How we choose to spend our free time can dramatically influence us, our surroundings, and our future.
Some of our free time can be categorized as either creating or consuming. When you read a blog post, you’re consuming. When you read a book, you are consuming. Scrolling through a friend’s feed, that’s consumption. Follow the news? Consumption again!
Unless the consumption activity is rejuvenating, your time is probably better spent creating.
Creating is an active process. It requires presence of mind. Working through a series of decisions in order to reach a creative goal benefits you in many ways. Creating…
Even if you don’t obtain most of these benefits, your time was wisely spent. Growth is a process of trying and learning. Lessons learned through personal action will stick with you and benefit you for a long period of time.
There are infinite ways to create. With time you can find a medium you enjoy creating through.
Next time you catch yourself consuming, consider creating something instead.
This quote is from Kent Beck, a software developer and the creator of the extreme programming methodology.
Refactoring code can be a challenge. Software projects tend to grow with time. If left unchecked they can become unruly and hard to reason about. Spaghetti code is a term that’s never too far from such a mess.
In a way, this quote is saying “first do what you should have always been doing; being organized” and “then do what you came here to do in the first place (add a feature, fix a bug).”
Although the context here is software development, the spirit of the quote can be applied elsewhere. When I find myself stuck between differing choices I have to make, I’ll refer to this quote. I’ll ask myself “why is the decision difficult to make?” Inevitably it is because my thoughts are not organized and I am not adequately informed to feel comfortable with any decision.
I then take the time to do the work I should have done. After that, the decision tends to be much easier.
As a graduate student I was required to take a course on Operations Research. I decided I would study with someone who seemed to have it all figured out (since he was ruining the grading curve for all the other students). As we studied and discussed the various homework assignments it was immediately clear he had a deep understanding and fluency in the material, even though it was his first encounter with it. I asked him “How are you so good with math?” (I’ve always liked math). He replied: “Last summer I decided to relearn math from the beginning because I wasn’t happy with my understanding of it”. I asked “What did you start from? Calculs? Trigonometry? Heck, Geometry?” He said, “No, from the beginning”.
We’re always in a rush to get things done, to reach the next milestone. In our haste we leave gaps in our work, in our understanding. These missing gaps add up and compound over time, like debt with interest. Repayment will certainly cost time.
I still try to move fast, but I cut less corners.
The premise behind the saying “Time is money” is opportunity cost. Every moment you spend not working is the missed opportunity to earn money. But what will that money be used for? Opportunity cost can become even more obvious for time consuming tasks where delegating, and paying for it, will free up hours or days of work. If you’re a US citizen, I’m sure your thoughts lean in this direction when tax season fast approaches. Delegating to a tax professional is buying your time back. Put to work in this context, time is money.
What happens though when a deadline fast approaches? Again, let’s use US taxes. Although we can hire a tax professional, doing so will not change the deadline. It does not matter how much we’re willing to pay, money cannot buy that point in time, it can only buy our time.
Spend your money in such a way as to maximize your time, so that you can spend it the way you want.
Time and tide wait for no man
The phrase “work smarter, not harder” gets tossed around all the time. Unfortunately, the phrase suggests that working smart and working hard are mutually exclusive. One cannot do both. This interpretation is incorrect. But it doesn’t stop there. The phrase also gives weight to the notion that one should only work smart, and reduces the value of working hard.
There is much to gain through working hard and working smart. When working hard, in absence of working smart, one can build up mental and physical stamina to endure boring or laborious work. Through working smart, not hard, one can learn how to optimize work and how to ensure that the important work is managed.
Working hard and working smart, jointly, will almost certainly yield better results than either option independently.
Want to get more done? Try work working harder and smarter.