Time is Money: Are You Robbing from Tomorrow to Pay Today?

Clocks via The New York Times

“When people are juggling time, they are doing something very similar to when they’re juggling finances. It is all scarcity juggling. You borrow from tomorrow, and tomorrow you have less time than you have today, and tomorrow becomes more costly. It’s a very costly loan.”

Scarcity co-author Eldar Shafir

The quote above is from a fascinating article by Maria Konnikova in the New York Times called No Money, No Time. Konnikova talks about how under conditions of scarcity of money or time, we focus on what we lack, and we are often furiously playing catch-up just to stay afloat, unable to effectively plan (or save) for the future. According to the Scarcity authors, there are three types of poverty: money, time and bandwidth.

Konnikova explains them in more detail:

The first is the type we typically associate with the word. The second occurs when the time debt of the sort I incurred [focusing on immediate deadlines at the expense of future tasks] starts to pile up.

And the third is the type of attention shortage that is fed by the other two: If I’m focused on the immediate deadline, I don’t have the cognitive resources to spend on mundane tasks or later deadlines. If I’m short on money, I can’t stop thinking about today’s expenses — never mind those in the future. In both cases, I end up making decisions that leave me worse off because I lack the ability to focus properly on anything other than what’s staring me in the face right now, at this exact moment.

The article provides a fascinating and humbling look at the cognitive load facing those under financial stress; while efficiency and delegation systems are nice-to-have solutions for people with means, those who are poor cannot simply throw money at their time and bandwidth problems (by hiring help, for example).

Are You Robbing from Tomorrow to Pay Today?

“Time is the most valuable thing that a man can spend.” 
Diogenes Laërtius

For those of us who are not in financial poverty, it is still all too easy to go about days, weeks and months as a Reactive Randy (yes, I just made that up). Getting sucked into the void of email, social media, list posts, text messages, and TV shows, it can be incredibly difficult to pull ourselves out by our time and bandwidth bootstraps and invest in what really matters.

Today I invite you to consider:

  • Are you hoarding or over-spending your time each day, or purposefully investing it?
  • Are you creating systems that will free up more time for what matters most?
  • What are the bottlenecks in your time or bandwidth bank accounts that you could take one small step toward improving?

Ditch Martyr Mode

“Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to.” —Lao Tzu

As those who read my Inside Scoop know, someone recently asked me how I justify making time to read in the morning, or to take a yoga class in the middle of the afternoon. My first response was, why not?! I'm riding the roller coasters of running my own business—the least I can do is take care of myself and craft my day in a way that makes sense for me.

I'm not big on the whole martyr mode of "WOE IS ME, I have to work on my business 24/7 without rest or everything will collapse." For two reasons:

1. In the end, these routines only BOOST my creativity, energy, and most strategic thinking. The deeper answer is that I've created routines and systems that are optimized for my best possible output. 

2. You've all heard the cliché "work smarter, not harder." I believe stressors, bottlenecks, and looooong hours are little cries about a systems problem in my business. Beyond scheduled calls (and outside of major launches), if something is causing tremendous stress or making me feel like I have to work around the clock, it's likely that I need to take a step back and figure out how to systematize or automate my processes better. 

No matter what financial situation you find yourself in, I suggest we all take a moment to check-in and consider our approach to time and bandwidth as the precious finite resources they are.

While it doesn't make sense to obsess over our time indefinitely, perhaps you go about the rest of your week as an observer: notice what causes stress, what you want more of, and what you want less of. Then you can move into troubleshooting mode with a greater awareness about how you want to consciously spend your days.

For more resources on time and systems, check out:

I'd love to hear from you in the comments:

What is one small change you can make today that will have the biggest impact on how you spend your time?