Economics of Your Time

Economics of Your Time

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What Does "The Economics of Time" Actually Mean?

Today's topic is less about economics and more about how to make the most of our time. To best represent the concept, I'm using the phrase" The Economics of Time" or shortly put: time-economics. This is not how time affects economics in a literal sense. While that's a great topic, this is about making the most of the time we have on any given day.

At its core, this concept describes how we can make the most of our time with leverage. If you're unfamiliar with the term "leverage", it essentially means "to use." When business people say they want to leverage something, they really mean they want to use it.

If you want to leverage a new tool at work, that means you want to use it. When you want to leverage your capital, that means you want to use it in some way. Think of leverage as "to use" and you'll be right 99% of the time. FYI, don't say that at work. Leverage helps avoid saying we're "using" things (it's a bad look). Nobody wants to get called out about how "leverage internal resources" is another way of saying "use people."

The dilemma: If I focus all of my energy on today, how can I also have time to think about, and plan for tomorrow? What's the best way to use our time? How does taking advice play into this? How do I know I'm actually making the most of my time?

Let's get into it.

When to take people's advice, and when to trust yourself:

There is no better use of your time than listening to someone who can share information that saves you years of struggling to figure things out.

While the Herculean task of getting people to take awesome advice remains, we still want great advice (but not all advice is great).

The worst thing that could happen: follow through on bad advice and fall further and further behind trying to achieve your goals.

So let's talk about a practical example of this.

Take advice from people who are "ahead," just not too far ahead:

I don't believe in the concept that people are ahead of each other in life; however, I do believe it in business. In business, someone may be, literally, where we want to be in a few years. Some people are where we want to be in five, ten, fifteen, and twenty.

When someone is too far ahead, don't bother taking their advice too seriously. Sure, internalize and remember, but don't think about literally applying everything they say (until you've gathered many opinions - more on this later).

Why? They're out of touch. Someone who's been CEO for 10 years at a business worth billions may have advice for you, and it may be good, but it's not as applicable (most of the time), because of the big gap between the two of you.

The Advice Sweet Spot:

Take advice from people who are two to four stages ahead of your career, business, or goals.

Want to become a director at your company? Easy to see who to take advice from (people doing it or have done it recently). Want to scale your business to your first million? Plenty of people who've done it.

When I was in sales, it was to take advice from my Director. He had lived and breathed through what I was going through. He knew the clients, the process, our company, and how to succeed in both what I was doing now and what I wanted to do tomorrow.

The closeness of our experiences made his advice extremely relevant, so I took it.

Jason Lemkin considered the "godfather" of software as a service (SaaS), describes the same in a small but impactful post of his on Medium. Essentially, someone above him who's also done what he's done recommended he take on the role of leading their HR team. He'd never done it, didn't know much about it, but trusted that advice and did it anyway. His career is proof enough that it worked for him.

Imagine how his career might have changed (been slowed down), had he stuck to his own thoughts and ignored that advice? How much further ahead did he get for taking sound advice from someone who's done what he's done and is doing what he wants to do.

It applies to all of us.

Aside from my own director, I sought advice from many different VPs, CEOs, and more. The advice was good, but not as relevant. It just didn't apply. It's that simple.

They were talking about CRM processes, proposal teams, and more. I was on a one-person team with a director who helped me and that was it. I wrote every proposal, held every conversation alone, and managed everything myself.

They were too "far" from me and what I was actually doing.

The sweet spot is again, two to four stages above you, having recently done what you're doing and what you want to do in the near future.

Not all great advice is from above:

In my research of succeeding in sales, I realized that there were people doing what I was doing, but in different industries. Namely, software salespeople struggled with what I struggled with closely enough for me to look in their direction for tips.

To sell, I needed to book sales conversations with my potential clients. But I didn't have the network my director or CEO had. No amount of advice could give me that either.

I did have email though, and there were no better cold-emailers than software sales teams. These people had a meeting-generating machine working for them. Naturally, if I took the industries out of the narrative, and focused just on outcomes, I saw they achieved what I wanted en-masse.

So I sought their advice, and it worked.

When you can't look up to find all the answers from above, look side-to-side, and seek advice only from those you're sure to achieve what you want to achieve in real-time.

It turns out, that giving and receiving advice (whether up, down, to the side or across industries), is actually a critical success factor for upward mobility (a fancy way of saying "getting a bigger higher paying job"). Harvard Business Review covered this in extreme detail, check it out!

In that essay, HBR describes the mutual benefits of great advice, how hard it is to teach (near impossible), and why it separates the good from the great.

How Advice Impacts The Economics of Time:

One month of researching the meeting-generating machine that was the software sales teams of the world easily put me ahead by 800k that year. My income goals were closer, work satisfaction was better, and I felt like I was winning.

All from taking advice from two sources. Someone who had done both: what I'm doing and what I want to do, and people who are achieving what I want to achieve today.

The latter is tricky for most because it means swallowing your pride and asking for help from people on the same "level" as you are. Most can't do that. Worse yet, most don't even know who on their level is achieving what they want to achieve.

The advice can speed things up (achieving goals sooner), or slow things down (follow bad advice for two months and watch what happens).

