Time is Money
Do you find chunks of your day consumed by less than productive activities? Updating Twitter? Checking Facebook? Clicking on those fascinating links posted by your friends? Checking sports scores or stock prices? Catching up on the latest hilarity from DamnYouAutoCorrect? None of these are bad things, but when you have important tasks to complete these non-essential activities can kill your productivity. It turns out there’s a quick visualization you can perform that will make you more likely to focus on your mission-critical tasks.

So what is this magic productivity booster? It’s thinking about your hourly pay rate. (Consultants, attorneys, and other hourly billers could visualize their hourly billing rate, no doubt even higher.)

Why does this work? According to researchers Sanford DeVoe and Julian House of the University of Toronto, it’s because thinking about one’s pay causes a greater degree of impatience when not making money.

DeVoe and House were actually studying how much people enjoyed leisure activities. They measured the degree to which various non-work activities made people happy, both with and without having them calculate their hourly wage. They found that,

…thinking about one’s income as an hourly wage reduced the happiness that participants derived from leisure time on the internet…

Thinking about time in terms of money can influence how people experience pleasurable events by instigating greater impatience during unpaid time.

[From Time, money, and happiness: How does putting a price on time affect our ability to smell the roses?

Subjects who listened to a pleasant song after thinking about their pay enjoyed it less because they exhibited greater impatience. Hence, as funny as that cat video is, you are likely to find it less appealing when you think of the value of your time. And the bizarre sightings displayed on PeopleofWalmart.com can be mesmerizing, but should be less so with hourly income priming.

There's one small catch in the research findings: the subjects weren't being paid during their leisure time. When, in another experiment, they were offered compensation for the time spent on leisure activities, their impatience declined. While entrepreneurs and hourly billers (honest ones, at least) would likely exhibit the impatience effect found by the researchers, it isn't clear how salaried workers (who are still being paid while goofing off) would be affected. On one hand, they are indeed getting paid while they check baseball scores or place eBay bids. On the other hand, they know those activities aren't part of their compensated duties and might well show at least some of the impatience effect observed in the experiments.

Now, I'll boost YOUR productivity...

With that as background, I'll help you get more productive right now. Just follow these two simple steps:

  1. Calculate your hourly rate of pay; feel free to estimate if it's irregular because of commissions, bonuses, etc.
  2. Write the value down on a sheet of paper, sticky note, etc., and place it where you'll see it.

Getting impatient yet? Then stop reading blogs (even good ones!) and get back to work!

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