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Forget Time, Attention is Our Most Valuable Asset

A time tracking app advertises a lot in our Brooklyn neighborhood. Its catch phrase is “Where did time go? It entices passerby to "discover tons more hours to bill”.

Lots of freelancers inhabit our and surrounding neighborhoods. It’s the right target market for these ads.


Billing for time is a relic of the industrial age. Henry Ford pioneered time-based performance measurement for assembly lines. Knowledge-based work adopted time-based billing somewhere along the way.

But why?

My sense is it happened unconsciously. It’s now generally accepted.

Here’s my take on why time-based billing is bad for clients and consultants.

Yet billable time remains the focus.

In my experience, our attention is our most valuable asset. Our attention is more important than our time.

Attention is what matters. It’s what creates value, in whatever form value takes in your work.

Think about it. How much value you create varies by day. It’s not directly proportional to time.

There is a direct correlation to value create and attention. You create the most value when you’re “inspired or "on a roll” or “in the flow”.

But it’s easier to sit at a desk for a set period of time each day, as opposed to finding inspiration.

Also, think about the marketing and ad industries. Think about how hard they fight to capture your ever diminishing attention.

So if attention is the value creator, why do we continue focusing on time?

Is it because chasing The Dream compels us to do this?

P.S. - This post was first published in the JRWI newletter. Subscribe for free and you'll receive one post like this each week on Sunday evening. My hope is that it inspires you at the start of your week.