Time management expert Laura Vanderkam, whose new book Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done is out today, taught me something special: Time is your own precious resource. I wrote in The Ultimate Bite-Sized Entrepreneur that your money comes and goes, reputation rises and falls, and entrepreneurial ventures die to become born again. Time, though, ain't coming back.
When Vanderkam interviewed me for the book, she summarized my style with a new term: "time dividends". Couldn't have said it better myself. Here's what we mean.
Invest now, build later
Here's Vanderkam breaking down time dividends in Off The Clock:
Brown's insight is this: certain things we do in the present can open up space in the future. These investments of time pay off again and again, much like a stock can pay an annual dividend.
You build today to have more time efficiency tomorrow. Think about it: What's difficult today after rote practice will become faster to do, and that efficiency gives you more space over time. Imagine if you practiced a particularly arduous, but necessary task for days, months or even years. The time necessary to do it would slowly get compressed, folded like so many layers of lasagna.
As Vanderkam shares in the book, the efficiency component gave me the space to found two businesses, including the acquired app Cuddlr, and be the primary caretaker of my baby while maintaining my writing and speaking career within a 15-hour work week. I only had experience in one area (you can guess which one!), but my professional writing career went back two decades. The dividends were paying off.
Why we don't invest in time
This isn't revolutionary. If you sit with it, then it makes sense that putting time into our most important, time-intensive skillsets will save our schedules later. So why don't we do it?
It's worth looking at Disrupt Yourself author Whitney Johnson and the S Curve. Also known as the learning curve, the S Curve means you have poor efficiency and struggle when you start, better efficiency and less struggle as you learn and, lastly, maximum efficiency and little to no struggle when you achieve mastery. (The 10,000 hours theory popularized in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers is in this category, too, though, as I argue in my latest book, that isn't always true.)
The problem is that we want our rewards now. How about you break your back working on a frustrating, but necessary skill so you can earn an extra five hours to your week in 2023? That's why we don't do it.
The beauty is we are actually giving space for future success. Keep in mind that AirBnB launched just ten years ago, Whatsapp nine years ago and Snapchat seven years ago. Five years ago, I wasn't even a TED speaker, nevertheless an entrepreneur.
If you aren't maximizing your efficiency today, then how can you even make space for those ideas that will surprise and those opportunities that will arrive? Get your systems in place, double down on your strengths and put your time dividends to work now. Your future self will thank you.
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