You Can’t Afford to Work More Than 40 Hours

Everyone knows that time is money. So why is it that money management and time management are two different topics? What happens when we apply an extremely common money management technique to time management? Your entire life changes.

The Power of Envelopes

The envelope system involves placing money into an envelope and then writing on the envelope what the money can be used for. When the envelope is out of money you can no longer do the things written on the envelope. Sometimes at the end of the month you have an envelope with money left over and another one that ran out of money a little too early so next month you do a better job of what envelope you put what money into.

Let’s say the same thing, but first run my handy find & replace tool to find money and replace it with time.

The envelope system involves placing time into an envelope and then writing on the envelope what the time can be used for. When the envelope is out of time you can no longer do the things written on the envelope. Sometimes at the end of the month you have an envelope with time left over and another one that ran out of time a little too early so next month you do a better job of what envelope you put what time into.

What’s that? Time is abstract and can’t be placed into envelopes? Well screw you, buzzkill, I did it anyway.

Why Bother Budgeting Time?

Let’s say every week your time income is 168 hours. You love getting 7 hours of sleep every night so you write sleep on an envelope and put 49 hours into it. We have 119 hours left. Where do you spend these hours in your life right now? Look at your life. Looooooook at it.

You may have noticed this already with your money income: if you don’t bother to budget your money you invariably end up wondering where it all went. You aren’t keeping track of the drinks you buy when you go out for dinner four nights a week. The sum of your iTunes purchases is a number that you do not know. There are plenty of opportunities to spend your money and there are plenty of people that want you to give your money to them. They don’t care about your budget and they won’t help you stick to it.

This is how time works, too. Your job might not care about your time budget. They want all of your time. They’re probably paying you for some of your time but every minute after that is gravy, so it’s in their best interest to get a lot of that gravy. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

When you budget your time like you budget your money you gain the greatest power known to man: the power to say no. Of your remaining 119 hours maybe you want to spend 40 of them at work. Don’t be a jerk, really truly try to work 8 hours a day. If you spend time sitting at work browsing facebook either budget for it separately or stop spending your work budget on it.

The Power of No

What can you do with ‘no’? Let’s say you’re tasked with a task and your company is calling this Task A because it is convenient to my analogy. (Thank you, company.) You’re close to finishing Task A and the company decides that Task B needs to get done by tomorrow. If you’re not budgeting your time you stay late and do both Task A and Task B. If you ARE budgeting your time this gets to happen.

Boss: I need you to do Task B by tomorrow, because the President of the United States wants to see it.
You: I’m scheduled to complete Task A tomorrow so if I do Task B it will delay that.
Boss: Well shit, do Task B and we’ll modify Task A so that it takes less time for you to complete. What is Task A anyway, putting the doo-dads on the gidgets? That’s just a nice-to-have.

Well look at YOU! This time stuff is viral. It made your boss modify his or her time budget on the spot to suit your time budget.

Finding the MVP

Making these sorts of decisions is good for your product. You probably want to launch your product with everything from Task A to Task Z. Your product has to be out by Christmas, so you can work 119 hour weeks or you can say no. You should say no because it turns out all your product needs to attract customers is Tasks A, B, C and Q. This is your Minimum Viable Product. If you launch with more than this you’re stupid. Once you have customers you have real data and you learn that they hate Task F. Nobody is even asking for Task J. Actually, everyone is asking for Task AA which you didn’t even think of.

A time budget is a great way to keep your eye on the MVP. You have to force yourself to make hard decisions so that you spend your time wisely rather than just spend your time. Next product you’ll move some time from one envelope to the other and the whole thing will be a lot easier.

And all your employees get to go home and see their loved ones.

3 thoughts on “You Can’t Afford to Work More Than 40 Hours

  1. Andrew

    Two minor nitpicks: bonuses and sprints.

    Sprints (to use the agile definition) are when everything suddenly gets OMGBUSY. Suddenly you need tasks R-Z done by tomorrow. And you can’t delay any of them. (Example: we need you to deal with these two fringe cases before the new iPhone comes out tomorrow. That literally happened to me on Thursday).

    You end up having to work extra, because of you don’t, and you go into production without those issues fixed, you’ll look bad and probably get fired. If you bust your ass, your boss will probably reward you with comp time (you CAN put time back in a different envelope) and hopefully a bonus.

    If you sacrifice when necessary, any company that awards bonuses will make note of that and dole out the cash as merited.

    1. Andrew Pellerano Post author

      Thanks for commenting other Andrew!

      Emergencies are inevitable, you should have an envelope labeled ‘Emergencies’ to deal with them. Take note of how often you are dipping into that envelope, though. People who are financially responsible rarely need their emergency fund because increased financial planning naturally decreases financial emergencies. The same is true for time.

      As for bonuses, money is not a motivator.

  2. brad

    Sure, andrews (if you are, in fact, two different andrews)… but the only difference with your emergency envelope for money and your envelope for time is that if you don’t waste your emergeny budget for 30 days in the month and then need it all that last day, you can use it! You can’t do the same with emergency time.. you can’t put aside 30m everyday for emergencies, and then if you have an incident the last day of the month get to use all that time.

    So instead I guess you’d need to budget extra time, buffer, at the end of a project to account for emergencies. I think that’s a fine solution, but needs to be balanced with the business needs – are you actually only budgeting 60, 70, 80% of your time? What’s the right amount? what do you do when you don’t need your emergency budget.. spend the time now or lose it!

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