Pay yourself first, in time

I’m currently reading the excellent Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman and came across the idea of 'Pay Yourself First', but applied to time.

I was already aware of the concept of paying yourself first with regards to income. For those who aren't though, this states that as soon as you get paid, take a small amount, for me it’s 10%, and before you do anything else, squirrel this away. Do this every time you earn your money, and pretty soon you won't even notice the reduction. You'll be able to save money, build your emergency/FU fund, or save for a big item without hitting the credit card. By contrast, if you wait till the end of the month and pay yourself last, after everything else has gone, you’ll find nothing left. Just as work expands to fit the time allotted, so spending can easily expand to fill the size of your bank balance.

But I hadn't really thought about the consequence of using this for my time. By paying myself first, I can actually decide to do those things that are important to me, and to make time for them, before the day swallows up my precious moments and I arrive at the evening, again wondering why I haven’t made progress on something important to me, or just done something worth writing in my journal about.

As I get older, I’m more acutely aware of the finite time I have. I’m more easily made grumpy by the realisation of just how much of my precious and limited time is not mine to spend as I choose. Some of the solutions to this problem will be found by re-examining how I spend time. How much I waste, how much I allow to be stolen from me by social media or other pointless addictions. Others may be found by looking at the time commitment required for how I earn my wage and whether a change here is needed. These are all medium to long term.

But short term, I can be more time-selfish. I can do one thing, first of all each day, that I choose to do. Something that makes me happy, is good for me, or pushes one of my goals forwards.

As an example, running does this. Going out before work to exercise in fresh air fits the bill. So does walking my hound. So does reading a book. It’s interesting to look back in my journal and notice how many good days were good, because they started well, with me paying myself first, in time. 

As the years go on, I’m getting to see that living a good life, is not so much about money, it’s about freedom. And without time freedom I have little opportunity to live a good life.

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