The Economic Man’s Guide to Time Management: Applying Economic Principles to Boost Productivity

In today’s fast-paced world, time management and productivity have become essential elements for success. Effectively managing our time allows us to accomplish more, reduce stress, and maintain a balanced lifestyle. But have you ever thought about applying economic principles to enhance your time management skills? I’m sure you have! In that case, you’re in luck! By understanding the economic foundations of time allocation, we can optimise our productivity and achieve a well-rounded life.

At first glance, economics may seem unrelated to time management and productivity. However, by exploring the intersection of these two disciplines, we can uncover practical strategies rooted in economic theory that can significantly enhance our ability to manage time effectively. By applying economic principles to some of the more “unconventional” areas of life, we can gain valuable insights into decision-making and resource allocation. Just as individuals make choices based on scarcity and opportunity cost in the field of economics, we can apply similar concepts to maximise our productivity 🙂

Throughout this article, we will delve into some of the most notable economic concepts that can be applied to enhance time management and productivity in daily life, namely opportunity cost, supply and demand dynamics, the Pareto principle and externalities. By understanding these concepts and their implications for time management, we can make intentional choices that optimise our long-term value creation. So let’s dive in and discover how the economic foundations of time management can unlock our potential for greater productivity and a more fulfilling lifestyle.


It comes as no surprise that time management is a critical skill nowadays, and by understanding the economic principles behind it, you can have an edge in living a more Economic life. By delving into concepts like opportunity cost and time value, you can make more informed decisions about how you choose to allocate our time.

Opportunity Cost in Time Management

It’s back to the basics with this one: in economics, opportunity cost refers to the value of the next best alternative foregone when a decision is made. This concept directly applies to time management, as every choice we make involves sacrificing the potential value of alternative activities. For example, choosing to spend an hour watching TV means forgoing the opportunity to work on a personal project or engage in physical exercise. Similarly, choosing to spend an hour working on a personal project means forgoing the opportunity to watch the last episode of your favourite Netflix show. The question you should be asking yourself is “how much will I get out of each option?”. Understanding the opportunity cost of our time can lead to more deliberate decision-making. By recognising what you are giving up when choosing one activity over another, you can prioritise tasks that align with your long-term goals and values. Or, if you choose to spend the day scrolling on Instagram or watching TV shows, at least you’ll be doing it in a more “conscious” manner, if that is a thing.

Time Value of Tasks

Just as I stated before, tasks have varying levels of importance and urgency. By considering the time value of each task, you can choose wisely and avoid procrastination. For the majority of us, it’s safe to say that working on a side hustle, hitting the gym or playing an instrument are “valuable” activities that we prefer over doom scrolling or spending the whole night playing League of Legends. Applying the time value concept to daily scheduling decisions allows us to allocate our time to activities that yield the greatest returns, whether in terms of personal fulfillment or tangible outcomes.

Boosting Productivity with Supply and Demand Principles

When it comes to managing your time effectively, it’s important to treat your energy as a limited resource that needs to be allocated wisely. One way to approach this is by applying the concepts of supply and demand, which are commonly used in economics. No fancy terminology here, we’re keeping it simple because it is simple.

In economics, there’s a concept called diminishing marginal returns, which explains how the benefits we get from investing more in something start to decrease over time. This idea can be directly applied to how you work and stay productive. Just like producing too much of a product that no one wants leads to lower returns, pushing yourself too hard without enough rest can result in decreased productivity and eventually burnout.

The Equilibrium: Striking a Balance for Long-Term Productivity

To make sure you stay productive in the long run, it’s crucial to find a balance between periods when you’re highly productive and times when you allow yourself to rest and recharge. Here are some strategies to help you achieve this equilibrium:

  1. Scheduled Breaks: Building in regular breaks during intense work periods can help you recharge and prevent diminishing returns on your efforts. I’m sure you’ve heard about the “Pomodoro Technique”. It’s basically time-boxing with emphasis on taking short breaks between work periods. The “standard” Pomodoro timer is 25 minutes of deep, focused work and 5 minutes of rest. Every 4 pomodoros of work, you are allowed a longer (20-30 min) break!
  2. Strategic Rest: Recognising the value of high-quality rest and recovery is key to maintaining peak productivity levels. And no, X’ing (I guess that’s how we call it now, right) or swiping right on Tinder are NOT examples of high-quality rest. Get off your phone and go for a walk!
  3. Task Prioritisation: Identifying tasks that align with your peak energy levels can allow you to make the most of your time during periods of high demand. This is pretty self-explanatory, and “your” tasks will surely be different from “my” tasks or “your girlfriend’s” (provided you have one, which is unlikely if you’re reading this) tasks.

