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Time Economy Definition

What is Time Economy and how can we profit from it?

man looking at clock and business strategy on a wall

Time Economy raises the idea that human beings have a uniform and universal internal mechanism used to measure opportunities and value. On one end, our prize – a potential winning equal to the multiplication of the amount of time we are about to win, and its quality. On the other hand, our investment – a three-fold multiplication between the quantity and quality of time we will invest, and the probability that our decision or effort will end up being fruitful.

According to this formula, it is possible to understand large parts of our decisions and actions and even our emotions. This formula can provide an explanation for any negative emotion that we feel: from the feelings we will quickly sense when a cup of coffee we just held calmly a second ago is shattered, to stepping on a “package” a dog just left on the pavement – cases that in one way or another will “force” us to put some time in an investment we do not enjoy or benefiting from. Interestingly enough, if we consider a control group for such an unfortunate event (one that will not be required to spend its time, and whose quality of time will not be affected), we will see that in this group, negative emotions will not arise. A good example of such a case will be a young child, that will uninterruptedly continue his life with pleasure.

clear hourglass on persons hand
Paula Guerreiro / Unsplash

In the same way, we will all find joy when we find some abandoned cash on the floor, when suddenly the traffic jam is released, or when the dentist informs us that the review has ended with no findings. We can perceive life as a cluster of fines and awards we keep getting – events which “paint” shorter or longer parts of our life’s time in more or less positive shades. If we treat our lives as a period of time that begins with our birth and ends in our death, we can divide the duration of our lives into such periods – parts of time which are a kind of a multiplication of the quantity and quality of time and create value for us in the way we choose to perceive it (the portion of time and the quality of time or the meaning we grant it which we can call – “time coins”). Therefore, life can be imagined as if it’s a simple computer game in which we constantly walk ahead, collecting more and more prizes while seeking to avoid life’s fines.

In practice, life is of course more complex. Apart from an innocent march through the streets and finding or losing “time coins”, we also make decisions and investments. Investments that we decide to make or skip according to the time economy inherent calculation of value. Hence, should we be offered an infinite quality of time, many will be willing to “sell their souls” for this proposal which we all know by the name of “heaven”. The same goes for an offering of an infinite amount of time, and be it on the pages of history, in heaven, or the saving of others. Based on the theory of Time Economy, both of these cases will be perceived as multiplication with an infinite value – if only we will believe in it (perceive the winning probability as high enough).

people walking on grey concrete floor during daytime
Timon Studler / Unsplash

As clearly as we all pursue opportunities that offer absolute positive value of profit in time or quality of time, we are also easily avoiding opportunities that offer absolute negative time value. Therefore, even though today the world is inhabited by about eight billion people, none of us, neither the extreme or unsettled people, wish to wake up in the morning and look for a good traffic jam to get stuck in. Such cases offer a clear negative value and we all work to try and avoid them.

When the rewards and fines are clear, life is simple. However, in other cases, the formula of time economy imposes an additional distortion – such that is not only relevant to the extreme cases at the edges of the time economy value calculation formula but throughout all of its range and impact our everyday life.

What will you do for example, should you encounter opportunities that offer an infinite quality of time at this very moment, while it is more difficult to assess the probability and extent of their impact in the long run? What happens when we have the opportunity to overeat, consume an excessive amount of alcohol, enjoy an endless TV program, use drugs, or cheat on spouses? In these cases, our brains may feel signs of winning a momentary infinite quality of time.

In parallel to such “time traps” –  negative “opportunities” that may be perceived as a huge win that tend to harm the total quantity and quality of life – are also challenging positive opportunities. They act like a “time barrier” as they seem to be frightening, requiring an unknown or almost infinite investment, have success chances that are hard to estimate, simply not fun, or even require us to sacrifice and suffer. In such circumstances, most of us will be challenged to choose or invest in such an option – even when it increases the amount and quality of time we will win for the rest of our lives. Such opportunities that are familiar to every one of us are: completing a Ph.D. or any other academic degree, keeping our diet, educating our kids, and investing in our career, family, or love life. All could be a challenging investment with ups and downs and very different from a momentary clear-cut win.

