You’ve probably heard this phrase before: “Pay yourself first.” It generally applies in a financial context when we set aside money for savings before we pay our bills, expenses and even taxes. It is sound counsel, but I wonder if most of us take full advantage of it. Setting aside money today builds equity and security for tomorrow – sometimes a “tomorrow” that is a long way off.

Consider another “pay yourself first” strategy that can reap massive returns in the long term and the short term. Apply this strategy to a different asset: time. Time may be the only real asset we have in life. In essence, we buy everything with time. Pay yourself first … in time. If you don’t, you’ll always be chasing it.

What are the things that you “just don’t have time for” every day? Exercise, reading, a proper meal, a good night’s sleep, a shared experience with a loved one? What do you forgo at work? They are all short-term liabilities to failing to pay ourselves first in time allocation. What about the long-term costs? Poor health, anxiety or depression, failed relationships, a flat career trajectory … failing to pay yourself before others can carry a very real cost of lifelong lost opportunities.

Let’s do something different:

  1. Make a list. Ask the people close to you what they have heard you say that you didn’t have time for in the last 90 days. Write them down; don’t argue, debate or rationalize. Pick one that matters to you.
  2. Schedule the time. Put that item in your calendar every day, every week and every month for the next 90 days. Whether you schedule it during or after working hours, put it in writing – and publish the commitment to whomever matters.

Pay yourself first. The asset is yours to invest as you see fit. Most of us can carve out and reallocate a full 10 percent of every day – and we don’t even miss it. Do it now.