Time and Satisfaction
I was taught to think about time as a grid I was meant to fill with meaningful or useful things. I had very little formal business education—none, in fact. But I had Darren Stevens, the husband in Bewitched. He seemed to work hard, and come home at the end of the day.
I was put in school and supposed to do lots of worksheets. Listen to a lot of grownups telling me things. There was supposed to be a structure. They were helping us.
In the very early grades, its as more care taking, and it gradually morphed into “teaching”, where they will tell us things and ask us to do stuff. The social rules I did not understand at all. The kids were cruel. I felt lost. I went.
Our emphasis is put on “getting things done”. It is the title of a famous book. And yet, getting things done can feel meangingless, or meaningful. When we don’t do the right things, it may not matter in the long run whether it was meaningful now.
It seems like success or happiness divides into a few different factors.
- In some sense, it is all about present time perception
- In another (far less tangible) sense, it is about something far less graspable—smart things we do over time that put us (or keep us) in an advantageous place
Ultimately, everything is present time perception, but our smart brains have figured out a variety of tactics, related to concepts such as delayed gratification, to make things better over time. We learned long ago: keep the crops watered, or there will be famine. We don’t like famine. Cultures were born out of making sure things were done a certain way. Our minds being able to do things a certain way—that is a very helpful thing.
Yet the automatic habits of mind don’t always advantage our lived experience. They have tended to keep the generations flowing, and homes from washing away in floods and so on, but not necessarily maximizing the perceived happiness. So the inertia of culture has many advantages, but for some reason it does not, left on default, create the maximum happiness, necessarily.
This is funny.
The book I just finished, Make Time, features the idea of choosing a highlight for your day. Part of the idea is that when you focus your attention around a big, clear, deliberate thing that you chose to do, it will create a story in your mind, it will generate energy within your spirit, that creates a meaningfulness around your time spent. Around your time perception.
We don’t just need to get things done; we want meaningfulness in our time perception.
Or time perception doesn’t matter at all. I really liked this quote from the beginning of the movie With: A Journey into the Slow Life:
We met when we were 20 years old. It’s been 25 years now that we travel the world, with our camera and guitar in hand. We love being on the road. After a while we lose track of our goals. Just driving, and living the moment begins to be it.
In the glow of beauty and imagining a peaceful, happy life where you didn’t have to work so hard, worry so much—would it really matter to have these mega goals?
And living the moment begins to be it.
Reminds me of a documentary I saw a while ago, about these folks living off the grid in mobile homes, somewhere out west.
There is a great quote from Lao Tzu, about how when the people are happy they won’t even bother to check on the chickens in the next village. It’s a little hard to relate it to my modern culture (where we want the freedom to roam), but I think part of what he’s trying to say is that happiness-with-what-is is a very nice thing.
But the point I’ve been realizing about time satisfaction isn’t really just about “be happy with what you have”; it’s more (or also) about the idea that it’s more relevant to think about the passage of time in terms of satisfaction and momentum, rather than in terms of a grid of minutes, hours, and days. Something more like that.
These are my notes from the call the other day. They are a bit raw (even more so than these notes). But I’d rather get them up here, into “the public sphere”, than not. They relate to my lived experience that getting paid $60/hour on a flowing, consistent basis, you will end up with far more income than lots of little jobs at $120/hour, even though it does not sound like it would be that way.
- The actual asset is not time, it is motivation attention excitement
- Five to ten hours is so easy, when you are on a roll; yet 1.2 hours when you are not is so excruciating
- Combine this with the edge-effects of small jobs—ramp up time for a big job an small job is relatively the same; yet in the proportion of a small job it could be 10x or 20x more time, relative to the total time of the job
- In my lived experience, they are entirely different—$60/hr (even in today’s dollars) in an ongoing, full-throttle project is far easier to make money on than $120/hr. piecemeal, here and there
- Getting up to speed is like going from 0 to 60 as you get on the freeway, up a hilly onramp—there is tons of work there, and once you gain momentum, it’s no big deal—therefore, looking at jobs in terms of “hours” is kind of foolish
- The quality of our energy is everything, and we just use hours because we don’t know what else to call it; I suppose at least (as the one doing the work) we know—it is a thousand times more important, ten thousand times more important… we all have to remember this—the great power that is within us, is more important than time
- Satisfaction is somehow the key. You cannot split the baby. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. You need to gain escape velocity, serious momentum, and then you can do really powerful things. You have to be able to give yourself to something, fully. Being fully compensated, and being able to full relax (and release) into your work, gives you the ability to do that.
- The answer is not, per se, to come up with numbers (perhaps), but it might be something like this: 1 hr - $450/hr. 3 hrs - $300/hr. 12 hrs. - $250/hr. 24 hrs. - $200/hr. Lots of time - could be a lot less. This is not the right way to look at it—but it’s part of it.
- There is a relationship, somehow, between satisfaction, full engagement, and being paid well, that puts you in an optimum place to zoom forward, and really do your best work. Free of the constant distraction of wondering if you will ever be acknowledged, and all the task switching, and wondering if you’ll ever be seen…
- There is an energy to it—a vibe to it. You have to gain momentum, and that means big chunks of time… lots of commitments… time to relax, breathe, and live into a great project. And then, you can finally get paid well, do great work, and relax into it. There is some powerful magnet here, pulling all these things together. You must—somehow—find ways of getting this kind of momentum on projects. And then, if you can just tie that to some kind of good pay—then, you will always have money, and never have to worry. (As opposed to how it is now.)
- And this is how it was with [the software company I worked for on and off for years] (except that I did not feel it was my purpose).
- I think that along with the momentum factor, are the edges. Ramp-up time is interesting and engaging, so you lose time in that—even though you don’t get paid for a lot of it. And (I may have mentioned above) the ratio of unpaid ramp-up time to paid time once a job is going, is much, much higher in these little jobs.
- Oh! Also, when you have gaps between jobs—and it’s far, far more likely to have many more gaps between jobs when they are small—these also are engaging, and so they take up time without your being aware of it, and then this time is spent not getting paid. (A nice thing sometimes, but in the perception of a “work week”, it could mean that you were fully engaged… and very little paid. But because it felt engaging, you did not notice how little you were really making. The exact opposite of being so involved in a high-momentum and hour project, where time passed and you did not notice it, and you were getting paid. Aha. And that is the difference.
So another way to look at it is, you were satisfied and getting paid, or you were satisfied and not getting paid. You cannot monitor in time, all of what happens. That is, from moment to moment, you cannot be aware “now I am earning, now I am this, now I am that”. I mean you could, but you don’t. Instead, you are rapt in whatever reverie of life you are in; and some of them captivate you and meanwhile, some engine of renumeration is running. And in others, no engine of renumeration is running. Either way, in that present-minded sense, you are living, and probably more or less satisfied. But in the dichotomy I set up at the beginning of this, that future-self nourishing energy is not running, then. You are not adding that $50 every week to your compound interest, from 1900 until today, that adds up to… whatever.
Here’s some more:
- The mind checks in at various points in time.