Even if we decide to consider decisions based on their total impact on the rest of our life, we would have had a hard time. Suppose, for example, that we were interested in greatly improving our quality of life and extending them by a few years, what should we do? Stop getting angry? Lose weight? Move to a village? And how much would it pay us to invest in that? The problem is that there is no available information that can quantify the value of investments and the time we might win. Though the Time Economy formula is the best way to perceive and calculate value, if we do not have the information ready at hand, do not know how to obtain it, or how much we might have to invest to get it, we might quickly incline to alternative ways to calculate value.

shallow focus photography of green apples
Raquel Martínez / Unsplash

If we do take the sometimes more challenging path requiring some of the less intuitive calculations suggested by the Time Economy formula, our brain activity alone becomes the real issue and a true limitation. At some point, we will become tired, suffer the frustration of intense thinking, have to deal with pressing physiological needs, or just the sensation of losing moments of life while weighing potentially unhelpful considerations.

Within seconds or minutes we may notice a feeling of hunger or thirst, an inner toilet call, or the sound of a message received suggesting that there is another way – at least now to ease our effort or put a stop to them.  Therefore,  a much more “safe” investment will feel ideal while the next episode of our favorite TV series is effortlessly presented to us. But the feeling could be misleading.

This is not a claim but proof. No one will choose to start a fire every day by rubbing tedious sticks and exhaling on dry grasses if given the opportunity to use a lighter. Similarly, none of us will sculpt hundreds of statues if only we would believe that everything can be asked more simply and effortlessly from God. Humanity is constantly moving in directions that give more and more of us longer, safer and higher quantity and quality of time as we perceive it.

When the calculations are clear, life is predictable. Similar to our preference to address God himself, rather than three separate gods responsible for rainfall, longevity, or fertility, we will all prefer a smartphone over the tedious sedimentation of a camera, a music player, and a less “smart” phone. And if so, what is the difference between all things apart from their ability to equip us with more or fewer time coins with a greater or not so greater value?

Given that this is the case, the Time Economy perspective offers great value. Knowing how we consciously or unconsciously examine various opportunities can help us avoid traps and overcome barriers as well as avoid falling for big promises at the end of the time calculation formula. However, there is another opportunity to reap significant profits and measure the value of things in terms of times – using the Time Economy formula – even when it is less obvious or natural.

Should we be required to select between the longer and the shorter path to our office, we will all know how to choose the short path. Differently, if we were offered a longer or shorter trip on a luxury cruise, most of us would choose the longer trip, but what if we could look through the words and see the many opportunities of life, while their value is served to us as the total profits in the world’s most valuable currencies – the time coins assemble our own life or the life of people we hold dear?

man standing in the middle of woods
Vladislav Babienko / Unsplash

What if someone reviewed the best medical articles for us and told us that if we just went for a brisk walk of about an hour a day and maintained a normal weight, in good probability, we would extend life by 7.5 years[1]? What if, instead of informing us that our children will write a test aiming to spot gifted kids, they ask us if we want to spend about an hour a day for about three months and in return and most likely, our kids will win 8,000 hours of the very best education in the state? An 80x profit on our investment? And what if we were to know that the winning value is $121K and all we have to invest in addition to our time is simply purchasing a kit including some simulations at $242 – a 500 times return on our investment? If we ask ourselves important questions such as:  Whether our children are gifted or not, or if we want them to learn in a different group? Is it’s worth spending the time on some extra learning, even if the kids will not make it? What is the curriculum?

Instead of digging to find the answers to the important questions above, many will replace the burden of decision and multi-consideration with a simpler thought and make a quick decision, though it will not necessarily be the right one.

Thus, we can also tell ourselves that espresso succeeds due to the excellent aroma and taste without noticing that at the root of its success lies the fact that making coffee using a “capsule” requires only 5 seconds while the previous methods forced us to invest around 55 seconds. If we wanted to enjoy a variety of 10 different flavors before Nespresso’s breakthrough, we would have to take a day off, starting a complex carpentry work so that there will be room enough in our kitchen drawers for 10 cumbersome jars.

We could argue that we like Apple’s magnetized Mac. Charging cable because it’s cool, or because it makes a click, but how many of us would think the magnetic cable is cool if we also had to wait five minutes before the computer started charging?

