Budget Your Time Like You Budget Your Money

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What I am about to share with you is somewhat random drivel about a topic that has been very important to me in 2018 – time. I am anything but an expert on it; and in fact, as you’ll see, this is something I fail in and am trying to fail less.

I recently read Make Time, written by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, two ex-Google engineers who worked on Gmail and YouTube. The book is written by geeks for geeks like me (and probably the majority of my readers). Jake and John provide very insightful tips of how to “make time.” Also, they made me look at technology companies and time from a slightly different perspective.

Think about Proctor & Gamble, Hershey, Nestle – the old giants of the late 20th century. If you were an engineer or chemist working for one of those companies, you probably loved your job, creating products consumers were delighted to spend more and more money on. Be it instant coffee, TV dinners, or exotic things covered in chocolate. The more successful you were, the more of your company’s products consumers bought and thus the more dollars they spent.

But today, the majority of products sold by Silicon Valley companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are not sold in stores; and even more importantly, consumers don’t pay for them with dollars but rather with what is seemingly the cheapest commodity of all: time, which, ironically, is the scarcest commodity.

Google’s, Facebook’s, and Twitter’s business models are not much different from those of TV networks like ABC, CBS, and NBC: They provide you “free” content and you pay for it with your time, thus allowing Proctor & Gamble to pitch you its new soap. However, there are two distinct differences between TV networks and the Silicon Valley giants: First, there’s the question of privacy – technology companies know hundreds of times more about you than old media companies did. And secondly, TV networks may only have access to you an hour or two in the morning and four hours in the evening; but Google, Facebook, and Twitter are on your mobile device, which is with you 24/7 – they even follow you into the bathroom.

I don’t buy into rhetoric that these companies are evil; not at all, these companies are one ego trip away from turning into Myspace. They are certainly not as evil as Coke, which incessantly advertises that drinking its products will make you feel like a million dollars and help you get along socially, meanwhile turning the masses into caffeine and sugar addicts and contributing mightily to the global diabetes epidemic. But the Silicon Valley giants who employ engineers who love what they do definitely want to create products that you will be enticed to use and find quite addicting.