2007-12-20-why-i-cant-place-a-value-on-my-precious-time

Why I can't place a value on my precious time

If you work in software development, you are well aware of the hours involved.  If you employ software developers, you've seen the occasional ragged appearance of your staff in the middle of the work week.  Developers work during the day, but end up spending evenings reading, learning, tinkering, helping others with technology, or worse, trying to finish what they started during the day.  Work hours for software developers know no limits.  This causes me to value my time to extremes.

One example:  I have practically given up first person shopping.  I no longer go to the grocery store, my wife does (thankfully).  If I wasn't married, I would pay the eight dollars that Safeway charges for home delivery.  This Christmas was nearly impossible for me to accomplish.  My wife has a passion for trinkets.  Halloween themed items, Christmas decorations, you name it.  The only way to find these items, in good condition, is to prowl the stores looking for good values.  For a software developer, this is a time killer of the first order.  Shopping online is the only functional way for me find what I am looking for.  I can type in a search term, using my own terminology, and find just about anything.  With the advent of free shipping (thank you, Amazon.com), I can often times get items for cheaper than at the store given the sales tax rates here in Phoenix.

Another example:  Each time I go on vacation, all I daydream about is how to find more time to go on vacation.  Each time I return from vacation, I resolve to not take on any tasks that I don't add value to.  If I can't cut the grass better than the kid next door, I have no business spending my time on it.  If I can't clean the house better or quicker than Merry Maids, I should spend the time developing software.

All of these are a question of what would be a better use of my time.  If I worked on software, I would make enough money to cover the cost of getting the groceries delivered or the getting the grass cut AND I would probably still pocket 90% of the money I made in that hour.  The maids would probably cut into 50% of the money available but I wouldn't risk hurting my back.  These kind of equations make me value my time to extremes.

The problem is, it's not always as simple as a formula.  As I write this, I am sitting in a Brakes Plus waiting on an oil change.  While working on another blog post, I took some of my precious time to look up from the computer screen.  On the wall is a 8 foot by 12 foot display explaining the "Anatomy of a Brake System".  Each panel (using simple graphics and text), highlights common brake problems in terminology that anyone can understand.  Check it out here.  This set of panels help me solve a software problem I am experiencing.  Could I have solved this software problem if I had not used some of my precious time to get an oil change?  Maybe, maybe not.

The real problem is that I am an idiot about the value of my precious time.  Not all problems can be solved using a computer.  Not all problems can be evaluated using formulas or algorithms.  Sometimes coincidence or irony or luck is involved.  Sometimes you need to see the problem from the perspective of the first person.

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