#14 Present time value

I can’t afford myself. That moment when you realize that the institution you’re working for is renting your time out at a rate higher than you can pay. That’s the absurd reality for the bulk of folks working at big law firms and the huge service providing conglomerates.

When you track your life by the billable minute it changes the way you view your life. You’re not so much spending time as allocating it from one thing to another thing. You’re grasping for every minute. You’re going through the motions and not experiencing time. When I started the practice of law I thought it was absurd. I was an engineer, so I was tracked by output. We didn’t care so much how many man hours something took rather than care about what deadline we could reasonably hit. At one point during my time in the law (intentionally phrased to make it sound like “I did time”) it made sense to me. At the moment, it seemed so efficient to track my productivity, so that’s what I started to do for the rest of my life.

I started tracking every aspect of my life using the billable model. Having done so for a full month and change, I can tell you that tracking the rest of my life in a billable format was…well it was a mistake. It was depressing since it highlighted how much of my life I was working versus doing literally anything else. I had become victim of the common idiom, I was living to work and not working to live. I was stressed out going out for casual outings. Every moment I spent felt like it needed to be made up elsewhere. I felt like if I’d spent some time for myself I had to reallocate time elsewhere to makeup for it. I felt trapped.

But that’s what happens when you tie in productivity with time spent. You start to realize that it’s not the same thing. You start to realize that sharpening your pencil is a less valuable exercise than negotiating a deal term…on paper. But you can’t paper that deal you negotiated unless you sharpened your pencil. You’re the pencil. If you’re not getting sleep and your not spending time to round out your personal being, you’re not going to be effective at the other parts of your life. And I guarantee you that the other parts of your non-work life go first. Your relationships. Your health. All leading to less time with your loved ones and less time on this earth.

I had an early dinner with a friend today (who was still in big law) and he apologized for being a bit late (to be clear, no one should ever have to apologize for the fickle mistress of traffic in LA). I told him not to mind it, and honestly I kind of enjoyed getting a few minutes to myself. It made me realize why I left being tied into time in and money out as my sole reason for existing. It made me realize that I could finally breathe and afford myself again. It made me realize that I owned my time and could use it however I wanted, and that I had my life back. And, most importantly, it gave me the time to take out my phone and write this for you.




CEO / Chief Engineer of HyperDraft, Inc.

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Tony Thai

Tony Thai

CEO / Chief Engineer of HyperDraft, Inc.

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