Losing time to save time
3 min read

Losing time to save time

Small ways to earn time.
Losing time to save time

I've created a new system that will save me around 18,000 mouse clicks over the next five years. That sounds pretty good doesn't it?

Put another way: I've just spent one and half hours figuring out how to create a button on my computer to automatically connect my bluetooth headphones. That sounds very dull, doesn't it?

Over the last couple of months I've had a low-level frustration with connecting my headphones with multiple clicks throughout the day, and always thought there must be a better way.

But, I put it off. It is such a tiny inconvenience, it could wait.

For some reason, this morning I decided to look into it.

You know those times when you think 'I'll just have a quick search on Google' and hours later you're ready to pull your computer apart because the easy sounding instructions online don't appear to work in real life?

Before I knew it, I was cutting and pasting code I did't understand, creating automations I'd never used before, and downloading apps I didn't know. And each time something didn't work, a voice told me 'this is a waste of time'.

Finally, with a lot of trial and error (and going down Reddit thread rabbit holes), I figured it out.

I don't feel triumphant. I feel quite stressed in fact because I planned to write an article this morning and already a lot of time has passed.

But, after telling myself to calm down, I've realised that investing some time into something small but repetitive will compound into real savings in the future.

The 80/20 rule

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto demonstrated way back in 1896 that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Since then, the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, has shown itself to be remarkably relevant to a host of fields outside of economics.

In sales, it's often said that 80% of profits come from 20% of the clients.

In computing, Microsoft found that fixing the top 20% most reported bugs fixed 80% of system errors.

In health, 20% of patients use 80% of resources. In crime, 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals.

You get the idea but might be wondering why I'm banging on about this.

Well, the 80/20 rule can also be applied to how you handle your time.

In theory, we should be spending around 20% of our time making systems to handle what we're doing 80% of the time.

Think about that for a minute.

During a week, one day should be spent just looking at your routine, every day tasks, and exploring ways to make them more efficient.

It sounds like a crazy amount of time. But if you consider your time is your most valuable asset, perhaps it does make sense?

XKCD has this great little guide. The table shows, for instance, that you can spend 12 hours creating a system that would save you spending five seconds on something five times a day. Over five years, you'll make back that investment.


Small things, like an illuminated 'Connect' button on my Mac, can make a small big difference.

As frustrating and trivial as it seems to dedicate time to such things, you're investing in earning time in the future. Plus, it inspired me to write this article. I did have time after all.

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