• Advice

Why time is the most valuable natural resource

My father often reminded us that, “Time stands still for no [wo]man.” It was his way of simultaneously teaching us the value of time management and the finiteness of time. As a young woman, I didn’t necessarily embrace the full magnitude of this expression. Instead, time seemed so nebulous and, paradoxically, infinite.

As I got older and as life became far more complicated, I began to truly understand the importance of seeing time as one of the most valuable resources that we have, especially as freelancers and entrepreneurs.


I also began to internalize that a key component of valuing time—one’s own and others—is understanding that time often equates to freedom, a freedom that many of us experience via entrepreneurship. It is even a freedom that may have been the catalyst for us to seek out self-employment.

Yet, we sometimes, inadvertently, obfuscate our freedom of time because we do not understand its natural value. Yes, we may know what our hourly rate or our daily rate is, but is that truly the only measure of the value of our time?

The answer, of course, is no. The value of our time is not mutually inclusive of money. In other words, there are many things that we gain that do not necessarily equate to a monetary value.

For example, discovering one’s own style, uncovering one’s pacing, and embracing what makes one’s services unique, exceptional, or competition-worthy are process driven and that, quite understandably, requires time.

Time as an investment

Think about your own experiences as a freelancer: How much time did you invest to get to where you are today? If your journey is like my journey, then some of the greatest lessons that you learned along the way about freelancing could only come from experiential knowledge or time on task. Although books, classes, curriculum, online courses, mentors, and coaches are great, it is the process of doing that leads to expertise and that requires time.

As freelancers, it is important to recognize not only the value of one’s time, but also the ways in which it can be allocated to help advance one’s mission, vision, and overall freelancing services. In this capacity, time is one of the most valuable resources that we all have access to.

Even in a world of ‘isms’ and ‘obias’, time can be seen as an equalizer. How we use that time is often an earmark of what is important to us, how we prioritize, our overall attitude about the value of time, and, to a certain extent, how we qualify—not just quantify—our own value (as measured by time). It is the latter that can create problems when it seeps into the world of freelancing.

Know the importance of your time

Failure to recognize the importance of one’s own time can lead to underpricing, lack of fair compensation, and being overwhelmed by the process of entrepreneurship. Whether someone is just starting out as a freelancer or has been freelancing for decades, it is important to see one’s time as valuable. It can be, I contend, even more valuable than the service or good that you are monetizing.

When we don’t embrace the importance of our time, we run the risk that other people will take advantage of us; we may waste our time on things that have no value added; or we may find ourselves exhausted and burnt out because we don’t have enough time to complete projects or to enjoy our lives outside of work. Obviously, none of these are desirable outcomes.

Desirable outcomes are ones that lead to satisfactory results. Completing a project in an efficacious manner, adding a new service to your wheelhouse, mastering a skill, and/or gaining the respect and trust of customers reflect time well spent.

As much as we may wish that there were reboot, rewind, or even pause buttons in real life, there are not. The best way to offset devaluing your time is embracing time as the natural resource that it is.

And that is why it is important that you invest your time wisely and protect it. It truly is a precious and finite resource. Perhaps this is the lesson that my late father was really trying to teach me.

Tyra Seldon Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education.