A Simple Insight – Time Really Is Money

There’s a particular cultural trend I’ve been thinking about for a while now that is probably so blindingly obvious that you’ll be questioning my sanity. Regardless, I think if offers a definite business opportunity, so it’ll be worth a review.

There are two kinds of people in the world:

  1. Those who have more time than money.
  2. Those who have more money than time.

For most of human history, the majority of people have fallen into the first group. We grew our own food, made our own clothes, and sometimes even built our own homes. The 20th century marked the turning point in the United States, with more and more people moving into group number two. Incomes rose dramatically, corporations offered inexpensive and accessible products to mass audiences, and new technology created new ways to communication and be entertained: radio, television, the personal computer, etc.

Now, in the first decade of the 21st century, we’re drowning in a sea of choices. Daily, we’re faced with so much media and information that we cannot possibly consume it all. There are enough television programs, books, music albums, blogs, video games, movies, podcasts, newspapers, and magazines to occupy dozens or hundreds of lifetimes. We have more commitments and obligations than we have hours in the day, often leaving us precious little time to spend with the people we love.

The simple fact is, incomes will continue to rise, but our time on Earth is limited and unknown. We can’t add more hours to the day, but we can make the best use of our time and attention in a couple of ways. First, we can become more productive, meaning we can spend less time working (this includes your job and your other obligations) and more time enjoying life. My current favorite system for doing this is David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It’s a simple yet powerful approach to overcoming the information overload we each face.

The other thing we can do is trade some of our hard-earned cash for products and services that help us make better use of our time. This is a wide category, including everything from eating out at restuarants, to TiVoing shows so you can watch them at your convenience, to hiring someone to mow your lawn or do your taxes. If you stop and think about it, a growing percentage of our purchases is being taken up by things we could do ourselves, but that we decide to outsource to a specialist.

Here in lies the business opportunity. Take a look at your daily life, and that of those close to you. What common tasks do you still do that might instead be done better/faster/more cheaply if you passed them off to someone else? Where could you apply some sort of filter to help you get only the information/media you want? Is there anyway to time or place shift your tasks, hobbies, and entertainment so that it’s your decision when and where they’re done?

Here are some examples that might get your brain going:

  • Services like Dream Dinners where you create your meals in a single session then freeze them at home until you’re ready to eat.
  • At home grocery delivery
  • Music filtering/suggestion services such as Pandora that help you discover new music without a lot of time or effort
  • Podcasts and audio books that let you make the most of your commute or workout time
  • TiVo and other devices that allow you to watch your favorite media when you want, regardless of the schedule
  • Retirement accounts that automatically adjust their mutual fund allocation over time as you approach retirement, instead of having to do it yourself every year
  • Software or services that can offer suggestions and recommendations based on past purchases or what others like you have purchased

This is just a short list that I came up with in a couple of minutes. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination. They’re there, you just need to find the idea and then execute it!