May 3, 2022
Time is money. Really?
Everyone says “time is money”. But few people ever treat their time with as much care as their money.
Here is another way in which time is a lot more like money. Every time you take the decision to procrastinate, you are effectively incurring “time debt”.
Like financial debt, it accumulates. Every time you choose not to do a task that is due, you have created a liability for yourself. The longer you keep it unfinished, the harder it becomes to do.
Unpaid loans have interest. Procrastinated tasks have consequences. And like interest, these consequences become worse the longer you keep delaying the tasks.
Why is this important?
Like financial debt, if not handled with care, you can enter a vicious cycle of debt. You probably know people who have so much financial debt that they are only able to make the minimum payments on their loans. You may also know some people who are constantly fire-fighting with their work. Barely able to keep up with hundreds of little tasks, they are running on a treadmill with the illusion of being productive.
Ironically, they no longer find the time to spend on the handful of strategic tasks that can get them out of the situation. Like the often-repeated story of the workers in an ancient city who kept rebuffing the man who wanted to introduce them to the wheel, because they were too busy trying to move things by painfully dragging them across the land.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
Life is often a game of decisions: short-term pain vs long-term gain. Should I buy this pair of jeans for $200 or save this money for a rainy day? Time management is about making the same decisions with your available time. Every hour of every single day.
You don’t always have to make the “good” decision every time. In fact, smart people will often weigh the odds and sometimes decide that not doing something right now is a better use of their time, because something else is more important. The key difference is that they make a conscious decision and are aware of the potential consequences of delaying this task.
Your analogy is stupid!
These concepts may not be for everyone. Certain tasks, such as creative work, usually require an inherent degree of flexibility when it comes to time. Again, if you are someone who does this kind of work regularly, you will be acutely aware of the trade-offs when you make this choice. Even graphics designers need to pay their bills on time and if you get carried away with your latest masterpiece and forget to pay the credit card bill, you pay the price in the form of penalties.
Getting off the hamster wheel
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of time-debt, getting off it requires some dedication. Here’s the most important thing you can do: prioritise. Use the importance/urgency quadrant to help you make your decisions. A full description of these techniques is beyond the scope of this article, but there are plenty of resources available if you are committed to managing your time better.