You might have rolled your eyes in my previous post when I listed my current allocation of time. Of course I’m more relaxed now, I’m only working 20 hours per week, as compared to the 50+ I was working at my last full-time job!
But I want to be very clear about those hours. I work approximately 20 hours per week on projects that pay cash now. I use the remainder of my “free” time to invest in a variety of activities that I consider productive and valuable. Some of the time I spend is on projects and activities whose cash value might be realized in the future.
This was the case when I started BabyNameWizard.com. It took several years of investing my time before BabyNameWizard.com paid me cash. In the meantime, as my investment of time in BabyNameWizard.com accrued future cash value, it also helped increase my “K-factor,” or knowledge multiplier. (I’ll discuss “K-factor” in a future post, but the basic gist is that a higher K-factor makes you more valuable to others, thus increasing the rate you can charge or the variety of activities for which you can charge.) Even if BabyNameWizard never realized the future cash value I hoped for, the experience I gained starting my own business, learning new technologies and business practices and connecting with entrepreneurs, investors, technologist and companies and individuals marketing to moms, made me more valuable to others. The time invested in BabyNameWizard.com expanded my range of consulting opportunities and increased the rate I could charge for my time.
Other productive activities I invest my time in have no current cash value and no future value, but they have other types of intrinsic value. We live in a culture so dominated by measuring value in cash terms, it is almost impossible for us to wrap our heads around the concept of intrinsic value. If we can’t put a cash value on something, we assume it is less valuable than something else that we can put a cash value on. Which is weird, since the things we cherish most we call “priceless.”
Just as I developed the concept of K-factor to illustrate the multiplying effect of skills and experience, I have developed a methodology to quantify intrinsic value. Activities with intrinsic value might be rewarding in terms of strengthening relationships, improving the lives of others or satisfying and intellectual, spiritual or creative concerns.
Not only is there nothing wrong with devoting time to activities that don’t pay back in cash, I believe it is necessary for our humanity. I believe that one of the problems many of us face in the world of salaried work is the fact that someone else owns our time, and ultimately, that means work always has to come first. I haven’t seen any particular research in this area, but I would be very curious to see if it were possible to craft a study to help us understand how important it is for people to 1) have control over how they spend their time and 2) have significant time available to devote to activities that have no cash value, but have intrinsic value.
Let me illustrate with a somewhat dramatic example from my own life, but one I think you will be able to relate to. I had just started a new (full-time, salaried) job and the first week, I was assigned to a client project with a small team and a deliverable just one week away. Friday at 6:30 rolled around and our client deliverable was not ready. The boss asked how we would get it done by close of business Monday. He stared at each team member and waited for each of us to say we would come into the office over the weekend or be available to meet by phone. I said nothing, and in fact, my part of the project was more or less done, though as the senior member of the team, it was expected that I would pick up the slack for the more junior staffers. When pressed about working the weekend, I said I would not be available at all. The fact was, I was driving to Pittsburgh that weekend to drop my stepson off at college and help him set up his new apartment. The boss was not pleased with me and this early incident remained an underlying source of friction between me and the boss, who, I should add, was a lovely, bright and thoughtful person. Three and a half months later, my stepson passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, his final moments spent in that apartment I set him up in on my first weekend at my new job.
It goes without saying that I do not regret my decision to choose family over work that first weekend at my new job. None of us knows what tomorrow holds, and if we don’t prioritize and value that which is most precious to us, really, how can we live with ourselves?