Many look at the design and think that it is the secret to the success of different products or companies, but we are not always aware that behind the designs are people who are more aware or less so do the right calculations – the Time Economy calculations. A famous case proving this claim is when Steve Jobs, convinced an engineer who did other calculations to shorten the software’s boot time of Mac computers as he summarized that the expected sales figures and together with 10 seconds cut in the upload time would save the full lifespan of 100 people – each year[2]. Back then, there seemed to be something magical about Apple’s computers. They were on to a kind of “time magic,” a situation in which something takes us less time than we expect and surprises us for the better.

A young man stands behind his laptop at the electronics store. A young man chooses a laptop in the store

In other fields, different than technology, invention, or product management the story is no different. A well-known phrase in the real estate world is “location, location, location”. Everyone knows the right location is worth a lot. But what is really a location? After all, no one was born with coordinates we have always dreamed of having in our heads. Instead, we use the Time Economy formula to calculate how long it will take to travel to work, get to a beloved café, visit family or friends, consider transportation routes or green panoramic views.

Location, design, and virtually anything we consider as a tempting opportunity is an offering of a value that can be perceived as the time we will win and the value it may have. One of the most central arguments in the book “Time Economy and the Human Time Machine” is that the most successful people are the ones who were born adopting a good “time intuition”.  They manage to avoid investing in less worthy opportunities and rather invest in creating more value.

We all know great examples of such successful figures, but we are not always aware of some of the calculations behind some of their greatest successes. From cases where Bill Gates or Elon Musk gave up on eating or sleeping to get ahead of the competition, to cases in which Google whose main lead at the breakthrough stage was that, unlike other search engines, required just a single click.

This way of thinking, which is not natural for most of us and requires deliberate effort, changes the way we perceive the world and the opportunities we can notice around us. Take Elon Musk as an example: If he didn’t adopt such thinking, he wouldn’t be able to decide whether to fly a private jet or to build a SpaceX launch rocket and pay $90,000 for the shipment, while calculating that in 10 years the company’s revenue would be $10 million a day, making it a “no brainer decision” to get to that point one day earlier[3].

Should you read Musk’s biography as well as any other figures that generated successes of a similar magnitude, and consider the Time Economy perspective, a new world will suddenly emerge.

If we do not choose to adopt a different perspective or stop the flow of life just to make calculations, at least we can be careful about overweighting the words. As part of the dangers we discussed so far, there is a bigger more common trouble. As the years go by, we humans have developed a far more sophisticated language, culture, and thinking making us accustomed to thinking in literal terms (rather than the simple benefits of saving our time, protecting it, or increasing its quality the way Time Economy perspective suggest us to consider the opportunities of life).

A famous case that indicates such a problem is the case in which the French warlord was asked by his best generals to change the color red of soldier’s pants, as the French soldiers became an easy target to attack. It turned out that vivid colors – the ones that matched the cavalry – could be a problem in a machine gun fighting environment. Intuitively, the experienced generals felt that the time spent by the sewers and weavers – the warehouses and logistics – would be less than the time lost to the soldiers and the risk to the French. Unfortunately, war minister Eugène Étienne did not look through it and did not bother with the calculations of Time Economy… he answered negatively and added a clear explanation: “The red pants are France!”.

It is not only ministers who may decide, and even in good faith, that the colors of the French flag on the soldiers’ pants are more important than the lives of the soldiers themselves. If we do not choose to adopt a perspective that focuses on the time of life and its quality, we are likely to fall victim to the thick forest of culture and words, ideals, and values that can serve us well in many cases but are also expected to distract, create biases and even push us to decide without always being aware to the truly important things in life  – the time of life.

About “Time Economy and the Human Time Machine“:

The book will present three parts:

“The Human Time Machine” presents some of the most successful figures and shows that under all of their significant successes lays the same calculation – the efficient use of time (kind of a “time machine”) that enables large profits in time and quality of time, in relation to their investment – a real profit based on the Time Economy perspective.

[1] Steven C. Moore et al. / PLOS Medicine

[2]Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography” by Walter Isaacson

[3]Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” Audible Audiobook – Unabridged, Ashlee Vance



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Time Economy and the Human Time Machine eBook

Time Economy and The Human Time Machine

Many interesting stories have been told and countless valuable theories have been suggested to cleave the secret for human development, behavior and success. Time Economy and the Human Time Machine tells the story of the human success, but from a new perspective – The perspective of behavioral economics.

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