach to reward, and its uncoupling from just being financial opens up the opportunity to spend more time volunteering to support charities and good causes.

Aside from the obvious feel-good factor from supporting worthy causes, volunteering can also help you learn new skills, boost confidence and connect with new people and places. For employers, offering their staff the opportunity to volunteer on company time, can give a welcome boost to team morale (something that has become a bigger challenge during the era of WFH), encourage retention, be an aspect of recruitment and the positive results can form part of a positive marketing message.

Values at the heart.

We at Impactful have found through our research that volunteering is an increasingly important part of building a values-based business, and there’s a growing expectation that this is something that will be offered. However, often staff can be reluctant or unsure how to take up this opportunity, with one HR director of a large logistical firm, telling me that take-up was only 30%. We are building a platform that will make it clear to staff what they can do, and for employers, who is using it and how. A win-win for all concerned!

So, to go back to our original question, how do you become a time millionaire? Well, aside from winning the lottery or pumping up your start-up and securing a healthy exit, I think it’s a matter of identifying what is important to you. What are your values and how you best make an impact on supporting them? Once these are clear, you work back from there. Think about your work, how can it be done better, will a sharper focus on time help you become more efficient? What about the rest of your life, again, it’s a matter of picking what’s important and working backwards towards achieving your goals.

A time millionaire? Perhaps not. But we can all certainly use our time better.

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