My Economics professor made an interesting analogy last week, comparing time commitments to “time debt.” Harvard students have a tendency to “promise” time to other parties that will be collected at a future point in time in exchange for things like grades, money, fun, etc.
Unfortunately, we too suffer from time inconsistencies regarding our time use. We commit to too much now, but have to perhaps renege on our promises later. Time inconsistencies are generally used by economists to explain things like addiction to procrastination, but at the core of it all, is a self-control issue. Whereas some people cannot help but to pull out their credit card to buy that new pair of shoes, we cannot help but to say yes to an awesome opportunity that will only maybe just take 2 hours a week.
The funny thing about “time debt” — a promise to pay back time/effort at a future date — is that the interest compounds. Time commitments snow ball, people expect and demand more from you, and soon your 2 hour a week gig ends up 3 or 4 hours a week, during a week, of course, of midterms.
So what is this “time debt,” and why in the world is this a problem of many successful people?