How should you spend a time windfall?

Rear view of a couple sitting on deck chairs enjoying vacation iStockphoto

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Things are starting earlier around my house these days. The sun is up before 6, and so, it seems, am I. This morning I found myself in a quiet house. I couldn't leave (my three kids were still asleep upstairs) but I did have unexpected me time.

As I was making my coffee and lingering over the newspaper, I realized that there are parallels between time and money windfalls. Many of us dream of winning the lottery, and ponder what we'd do with the cash. More prosaically, those who get tax refunds daydream about what they should do with that U.S. Treasury check. But while money is completely fungible -- a dollar spent on one thing can always be spent on something else -- time is harder to convert into our desires. We dream of free time, but when it shows up, it often looks like this:

- A 2-hour delay at the airport
- Waking up before your alarm
- A missed train
- The carpool is late bringing your kids home from soccer
- Your 2 p.m. meeting was cancelled
- A conference call is moved to tomorrow

You weren't planning on that unscheduled time, but there it is. So what will you do with it?

Just as with money, I recommend thinking this question through, because it helps clarify priorities. If you find yourself thinking "I'd love to read some Agatha Christie novels again, if only I had time," that's a good reason to load them up on your Kindle and start carrying your Kindle around. Because, inevitably, you will wind up with a time windfall somewhere. And unlike money, time will be spent on something, whether you choose to use it well or not.

How would you spend a time windfall? Share your tips in the comments below!

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