Deficit Spending

Are people who run up their credit cards the same people who procrastinate and say yes too much as though there will be more resources – money or time – later?

I’ve been thinking for a while now that there is a relationship between trying to do more than you have time for and spending on more than you have money for – either way, at root is a mindset of living beyond one’s means and a disconnect with reality. [As my coach used to say, “How you do one thing is how you do everything….] It seems to me that a long, perpetually incomplete to-do list is like a credit card statement you can’t pay in full. In the same way you are still paying for things you may no longer use or even have, tasks stay on such to-do lists long after the most timely moment to do them has passed. And both are guilt-ridden traps that drain you of resources and freedom.

I’ve also begun to notice that the words we use for time are very similar to the words we use for money. We spend time, we look for spare time like extra change, and so forth. So lately I’ve been trying to shift my language about time to at least reflect what I’ve learned from healing my relationship with money: I’ve been focusing on investing time, rather than spending it when deciding on my activities.

I was planning at some point in the near future to write an entry about it all, until this morning when I read Mark Silver’s latest newsletter, “How productivity contributes to global warming and debt.” He says it rather better than I could, so I am crossing that off my to-do list and refer you instead to his very smart article.

And you know how once you pick up on something, you begin to notice it everywhere? It started with spying a children’s book entitled Someday Is Not a Day of the Week

Then a couple days ago, I heard a story about borrowing on NPR’s Morning Edition. Towards the end of the interview, Financial Times columnist Tim Harford offered this insight, “Debt is your future self sending you money back in time. So the question is, are you and your future self both happy with the deal?”

What a brilliant way to look at it. A week or a month or a year from now, how is your future self going to feel about what has or has not been crossed off that to-do list?

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