Great advice applied in compounding fashion can move you a lifetime or two ahead towards your goals.

And now you know where to find it.

What if there's no one above and no one side-to-side? Who do I seek advice from?

First, seek out these people. DMs on Twitter work (I've done it and talk about how I do it in my letters to subscribers).

Second, read.

That's it. Find the thousands of years' worth of advice documented in books and study them. That works well, but you'll need decent comprehension and conceptual ability to make the most of it.

Wish I had a better answer, but if I can get out of 150k in debt by reading and applying what's in books, you can achieve your goals doing the same.

I am publishing the 2021 learning blueprint this month to my emails subs so if you can't get advice but want to learn how to learn, you can subscribe there.

When to Stick to an Idea, and When To Go Next:

Look: you know time is limited and there's an inherent pain investing in something for no return and letting it all go into the abyss.

The classic is starting a new business but doesn't make any real money for a year or two. Keep going or move on to the next idea? Another is buying a drink you don't like. You'll feel like you have to drink it or else it's a "waste of money."

You spent the money either way. Suffer or not through your drink is your choice.

Let's get into it.

It's not about the outcome, it's about the trajectory:

It's easy to compare yourself to someone else and see how they're so "far ahead" even though they have the same twenty-four hours. It's also true that they probably make better use of their time, and that's okay. Not everyone has to be "on" all the time. More importantly, not everyone starts with the same baseline.

Ideas are working when the results are on the right trajectory. Working out helps you get into shape, but slowly. The business makes money, but slowly. The list goes on. That's all okay too.

Look: as cliche as it is, you're competing with your previous self. If you can produce tiny gains consistently they will compound over time.

There's no easy way to say it, but if you're struggling with something no one else is struggling with, you'll have to overcome that burden.

The good news is that you'll be much better off for it. Like water through a filter, it will be purer on the other side. Some people who have more to deal with are just stacking filters one on top of the other. Eventually, when the water's moved through them all, it'll be that much purer.

Good ideas have optionality built-in.

If you've spent years on something and letting it go leads to having absolutely nothing to show for it, that means it was a bad idea in the first place.

Having options is the opposite of attachment. If you want to make sure your ideas are good, firstly, don't attach yourself to the idea. Attach yourself to the outcome and don't have the method to achieve that outcome remain optional.

Go next if whatever you're doing has no other options. If it's your business, as is, and it's not making money while having no other way of operating, let it go.

Stick to the idea if you can make moves. Your business isn't working but you can quickly pivot to selling a new item or service? Keep the business and try something new.

That's why getting in shape is always a good idea. Even if you don't hit your goal weight or PR, you're still in better shape than when you started.

If running isn't working, you can try swimming or lifting. There's always another way to get in shape. We don't become attached to running, we become attached to getting in shape and trying new workouts when old ones stop working.

You've invested the time. Either go next quickly or sit and suffer through the same 💩 that's not working. Even the tiniest forward progress is progress and worth continuing.

I encountered this often as a freelance writer, and The Writing Cooperative published an amazing visual to help navigate the complexities of quitting or sticking.

Even if you're not a writer, read this anyway. You'll notice the only thing I've mentioned that they haven't is the importance of trajectory.

How Quitting or Sticking Applies to The Economics of Time:

This one is obvious.

Everyone wants more for their time. More money, memories, opportunities, experiences. We've naturally become a society of "more" and fighting that is rather difficult.

Thinking that your money is wasted for not drinking that terrible drink is wrong. Money's gone. Your time works the same way. In fact, spending time doing something you know won't work is the worst you can do the Economics of Your Time.

How I Balance Right Now & The Future:

Most people find their edges (ways of getting ahead) in what they're great at. Great salespeople sell, writers write, singers sing, and that's how they achieve their goals.

But the reason they fell in love with their craft fades away. Do you know that feeling?

How many salespeople are left bitter? How many writers see their former hobby as a money-making past-time they dread because it's lost that once wonderful lustre? The list goes on.

How many people lose their childlike wonder and curiosity? Remember the first time you found something you loved so much you wish you could find it again? The feeling didn't stop because of age. The feeling stopped because you stopped looking, finding, and trying new things.

My approach: I find things I love so much it feels like I'm playing and do that until I'm great at it. Then, I play and adjust and focus only on the thing I love doing and keep going. If I stop loving it, I go next.

The game is to continue doing what I love and maintaining that state of play so much so that I literally do it non-stop like I'm playing a game I'm obsessed.

Am I worried about the future? Of course. As long as I do what I love, I'll happily continue my daily grind without losing sight of my future.

Should interest fade, I'm okay stopping because my curiosity helps me find new things I love. Ironically, because I don't become attached to the things I do, my daily life actually doesn't overtake my mindshare. Work doesn't become a chore and playing video games helps me make money.

This topic is actually what I recorded recently as the trailer to my upcoming podcast. It's a daily audio diary of the ups, downs, highs, and lows of my professional life (that I'm sure will sometimes get personal).

If you want to what's going on, and how I learn these lessons, subscribe and join me on the journey. I'm sure it'll help you find clarity and success through your professional journey as well.

Thanks for reading.