Time Bandits

Yachts and jewels are all well and good, but nowadays the ultimate luxury is extra time. Here’s how to get some.


One of the joys of being super rich is thinking up new ways to flaunt your wealth. For the Medicis and the robber barons, palaces and art were the trophies of choice; for Larry Ellison and Roman Abramovich, massive yachts do the trick. But in today’s hyperactive, overscheduled world, more and more squillionaires have their eyes on a different kind of prize: free time. Days, hours and minutes are the new currency, the units by which the very successful measure their worth. So how does one perfect the art of time hogging? Here, a few tips from the masters:

Delegate. Name any task—somewhere, a billionaire is outsourcing it. One well-known mogul favors shabby chic cashmere sweaters but doesn’t have the patience to let them get slightly worn at the elbows, so he employs a man to wear them around for him first.

Delegate the delegating. Anyone with household help knows that, unfortunately, staff are people too. Employees have emotions and think everyone else wants to hear about them. No, no, no. Take a cue from the Victorian grandees, who kept their minions below stairs and under the thumb of a highly paid head butler. Hire an in-house shrink to listen to your staffers’ complaints and an aide to sort out their schedules.

Don’t read—digest. Never waste time even opening a book. Be like the high-flying producer who summons writers and thinkers to his office to give him highlights of their work.

Jump the gun. One British filmmaker keeps a closetful of gift baskets to dispatch the moment he hears about a friend’s new baby or award. These baskets contain cashmere throws and other generic treasures, along with presigned cards. The filmmaker knows that others might spend more time looking for meaningful gifts—but that time is wasted, since everyone remembers the first present to arrive.

Prebook. Not sure where you want to go on holiday next year? Save time and avoid weeks of stress later on by booking all the nice islands and villas now, just in case. After all, you can afford to lose the deposit, and you’ll be glad to see everyone else lose sleep.

Don’t divorce. When will people learn? A divorce is the surest way to waste time, emotion and money. Instead of trading in your spouse for a new model, just stay married and have affairs. Jimmy Goldsmith had it right when, during his third marriage, to Annabel Birley, he said that marrying a mistress just creates a vacancy.

Skip the party. Fundraisers are tantamount to torture and should be avoided at all costs. Giving money directly to charities makes one feel much better and saves on taxes. So send a donation to that good cause now, and skip the benefit. At a recent fundraiser, a powerful hedge fund manager was seen twiddling his thumbs while Elton John treated the crowd to a significant percentage of his repertoire. “Just during ‘Candle in the Wind’ I could have closed a deal in Shanghai,” the financier said with a huff. “Next year I’ll pay Elton to do one song and get out of here.”

Simplify. Truly successful people understand that time really is money; they’ve streamlined their lives accordingly and won’t waste a moment on fripperies. When Warren Buffett, the richest man on the planet, went to China with his close friend Bill Gates, he took along a hamburger chef. What? Burgers in Beijing? Well, imagine the amount of time he saved by not arguing with Gates over which restaurants to try. In the Forties, Miriam Rothschild, a brilliant self-taught scientist, believed that the real reason women lagged behind men was not because they were downtrodden but because they spent too much time buying clothes and choosing hairstyles. She wore only Wellington boots, had one style of dress and pulled her hair back in a chignon. And she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her services to science.

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