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Time is money, but whose money is it?

In the past few years, notifications on smartphones have really taken off in terms of how they define our lives. A lot of people I know are constantly reacting to an endless stream of notifications from the various apps on their phones - Whatsapp, email, social media being the primary culprits.

In the context of this, Airplane mode is also something that is catching on - where people put their phones on airplane mode for a prolonged period of time, especially when they want to focus their attention on a task (like writing this blog post), so that they aren't distracted by incoming notifications and can make quick progress on the work they are engaging in. At work, this means turning off Slack and email.

I've been following this method myself to good results.

While it is easy and sensible enough to put my phone on airplane mode while working on a blog post or a presentation for work, it is not as easy to do so while watching an episode of Altered Carbon or any of the other tasks that might not demand our complete attention and focus. In such cases, I'm always gravitating to my smartphone as I tend to think that I can easily handle both the tasks (of attending to notifications as well as continue to watch the episode or listen to what's happening in a meeting).

Even more importantly, I have known many people to log on to Facebook or Instagram simply because they do not know what else to do with that time.

It is easy to advice people to treat their attention like it is currency and to spend it wisely. But that is like telling a rich pampered kid to be careful about a buck or two that he might spend every now and then on toffees and candy.

Someone who has a lot of money will not feel like they are wasting it when they spend it on expensive dinners or unnecessary new gadgets or clothes. They do it without any guilt because they have nothing better to spend that money on. Sure, if they invested that money wisely, they would have even more money down the line. But that doesn't really interest them as much as the frivolous spending they can undertake right now.

When at comes to attention and time, we are all like those rich pampered kids. We have a lot of it and we don't have much of an idea on what we can spend it on. And so, we spend it on the first shiny thing that we see. And the notifications on our phones are the shiniest things of them all.

So, in a way, we are always treating our time and attention like it is money. But we are just doing it from the perspective of a rich pampered kid.

What we instead ought to do is to set ourselves challenging goals.

By the end of the year, I want to work my way up to finding a paid standup comedy gig, I want to complete my second novel, I want to write 175 blog posts, read 52 books, and achieve similar goals at work and in terms of my physical fitness.

When I break these down into daily tasks, that is when I see what all those people doling out advice on treating our time like it is money have in mind. They want me to treat my time like it is money when I'm earning something like I'm earning now, and not when I'm earning something like what Warren Buffet earns.

And it is only possible to see that when we set ourselves challenging goals.

Get the bigger picture right, and the day to day will fall in place if you really want to make that happen. 

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