Time is the Limiting Factor


“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” —

Time is all you’ve got.  Spend it wisely.  It’s a limited resource.

It’s also a unique resource.  There’s nothing like it.  You can’t buy more of it.

The best you can do is make the most of the time you have.

Value Your Time

When you value your time, it forces you to prioritize more effectively.  You’re always making trade-offs.  When you value your time, you enjoy the time you spend.

The moment is all you have.  When you realize that time is a limiting factor, you find ways to save time.  Rather than throw more time at problems, you find better techniques.

In The Essential Drucker, Peter Drucker writes about how time is the limiting factor.

What Effective People Know

Effective people know that time both one of the most valuable resources and one of the most limited resources.

Drucker writes that time is the limiting factor.

Via The Essential Drucker:

“Effective people know that time is the limiting factor.  The output limits of any process are set by the scarcest resource.  In this process we call ‘accomplishment’, that resource is time.”

Yesterday’s Time is Gone Forever

Time is always exceedingly in short supply.

Via The Essential Drucker:

“Time is also a unique resource.  One cannot rent, hire, buy, or otherwise obtain more time.  The supply of time is totally inelastic. 

No matter how high the demand, the supply will not increase. 

There is no price for it and no marginal utility curve for it.  Moreover, time is totally perishable and cannot be stored.  Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back.  Time is, therefore, always in exceedingly short supply.”

There is No Substitute for Time

You can’t substitute it.  All you can do is use it better.

Via The Essential Drucker:

“Time is totally irreplaceable.  Within limits we can substitute one resource for another, copper for aluminum, for instance.  We can substitute capital for human labor.  We can use more knowledge or more brawn.  But there is not substitute for time.”

Everything Requires Time

Everything requires time and it’s a unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resource.

Via The Essential Drucker:

“Everything requires time.  It is the only truly universal condition.  All work takes place in time and uses up time. 

Yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resource.  Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.”

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Time is the limiting factor.  You might have an endless supply of ideas or things you want to do.  Time is your limiting factor.  When you realize time is limited, you spend more time on what’s important to you and less time on what isn’t.   You also focus on improving your energy to make the most of the time you have.   When you know time is the limiting factor, you spend  it on the right things and make the most of each moment.  When you realize time is limited, you savor the moments you have.
  • Time is a unique resource.  It’s irreplaceable.  You can’t make more of it.  There’s no substitute for it.
  • Everything takes time.   Everything you do, uses up time.  Make time for what’s important.  Get rid of things that aren’t.  This includes making time for free time if that’s important to you.

Although Drucker doesn’t call it out, I think that it’s important to think of time in terms of what you are thinking, feeling and doing.  For example, the time that you spend thinking about X vs. the time you spend doing X, or the time you spend feeling Y vs. feeling Z.

When you do this, you open up more options.

For example, there’s a technique called a Worry Break, where you limit the amount of time you spend worrying.

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Photo by Martyn Wright.


  1. Its interesting to think of time as an asset, a unique asset but an asset nonetheless. Reading this, I realized that I spend more energy thinking about asset allocation than time allocation. Yes I do my best to utilize my time effectively and I try to work as efficiently as I can, but I don’t allocate my time the same way I do my other assets. Perhaps I should think more carefully about time allocated to work, sleep, eating, recreation, exercise, etc. I bet it would be interesting to chart this out and see where I’m really spending my time and if that reflects my values.

  2. Hi J.D.

    I used to think Time is money, then I learned that Time is more than money. One can always make more money but no one can get more time.

    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  3. It took me many years to truly understand just how limited time is. Once I understood that I didn’t have an endless supply of it, I started prioritizing on both long-term and short-term levels, something that ambitious self-starters can benefit from greatly 😉

  4. Realizing time is more precious than money was one of the big moments in my life. I understood that I would rather spend time building my brand instead of going to see my favorite band (time and money).

    We make choices in our lives. We choose to go to work and make money for a company, building it’s brand (at least I do).

    I do this to learn, I’m not just worried about the money. I’m getting close to launching my own business (maybe a year away), but in the mean time I’m packing in every learning experience that I can into the time that I have so I can make my future business a success.

    Great points J.D.! We must stay aware of how we use our time.

  5. Time keeps on ticking, ticking ticking in to the future, thus quoted, wasn’t it Alan Parsons?

    How to manange it. I do confess I am doing good things with it at least 6 hours a day on average, and sleeping about 8. So my other hours need a bit of tidying up perhaps. But driving, that accounts for about 1.5 hours a day. What a time-suck. I need a nice limo with a driver so I can do productive things while he’s at the helm.

  6. @ Jason

    I like the way you put a fine point on it – time allocation. I also like your checkpoint – does your time allocation reflect your values. At a high level, that’s a basic check that’s served me well – am I spending the right time in the right places. It’s a quick sanity check that helps.

    @ Giovanna

    Nicely put – time is more than money. It really is.

    @ Melissa

    I like the fact you prioritize both long-term and short-term. I think it’s that balance that serves you well.

    @ Karl

    Right on. It’s about the choices. Time is precious and it sounds like you’re spending exactly where you choose to now, in a thoughtful and deliberate way. Way to go and it sounds like you’re on your path.

    @ Jannie

    I’ve always liked that perfect phrase … time does keep on ticking into the future.

    Short of a limo, maybe there’s a way to make the most of the time you’ve got. When I had a long drive, I really like the time alone for think time. I also used it to learn things. For example, I would listen to interviews with people that made me think. Other times, I’d just use the time to play my favorite songs.

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