The phrase “time is money” certainly gets our attention, because money is, well … so darn valuable. But an intriguing idea (and one gaining more and more traction in our time-challenged world) is using money to buy back time.

Unfortunately, we’re often forced to spend our scarce time on things that just aren’t valuable to us: getting stuck in traffic jams, waiting at the doctor’s office, or being placed on lengthy telephone holds (although, of course, “Your call is important to us.”). The key, then, is to invest your time instead of simply spending your time. Here are some tips that may help:

Step 1: Total up the time-wasters. Squandered opportunities and wasted energy add up fast. Just one wasted hour a day equals five hours per work week and 250 hours per 50-week year. That’s 25 work days! Take a period of time, say three days to a week, and record your typical activities.  At the end of that period, pull out your list and ask yourself where your time is not being well-spent. How much time did you spend commuting, sitting in unproductive meetings, reading redundant reports, checking social media, etc.? This time isn’t ensuring your financial security or bringing you closer to realizing personal and professional goals.

Then, take those time-wasters and look for ways to get rid of them. Delegate them, outsource them, find a more productive way of doing them, or eliminate them altogether.

Step 2: Make your time more valuable. Take that unproductive time you identified in Step 1 and invest it. Use some of your commute time to listen to the latest business audio book. Take one of those hours that you spend chatting on Facebook and invest it in doing something for your business. What if you used that hour to make cold calls … write sales letters … take an online business course? As you re-allocate your time, make sure you keep the end in mind. Invest your time in making connections, building relationships, helping customers, earning referrals, following up on leads and making sales.

Step 3: Trade dollars for time. We’re used to trading time for dollars (just ask an hourly worker). But the idea here is to use your money to buy back some time. Sure, you could tie up weeks struggling to upgrade a decrepit IT system in-house — or you could call in a consultant with the specialized knowledge to get it done and invest the time saved to prepare for a key sales call. You can also make wise time/money choices that improve your personal life. Instead of spending Saturday morning cleaning a week’s worth of clutter, you could invest in a cleaning service to come in once a week. In the end, you’ve traded some money to take back your Saturday mornings for something more valuable (like family time).

Make Your Time Worthwhile

Once you start thinking about time as your most valuable asset, it will be easier to re-prioritize your schedule and your workload. The key is to invest your valuable time in projects that have long-term value, and avoid projects with one-off gains. Think about how you can develop more efficient systems that can save you time.

And before mindlessly jumping into an activity just because it “has” to be done, ask yourself what’s in it for you. Will it provide you with a useful skill? Will it add to the company’s bottom line or help with future growth? Is it truly worth your time?