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Investing Time vs. Spending Time

If I ask you how you spend your money, that's a very different question than if I ask how you invest your money. Your goals for spending and investing are different, and as a result your actions for each are different. So isn't it strange that we talk about how we spend time, but we never talk about how we invest time?

The interesting thing about investing time is that the distribution is much more uniform versus monetary wealth. Most people probably sleep for around 6-8 hours and work for around 8 hours, giving them another 8-10 hours to either invest or spend. Finances range much more wildly. Some people have negative net worths, so they can't even begin to think about investing, whereas others have billions of dollars. That spread means that ideal financial investment strategies will range wildly. Because we have such similar amounts of time, though, maybe there are some general principles that will be almost universally applicable.

Before we get into those strategies, though, let's talk about what investing time means. I'd define it as devoting time to an activity whose primary benefit won't immediately be realized. School is one example-- you can have a lot of fun in school and benefit immediately from it, but you're really going because you believe that it will pay off when you graduate. I'd say that school is sort of like investing in real estate. You can always use it for something, it's historically been a good investment, but it's a lot of leverae in one big investment, and recently hasn't performed as well.

Spending time with people and building relationships is an investment, not because that process isn't fun, but because the benefits of having strong long term friends are even greater than the immediate pleasure of hanging out with them. This could be analogized to investing in art-- you get to admire it every day, but the value of it increases over time as well.

Make Fewer Decisions to Produce More

I want to produce at a superhuman level. Looking back over a year, I'd like to wonder just how I got so much done in such a short period of time. At my best I can execute to that standard, but I'm not always at my best. It's possible to have this level of productivity by killing yourself and burning the candle at both ends, but that's not sustainable. I want high productivity to be my regular speed, not the absolute maximum I can sprint.

One big trick to improving productivity is minimizing the number of routine decisions you have to make in a day. These decisions are taxing to willpower and focus, so by eliminating them you can keep your reserves for the work that matters.I wear the same clothes every day. I never have to think about what to wear, and I never think about buying new clothes. I eat the same food every day, so I don't have to think about meals, cooking, or grocery shopping. I have fixed schedules for Sett (every day), writing (every day), gym (MWF), dinner with friends (Sunday), meditation (every day), language tapes (every day), and almost everything else I do regularly.

That means that every day I know exactly what I'm going to do, and I don't have to think about it or negotiate with myself. If I didn't have a schedule for all of those things, I would either not do them consistently, or I would drain my willpower every day just getting myself to start them. The power of eliminating all of those willpower-based decisions can't be overstated.

On a broader scale, I put long-term restrictions on myself to eliminate temptation, a precursor to draining decisions. I've restricted myself from making any effort towards meeting girls until 2015. I don't allow myself to consider big projects other than Sett. I specify external conditions to trigger actions, like deciding that I'll buy an airplane when it costs X% of my liquid net worth.

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