A common phrase in personal finance is “pay yourself first”. This phrase means that a person should have the money that he/she gets from his paycheck automatically deposited into some form of savings account such as for retirement. This automatic savings occurs before the person has the money to spend it on bills or discretionary purchases. The phrase gives you the feeling that you are treating yourself well financially just like you would treat yourself to a spa day to soothe your mind and body. It is a form of forced savings that prevents you from putting yourself in the situation where you have to choose between that pair of Lululemon yoga pants and saving for the future. Near term gratification tends to take precedent in most people’s lives.
Everything that I just stated you may have read before or heard about on some financial website. I had to briefly define it to introduce you to the new concept that I have developed. I believe that you should pay yourself with time. This means that as soon as you get off of work or out of class I want you to spend your time on working on a project that you love. This should not be misconstrued into rationalizing away time wasting activities such as going on Instagram; that is simply procrastination. I am not advocating for that. What I am saying is that you should spend your discretionary time on doing something that you love before you spend it on running errands or on the previously mentioned social media.
This idea can be compared to the practice that many forward thinking companies such as Google are implementing. These companies allow employees to spend about 10%-20% of their time on activities that they find interesting. Some of these projects end up becoming hugely profitable expansions for the companies. It isn’t that revolutionary for me to tell you that you should probably start that blog or that company that you have been thinking about in your head for the past 2 weeks. The reason why you haven’t already started that project is because you are tired, don’t have enough time, and aren’t motivated enough. Not only should you set aside time to work on these ideas, but you should also postpone your errands and even homework assignments to start doing these projects.
The idea is very similar to the concept that involves savings in that it forces you to do something that will improve your future. The idea is that you will still end up having enough money to pay your bills and you will probably just have slightly less money to spend on items that you don’t really need. This is the same with my concept; you will have enough time to get those errands done later and you will probably just have less time to make an unimportant, unnecessary Facebook status.
The fact is that errands and other activities that waste time are mentally draining. I know that whenever I go to places such as the US Postal Service it is always an adventure because I have filled out some form wrong or my package weighs an ounce too much. Once you get home from your task, you do not feel like working on your master plan that will take an immense amount of effort. Your brain wants to take a mental nap, not go into overdrive. This is why you must pay yourself first. What will happen is that you will work on your project for a couple of hours and then get your errands done. Afterwards you will simply have less time to go on Twitter and rant about how the store wouldn’t take back the jeans that you haven’t even worn because you didn’t have the receipt.
To give this piece a bit of a more personal touch, I will describe how I have used this concept in my own life. I have been using it my whole life, without even knowing it. When I was in high school, I would always spend time researching stocks instead of doing my homework or going to swimming practice on time. This may have led to me doing pushups before practice or spending time doing my homework when I should have been sleeping, but it allowed me to have way more knowledge about the financial markets entering college than most of my peers did. If I was faced with the decision to sleep or check out stocks on Seeking Alpha, I probably would have done the former. Because I worked on the task I loved and put some of the things I had to do on hold, I allowed myself to make progress. This idea is probably why I never return my college textbooks on time, but it is also the reason why I have over 300,000 page views on my financial articles on SeekingAlpha.com. I’ll take that tradeoff!
Maybe this article simply is telling you to do the things that you love and sleep less because of it. In that case you may have just wasted your time reading it which would be the antithesis of my goal for you! But if this article gives you a little motivation to start writing that short story that you have been tinkering with in your head then I will be satisfied and you will be too!