One happy and somewhat unexpected discovery of my adult life: dividends. Various companies pay out some of their profits to shareholders, and so when you own those stocks, you get paid a chunk of change as a benefit of ownership. It's not exactly free money — there's the opportunity cost of putting money in the stock market vs. other things — but it kind of feels like it. Or another way to look at it: it's money earned back because of money choices made long ago.
Time and money are both scarce resources, though scarce in different ways. You can earn more money. You can't get back a single second once it's spent. That said, time pays dividends too. Sometimes you can earn back open time because of time spent or choices made in the past. Part of feeling like you have all the time in the world is figuring out how to earn time dividends, and then cashing them sometimes when you can.
I was thinking of this with a few things recently. My daughter will be enrolling in kindergarten officially next year. Barring major developments, I will most likely be sending her to our local public elementary school. It's a great school; we bought in this district because of the schools. I know from her brothers' experience that enrolling will involve going to district headquarters with her birth certificate, some proof of residence like our property tax bill, and her immunization record. Simple. I know that friends who stayed in NYC have, in many cases, gone through an incredibly time-consuming process of applying to multiple schools. One reason we moved here is to avoid that (let alone the time it takes to earn private school tuition when people go that route). Whenever I am feeling less than 100% efficient with my time, I can celebrate the many, many hours I saved on the school question. That is a time dividend.
Or here's a professional one. I'm happy to announce that my TED talk is live, today, on TED.com! (As I am writing this on Friday it is featured on the home page). I am quite excited about this. TED has a huge audience, so this is a fabulous opportunity. As part of writing and speaking professionally, I'm always trying to get my ideas in front of people. It would take many months of guest posting various places, or similar activities, to get the same volume of views. I spent plenty of time practicing my TED talk, and then traveling to San Francisco to give it, but hopefully it will be viewed enough that it's OK that I've been slacking a wee bit this week.
Of course, I can't cash in more time dividends than I actually have. An afternoon of coasting is OK. A year, not so much. But I am starting work on a new book now, and hopefully that will pay time dividends in the future too.
In other news: We near the winter solstice. I wrote last year about The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter — which involves viewing winter as something to be enjoyed, rather than endured. I would love to hear from any Scandinavian readers about how you cope with the near (or actual) 24-hour darkness you're experiencing these days. I would like to devote a small section of the next book to this concept. As always, you can email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com (or leave a comment here).
Also, Runner's World featured my time tips for running, illustrated by an awesome photo of me crossing the finish line of a half-marathon last year.