How many times have you caught yourself using the phrase “not enough hours in the day?” For me, it’s far more than I care to admit. The truth is that we all have the exact same number. 24. It’s how we choose to use those hours that sets us apart.
Everything we do comes with an “opportunity cost”. What exactly is that you ask? Well, from the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:
When economists refer to the “opportunity cost” of a resource, they mean the value of the next-highest-valued alternative use of that resource. If, for example, you spend time and money going to a movie, you cannot spend that time at home reading a book, and you can’t spend the money on something else. If your next-best alternative to seeing the movie is reading the book, then the opportunity cost of seeing the movie is the money spent plus the pleasure you forgo by not reading the book….
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the opportunity cost of time. I have come to ask, “is there something I can be doing now with my time that, ultimately, is more important or more valuable?"
Let’s put a dollar value on this. Assume you are making $100K/year. That’s approximately $50/hour. A “Breaking Bad” marathon is 38 hours of TV which is an effective “opportunity cost” of $1900.
No, the math isn’t perfect. That also assumes that you would be able to continue making that dollar figure during the hours you watch the show, but to my point it does have you consider the value of your time spent and whether there are other, more important activities you could do during that time.
I’m not a huge fan of working 24x7 and not everything needs to make financial sense. For example, I enjoy working on my own vehicle. Would it be a better use of my time to have somebody else repair my brakes? Absolutely, but I appreciate the mental change and feeling of accomplishment in doing it myself. Even binge-watching your favorite show could be the break you need to recharge and wind-down. Leisure activities are essential to mental and physical health.
However, we need to spend those few precious hours during the day in the most efficient and most productive manner possible. In Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one key lesson is to "Put First Things First." That means have the discipline to prioritize our day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent. This helps us implement the Pareto Principle - the observation that 80% of your results come from 20% of your time.
Spend your time on those things that you love to do and are great at. Spend your time on relationships and results. Delegate and outsource the rest.