Opportunity Cost

Back in the spring I attended a lecture by a psychologist who specialized in helping families manage their lives, especially when it came to technology. She had a lot of opinions about the risks and benefits of technology for our children.

One of the worst things about children’s use of technology, in her opinion, is that they are not doing other things with their time with the hours they spend on their phones or on their Xboxes. They are not out in nature, not interacting with friends, not using their imaginations.

In economics, this is called “opportunity cost.” If you invest your money in stock A, the opportunity cost of doing this is the yield you would have gotten from stock B.

In my daily life, I have gradually become aware of the opportunity cost of my lack of organization.

I’m not a slob, I can almost always find my keys, and I’m on time or early for appointments 95% of the time. But, I’m often grocery shopping when I had planned to be writing or doing other last minute errands during the only hours I have to myself to work on my creative tasks.

And I say “yes” to a lot of things that take me away from my creative work.

If I didn’t feel strongly about my writing, I would just let it go. But I continue to yearn to write and pursue other creative interests.

Some of my last minute errands and “yes-saying” may be (okay, is definitely) a result of resistance and fear about my work not being “good enough” but I’m not going to let my unconscious fears hijack my life’s work.

So I’m taking steps to correct the problem.

Here’s my initial plan, which I’ve already started to implement:

  • Unless it’s a hell, yes! I’m saying no (respectfully.)
  • Clean out my office completely (done!) and make sure all the tools that make my work life easier are within reach.
  • Plan menus for the week—and stick to the menu!
  • Schedule my time at the beginning of the month and the week—and stick to the schedule!

The biggest time-saver so far is all the planning ahead I’ve been doing. I like to plan, but I’m more invested in sticking to the plan this summer. Also, I’ve always liked leftovers, but I used to cook three different dinners three different days in a week before having “leftover night.” Now I’m okay with serving the same thing two nights in a row and, OfficePicSmallluckily, so is my family.

Cleaning out my office seems to have given me more space in my head. I like to see the open space on my bookshelves and on my desk. I hope to fill the space with ideas and paragraphs, rather than clutter.

What can you do to streamline your routines to give yourself more writing time?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, master life coach, and family physician. I’m in the middle of enjoying summer and accomplishing small writing and creative tasks. So far, it’s been a great summer!

19 thoughts on “Opportunity Cost

  1. My life is chaotic! My writing time reflects my lack of structure, order, and routine. Thank you for reminding me that, even though life may keep throwing me curve balls, I can hit them out of the park! . . . Starting with my desk.

  2. Desk and office are indeed a priority, the mess creates muddled thinking but it is so difficult to deal with daily incoming paper stuff and digitalized that needs to be organized. Arrrrgh! But realising we’re all struggling with the same is helpful and encouraging, so thanks for the post!

  3. If you’ve not read it, read “Courage to Write,” by Ralf Keys. I think it will help you keep your schedule. I love your shelves. I wish I had shelves in my writing room. I’m working on it.

  4. I have two desks – a real desk and a dining table, both ends of my dining table are my desks. I do clean my dining table and polish it once in awhile to give me a clean feeling. I have three piles of “important things” await for a home – the right part of the shelf where I can find them. At least they are categorized.
    I think I’ll volunteer to host the family Thanksgiving dinner. I know what that would do for me as far as organizing and cleaning. 🙂

  5. Hmmm…the kids going back to school would be a good start! LOL I’ve got big plans for cleaning up and out around here when they go back to school 🙂

  6. I do a massive declutter every year in September. I always feel better when I have the space around me, like I have room to grow myself in the availability. This month I find myself itching to start early, which is problematic because I’m still working on the other things I had planned for the summer. LOL

  7. Pingback: Parenting The opportunity cost of technology Back in… | Honor Dads

  8. Pingback: Opportunity Cost – The Craft of Writing

  9. Such good insights! Yes, I too am the great planner. Now to be the great doer. I work by appointment and am very good at scheduling my clients. It’s everything else in my life that gets out of control. I love your book recommendations and ideas to de-clutter.

  10. I am generally a very neat person. Now that my children are grown up I have all the time for my own. I have always said that once they have left home I want to do more things from my head. As while they were small I was a full time mom. I too have been having trouble saying, No in the past, but now being much more older and mature I am at a stage that I can put my foot down and say so. Recently I have stopped working as an English Tutor as my mind diverted to health issues since I became well from long term depression. And now I have prioritized in writing about my journey for other’s benefit. Thank you for the information given on how you organize your life. Its good to see how others go about their life to learn more 🙂

  11. I like how you put this. Time gets sucked away so easily, and I suffered the consequences of my own choices with it by graduating high-school late. (Love the homeschool life. 🙂 )
    But today I had already been thinking about what’s next. For me, organization is equivalent to currency. I’ve found myself muttering “clean room…clean mind…” as I work. Perhaps it’s odd, but it’s also true. Today is my day to organize everything, write out my own schedule and stick to it.
    (Also, I am loving your super-neat shelves!!)
    Shalom! – Yael Eliyahu

  12. “Some of my last minute errands and “yes-saying” may be (okay, is definitely) a result of resistance and fear about my work not being “good enough” but I’m not going to let my unconscious fears hijack my life’s work.”

    This has been the focus of my struggle this year. I commit to other things because I am afraid to put all my eggs in the writing basket. I leave myself without enough time to write the way I should and my desire to be writing negatively affects the effort I’m putting into the other things. It’s a dangerous spiral to be in and I, like you, have been thinking about way to break free. Knowing I’m not alone in the struggle makes it feel less daunting. Thank you!

    • I found it helpful to explain to my friends and family just how important my writing time is to me. I don’t have a set schedule (although I’m wanting to implement that) but when someone calls me now and I say “I’m writing” they know it’s code for leave me alone please. Also, if they know that sticking to it is a struggle for you, they may ask less when you tell them you’re working on something. Other than that, stop sabotaging yourself! (I’m a master at deviating from the task at hand, so you are not alone. We’re all a work in progress, right).

  13. Pingback: The Metaphor Tool | Live to Write – Write to Live

  14. When you said, “I like to plan, but I’m more invested in sticking to the plan this summer” I could totally relate. Making lists is a ton of fun but the follow through is what matters most. I really want to start planning my meals for the week. Always it’s approaching dinner time and I get the awful question of what’s for dinner from my kids and I’m like, oh crap, lol. I’d love for that to change and I’m going to make it a top priority.

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