Can you save time? Is saving time pointless?

What? If saving time is pointless, why do we even try? Let me explain.

Technology is advancing at a breakneck pace and all of these modern conveniences are supposed to save us time. The advent of email was supposed to save us so much time, because it meant that we could send detailed messages — complete with supplemental files and attachments — in a matter of moments.

Email is a heck of a lot faster than sending something through a postal service, the latter of which is now affectionately known as snail mail for its comparatively slow pace. Ironically, though, email could be stunting your productivity instead. Instead of serving as a means to save you time, email could be wasting your time.

And it doesn’t stop at email. Other modern conveniences that are supposed to save time could instead be contributing to the “not enough hours in the day” syndrome that afflicts so many people in our increasingly connected and wired society. For many of us, it seems like there is never enough time, no matter how hard we try to cut corners and save time. Why is this?

Time Cannot Be Saved

When you take a dollar and deposit it into a bank account, you can withdraw that dollar and spend it at a later date. Money can be saved, because its value can be deferred to tomorrow.

Time, by contrast, cannot be saved. If you manage to complete a task ten minutes ahead of schedule, it’s not like you can “bank” those ten minutes, utilizing them at a later date when you may need an extra ten minutes on a different project. The value of yesterday cannot be spent tomorrow. As a result, we inevitably have the tendency to fill any time “saved” with additional tasks, additional projects, and more things to do. And then we try to shave a few minutes off those additional tasks.

Time Can Only Be Spent

I understand that we are motivated to be productive, but when we try to pack in as much work as possible in as little time as possible, we set ourselves for the dark cloud of burnout. We all know that burnout can’t possibly be healthy and it’s something that we should all avoid.

Time cannot be saved, because it can only be spent. You may spend your time commuting to work. You may spend your time playing Guitar Hero. No matter what you do, you will inevitably spend your time on a continual basis. The ultimate path to happiness, then, is choosing how you spend your time rather than how you may try to save it.

Saving Time is Pointless, But…

It’s not 100% accurate to say that saving time is pointless. If you can manage to be more efficient in what you do, that’s a good thing and it’s a goal that you should work toward on an ongoing basis. However, be careful not to spend that “saved” time with added duties that may be unfavorable. Instead, spend that saved time doing things that you love, things that you enjoy. Therein lies the very philosophy found in The 4-Hour Workweek. Save time so that you can spend it better.