Before I begin, I need to give full credit of this post to Rob Lawrence, a great friend of mine and the co-author of a book we wrote together called Get Noticed. Rob is also a creativity coach who has inspired me on numerous occasions with his advice. One particular instance was when he was telling me about measuring values.
I can’t quite remember how it came up, but Rob and I were having a conversation about how personal values can change over short periods of time and how you can measure them. Rob suggested to me that my personal values are largely defined by two things; how I spend my money, and how I spend my time.
It’s a simple concept, but when you think about it we all have two main commodities which we can spend as we choose; time and money. Therefore, how we decide to allocate those two commodities should indicate which things we value more than others.
In June 2011 I decided to open up my bank statement to see where I was spending my money. I was shocked to see that I was spending almost a fifth of my income on rent (something I don’t feel I valued highly) and also how little I was spending on eating out (something I thought I valued much more).
Four months down the line I revisited this task and was shocked by how much my spending has changed in such a small amount of time. A lot of things have changed over the past four months, but my rent now represents nearer to 10% of my income, which is good, but my car is now costing me 22% of my income, which is not something I’m too pleased about.
It’s important to note when doing this, that it’s more to do with what each category represents rather than the category itself. For example, despite 22% of my income being spent on driving, that doesn’t mean I love driving, it means that I value seeing new places and getting to work on time. The 19.3% that I spend eating out is more to do with spending time with colleagues, friends, and my girlfriend, than it is about a love for eating in restaurants.
How you spend your day is who you are
Last month I realised that I’m as much a writer as I am a social media guy. When people asked me “what do you do?” my immediate reaction is to say “I work in social media at a digital marketing agency”, but in reality I probably spend more time writing books and blog posts than I do working at the agency, therefore, it’s probably fair to say that I’m predominantly a writer.
Analyzing how you spend your time can be a very insightful activity to do from various angles, but looking from the perspective of “what are my values” can show you how much value you place on different friends, family, work, side projects, sleeping, keeping fit and other things that you spend your days doing.
How knowing your values can improve your lifestyle
All of this information is great, but unless you do something with it it’s worthless.
I recommend analyzing how your money and time is spent for one month, and then writing down five things you want to decrease your spend on, and five things you’d like to increase your spend on. Then several months down the line revisit this exercise and see how you’re getting on.