Free Agents 53: The Value of Your Time

This is a good episode, and I’m still working through it.

While I think time is definitely valuable, I’ve recently had a shift in my thinking. I think my attention is my most valuable resource. I think this puts a nice perspective on things. So let’s say you devote two hours to writing a document. While writing the document, you receive 3 email notifications, 2 texts, and your dog barks at the letter carrier. You have, generally speaking, devoted two hours to the task, but the interruptions – the deflecting of you attention – means that you really only got about an hour’s work done. When we think about our attention as being a resource (and a consumable one at that), we realize that someone popping in to ask a question, thus requiring a context switch, can wind up costing us the time we talked to the person, plus about 20 minutes to change back to our prior context.

For me, my attentive focus is a very fragile state, and I have to go to great lengths to achieve and maintain a state of focus.

That’s why I’m writing this, my focus was broken a while ago, and I’m gradually circling back around :slight_smile:



It is really a great episode. As @JohnAtl writes, the focus is essential. Deep Work by Cal Newport elaborates on this idea. I did not enjoy the book, though, because its contents could be summarized in ten or fewer pages without missing any important idea.

Tracking time is key, but focused and distracted time is not really comparable. Perhaps it would be useful to add to the tracking method a comment on the degree of focus achieved (and why it was focused or distracted).

In any case, I have not found yet a good way of tracking time. Apps like “Timing” are not useful to me, because I only use my Mac occasionally. Apps which track manually your activities do not either work for me, because I tend to forget to switch the timer. Perhaps writing down what I have made every few hours will work.


Like David I have several free agents careers going at once, one “work for the man job”, one as a co-founder of a software startup and one as founder of my own software company.

Ignoring the first two and just looking at how I run my own company, I bill my time internally depending on the role that I am doing at a market rate. I use timing to track my time and one a week update the company books with the liability.

So on Monday I might bill 1 hour of accounting, 2 hours of design and 5 hours of development work all at different rates, and so now I can tell not only what things are time syncs but their likely cost to replace.

The trick is understanding what drives business value and finding a balance, internally design work is charged at a higher rate, but writing code is what pays the bills, but I need an amount of upfront design work to reduce the time I spend writing code.

I have spent this last week getting my company off the ground, by prioritising things in the business, I have ended up with a very basic website, in desperate need of a cost of paint, Lincolnapps but highly detailed app designs, since ultimately my corporate website right now is not what drives business value, standing up the product does, and I can loop back before launch and fix the site. But it’s important to have the site, to convany what we are doing.


I’m interested in hearing more about Mike’s “personal retreat”. Mike, do you have a write up on this anywhere? I checked your personal site, but did not see anything.

Interested in the structure, the goal for the retreat and how you stay focused. I fear if I went away for a day on a similar retreat I would just waste time and not have any takeaways or action items.

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I don’t have a writeup, and I’m a little behind updating my personal site (sorry!) but I did record another podcast on the specific process I used here:

That is true of most books in the self-development space :slight_smile: I rather enjoyed the book myself. Another book that is even better (IMHO) is The One Thing by Gary Keller. Again you can get the main idea from the beginning of the book, but it provides a simple framework for cutting through all the things you have to do and picking the right thing to work on.


I completely agree. Time can get you the space to do the high-value things that need to get done, but if your attention is fragmented it doesn’t matter - you need focus to follow through and actually do them!

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I’m finishing up The ONE Thing, and it’s a great book!
There is a lot of good content, such as the difference between approaching things with an Entrepreneurial vs. a Purposeful mindset.

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My big takeaway: Ask the question, “what is the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?”


this is the first time I’ve heard of a 12 week year. where should I learn more about it?

Probably read the book.

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Brian Moran, the author of the book mentioned by @ChrisUpchurch has been interviewed on the EntreLeadership podcast.

Here’s the link to the episode:

@MacSparky @mikeschmitz I’m using Toggl on my iMac and it can track which apps you’re using in the background too.

It’s not as detailed as Timing but it’s useful when switching between tasks quickly and forgetting to start a timer.

You can enable it via TogglDesktop > Preferences > Record timeline

The data is accessible through the web interface via 15-minutes bars that detail which apps has been used and for how long. It even specifies what was opened/accessed inside the app, for example in Finder, it will tell you which specific folders were opened.

There’s no neat report or statistics as Timing offers, but it’s good enough for refreshing one’s memory and log tasks retroactively.

Here’s an example:

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I’ve been working on some stuff and figuring the value of my time. Some things I do as a free agent could be done less expensively if I hired someone, but then I’d have to implement payroll, taxes and spend more time on management. When I’ve actually put a pencil (or mouse, I did it in a spreadsheet :slight_smile: ) to it they were about a wash between time saved on the low end stuff vs time expended managing the work.

While they may be things that don’t require my top level skills they also provide a break between things that are deep thinking or how to work on the business.

I like a mix of working on the business and working in the business tasks to keep me fresh and engaged.

Just another perspective.

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When the Timing app was brought up on the show I was expecting a follow-up phrase of “it’s just like RescueTime but better in X ways” - but there was no mention of RescueTime, which I thought was the grandaddy of auto time-tracking software.

I’ve been using RescueTime (free) for years. Other than constantly tweaking the system, is there a reason to make the jump to Timing?

This episode was my favorite podcast episode of any podcast to date. Now often there are little tidbits, golden nuggets that come out of an episode, but I finished this one and thought that the value of this episode was immense.

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@cheekyjeremy I’d love to hear what specifically you loved about it :wink: David & I are always trying to figure out ways to make the podcast better. Was there something in particular that impacted you?

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Hi Mike,
Thanks for the note. While happily swamped at the moment, I am however swamped. I will write a note in the next few days when things settle.



Jeremy Plotnikoff
Chris Botti Tour Manager

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Hi Mike,
My comments stem from the fact that to me that most podcasts I listen to (while entertaining), rarely are substantial enough to be considered actionable professional advice. Most rarely get enough into the meat of a subject to give you anything to really bite into. Usually it is a light overview of a new product, a light recommendation of an app, a device, a service.

In David’s case, he is probably leaving the in-depth work to his screencast business in order to monetize it rather than give it away in a podcast.

In the Apple Ecosystem, I listen to lots of David’s podcasts, Federico’s podcasts and then a handful of others. It is rare for me to finish an episode and think to myself "I need to drive into the hills, ask myself three questions, and then reap the rewards of the clarity and focus it delivers.

There are a lot of things in life that we already know but do not action. The breathe app on the iPhone is a good example of this. Most (if not all) people will tell you that if they stop for 60 seconds, take long slow breaths, inhale…hold… Exhale four or five times that at the end of it they will feel noticeably better. Despite knowing this, people rarely take the time to do it.

For the episode in question, I just felt that it delivered some very actionable, easy to digest, easy to envisage suggestions on a topic that most of us could improve on. The section on your monthly expedition to the frozen tundra just resonated with me as something that I could absolutely see myself both doing, and benefiting from.

For the last 15 years, I have worked as the Tour Manager for a music artist for the best part of 300 days per year. In this gig, the hats I wear are plentiful, and responsibility list is vast. It involves a lot of advance work, and a lot of day of show work.

While I rarely have any issues managing my time in the sense of having enough time to get everything done, there is no doubt that I could do it substantially better than I do, and with the benefit being the time that it frees up for more family time as opposed to cramming in more work.

Combining this with David’s suggestions on hyper scheduling, I do see a potentially huge benefit to my work / life balance once I get it tweaked right.

Many thanks

Jeremy Plotnikoff
Chris Botti Tour Manager

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