Even a raging capitalist has to take some time off. Today, I left work early to go to the San Francisco Food Festival, an extravagance made possible by the fact that my wife and I will be working a volunteer table. For the cost of an hour or two of my life, I’ll be able to sample the cuisine of the finest chefs in San Francisco.

Whenever I do something like this (e.g. trade off time for money), I’m reminded of how many times I’ve heard an employee say, “We should spend $X, because it will more than make up for the cost in time saved.” I find this a particularly egregious fallacy. Yes, there are times when you have to spend more in order to get a product out more quickly, but far too often this priniciple is invoked not to save time, but to redistribute it. To reduce tedious-but-essential work and increase interesting-but-useless work. To reduce the amount of time that people work, but without reducing time-to-market.

Let’s get this straight: in a world in which everyone except consultants are on salary (more on them in a later entry), time is not money unless it reduces time-to-market. Saving time doesn’t put money in anyone’s pocket unless changes a timetable.

I also hear this fallacy expressed the other way, as in: “I’m so highly paid, it doesn’t make sense for me to do X (boring but important), when I could be doing Y (exciting and prestigious).” That’s a load of horsecrap. Unless I missed something, there’s no magical black box that converts your time into cash!

Remember: the only time that saving time counts is when it actually increases profits. Any other attempts to save time are simply increasing leisure time–a worthy goal, but not on my payroll!

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