A great meditation, Brad. Considering the value of time for different people in different contexts drives home an important fact: time is our most finite resource, but it also one of our most flexible. This can be empowering — we can do so much with our time — but also terrifying. After all, time wasted is never recovered.
Obviously I have never lived in any different time than my own. But my sense is that this anxiety about the expenditure time is growing rapidly, at least in America. The more opportunities there are for us to make our time valuable, be it through work or writing or reading or socializing, the more pressure we feel to do so — and the more difficult it is to feel confident that we are making the right decision.
This anxiety, then, may help to explain the explosion of the gig economy. If you could earn a decent chunk of change in your spare time by driving for a few hours, for example, why not? In the context of the sharing economy, everyone discusses capitalizing underutilized resources like cars and homes. But always, though to varying degrees, this new utilization is predicated by the utilization of another seemingly underutilized — or undercapitalized — resource: time. TaskRabbit and Fiverr are the prime examples of this fact, probably, as they provide opportunities for anyone to do just about anything at almost any time. More than anything, they market people’s time.
My own concern is that these new gig opportunities are especially attractive because dollars alleviate the anxiety of choosing what to do with one’s time. Time must not have been wasted, at least not in its entirety, if it’s rewarded with pay. The opportunity costs are harder to measure. And now, if you were to look at TaskRabbit or Fiverr or peopleperhour.com or any one of a thousand different services, you’d think all time is the same, commoditized and cheap. Your post helps to remind us that it’s precious.