A simple way to calculate how much your time is worth

Claire Murdough
April 21, 2015
minute read
A Simple Way to Calculate How Much Your Time is Worth
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Valuing time is something that we do a lot of at Dropbox Sign. We’re an eSignatures company, but we also live and breathe productivity. That means we’re fans of online tools and services. It also means we’re constantly reevaluating what works and what doesn’t work – particularly when it comes to how we spend our time.

It's a pretty easy little formula, too:

Value of your time = how much of “x” you gain (or protect) with every chunk of time saved.

Further, using different measures to value time worth can help you prioritize tasks, seal time vacuums, and improve productivity. So what are these “x” values? And how can you factor them into your time worth equation?

Let’s take a look.

x = Wealth/$

It’s easy to equate time lost with money lost. This is particularly true for professionals or business owners who feel the heat of a monthly budget. So it makes sense that measuring a $ value is one of the most popular ways to track the worth of your time. 

This measure also has the most number-crunching potential:

Value of your time per hour/60 = Value of your time by minute

Using that equation, someone making $30/hour could plug in basic info to get the following equation:

$30/60 = $.50 per minute.

Ta-da! There’s your answer. In this case, the value is $.50 per minute. Breaking down the value of each minute can be illuminating, but the $ equation works best when you take it a step further and calculate how much unnecessary tasks are costing you over time. 

For example:

10 minutes spent on an unnecessary task each workday x $.50 per minute = $5.00 cost

$5.00 cost x 5 days per work week = $25 per week

$25 x 52 weeks = $1,300.

Suddenly, that 10 minutes seems a little more costly. Breaking down time vs. money is a simple but compelling metric to measure. Beyond giving your time a dollar amount, measuring time by wealth can also help you see the big picture for your budget or your company finances.

x = Productivity

It's one thing to recognize how much a minute lost costs. But when you figure out what you can do with those 10 extra minutes?

Boom. Mind blown. 

What would you do with an extra 10 minutes? We'd guess: a lot. At Dropbox Sign we love measuring in productivity potential. We know that overly long processes take away the breathing space for employees to do great things. So Dropbox Sign's taken proactive measures to streamline general office “stuff.” We’re strict about keeping our weekly company meeting to under 1hr. And one of our engineers, Nick, even created a chat bot that shares company info employees might need to access again and again.

To evaluate the productive value of time spent on a task, ask yourself:

  • Is there something else I can be doing to make tasks more efficient or productive? Am I doing the same task over and over again?
  • Are there any opportunities to streamline or automate recurring processes?
  • Are there opportunities to piggybacking existing habits onto one another? Is there a way to double-up on efforts without sacrificing quality?

Measuring your time in productive minutes gives you the opportunity to think about how you might accomplish tasks in a shorter period of time. It’s also a great way to maintain and refine dynamic work systems.

x = Mental bandwidth

So you can measure time in $ and you can measure time in productivity, but have you ever thought about measuring time in mental bandwidth? Measuring your time by mental bandwidth gained/lost is a particularly helpful as you work towards larger goals. 

Ideally, you want the mental energy put into a task to meet or to exceed the output. If you’re doing tasks over and over again that are depleting your energy reserves - even if they don’t take up too much of your time or effort - you’re losing valuable mental energy. 

Our team ops leader Gina Lau, likes to share a Dropbox Sign-ism with all new hires, “You don’t have to suffer.” This isn’t just to set new hires at ease (though it does!). It also emphasizes that time spent beating your head against the wall doesn’t always result in the stellar performance or work. In fact, suffering silently can detract from discovering the solution. 

To seal up energy leaks, it's important to approach scheduling with a couple question in mind: Will this deplete my mental energy reserves? Is the mental cost necessary? Most importantly, how can I rehaul the way I approach this task or set of tasks so that my brain isn't suffering? 

Using mental energy to value your time helps you to avoid the “I must do everything all the time!” approach to scheduling your time.

x = Happiness

Happiness is crucial when measuring the worth of time spent on any given task. The caveat? There’s no real way to measure happiness (scientists are on it though!).

So how can you measure your time in happiness? View time or tasks through the lens of happiness potential. 

One way to approach this is to take a look at some of your anti-happiness tasks. These are those tasks that cause you frustration and act as points of friction throughout the day. Focusing on pains may seem counterintuitive when you're valuing happiness, but they're often excellent indicators of areas that could use a little change. 

For instance at Dropbox Sign, happiness is of the utmost importance. But that doesn’t mean it always comes naturally or that we don’t encounter challenges. One of the best ways we've found to keep the happiness value on track is by asking for constant feedback from employees (and encouraging employees to share when they’re not feeling the happiness value is being met). 

Getting a feel for the problems or the pain points provides us with the info we need to keep happiness as a top priority. This in turn helps us to continue factoring happiness into the time worth equation as we scale new challenges. 

This is the most unmeasurable of the four measures, but arguably the most important. C'mon, get happy!

So what?

Time to answer that final question: What’s the result of all this digging? 

Simply put, valuing your time based on different standards can help you to start asking (and answering) the right questions.

For example:

  • Does this task justify the monetary cost of my time?
  • Could I find a more productive solution?
  • Is the mental exhaust worth the effort put in (even if it seems like a relatively quick task)?
  • Is there a way to refine the task or rework the project to increase my (or my teams) happiness levels?

The answers to your questions will help you to get a sense of where your time might be best spent. Even a few minutes each day to gut-check the different values of time (especially as they relate to particular tasks or projects) can help you to create your best (and most productive) schedule.

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