By treating our energy levels as something valuable that follows the principles of supply and demand, we can improve our overall productivity and find sustainable success in our daily lives.

The Pareto Principle: Maximizing Gains through Selective Focus

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is a concept that finds application in various aspects of life, including time management. This principle suggests that roughly 80% of results come from 20% of efforts. By understanding and leveraging this principle, we can identify the most impactful tasks that drive results and focus our energy where it matters most. I already have an article for this specific concept because it is so powerful and there are so many examples out there that it deserved an entry of its own 🙂

Take this “matrix” as a starting point for your own plan, and notice how the numbers will be very close to that golden 80/20 pattern we’re talking about:

Identify High-Impact Tasks:

  • Make a list of all your tasks and analyse which ones contribute the most to your goals or desired outcomes.
  • Prioritise tasks that align with your long-term objectives and have a significant impact on your productivity and success.

This step alone should give you a good 70/30 ratio to start working on in the next steps.

Delegate or Eliminate Low-Value Tasks:

  • Recognise tasks that do not significantly contribute to your goals and consider delegating or eliminating them from your schedule. 80% of a lower number of tasks is more manageable than 80% of a huge list!
  • By freeing up time from less impactful activities, you create space to focus on high-value tasks that align with the Pareto Principle. 20% of the tasks doesn’t need to be a lot: sometimes, even two or three main tasks/goals are more than enough for you to use 80% of your energy on them.

Time Blocking for Priority Tasks:

  • Allocate dedicated time slots for high-impact tasks during periods when you are most productive and focused. You know best: early bird or night owl? 3,000 calories of pure chicken and rice or working on an empty stomach? Consider all the variables before making a decision!
  • By consciously scheduling focused time for these tasks, you ensure that they receive the attention and effort they deserve.

Regular Evaluation and Adjustment:

  • Continuously assess the impact and relevance of your tasks to ensure they align with changing priorities and goals.
  • Regularly applying the Pareto Principle to task evaluation allows for ongoing optimization of time management strategies.

By embracing the Pareto Principle in our daily scheduling decisions, we can effectively allocate our time and resources to maximise productivity. Understanding the value of selective focus and prioritisation enables us to make intentional choices that yield significant results in our personal and professional endeavors. Can’t get any more Economic than that, if you ask me 🙂

AI had no business going this hard, but it did understand the idea of “externalities”, didn’t it?

Externalities and Time Management: The Hidden Impact of Our Choices

Externalities in economics refer to the spillover effects of our actions or choices on others. When it comes to time management, our decisions can have hidden impacts on those around us. It’s important to be aware of how our time management practices may affect others and take steps to minimise negative externalities.

The first and most important way to act around these externalities is to set boundaries. Setting boundaries is crucial to prevent external distractions from derailing your focus and productivity. Whether it’s in a shared workspace or at home, communicating clear boundaries with colleagues, family members, or roommates can help create an environment conducive to productivity. Minimising negative externalities also involves effective communication and delegation. Clearly communicating our availability and preferred working conditions to those around you can reduce interruptions and unnecessary demands on your time. Additionally, delegating tasks when appropriate can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and maintain a healthy balance in your personal and professional life.

By recognising the potential externalities of your time management choices and proactively addressing them, you can not only improve your own productivity but also contribute to a more positive and supportive environment for those around you. So get out there and be assertive with your people. Let them know that you’re a man on a mission, and that you have your own ways of working. Avoid being too assertive with your manager though, as getting fired might not be a part of the plan.

Case Studies: Real-Life Examples of Economic Time Management Strategies

Don’t worry, I will add sources at the end of the article like I always do, but I found some interesting examples of the strategies we have seen today! 😀

1. Elon Musk’s Time Blocking Technique

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, is known for his rigorous time management approach. He uses a technique called time blocking, where he divides his day into five-minute slots to optimize productivity. By allocating specific time slots to each task, Musk ensures that he maximises his efficiency and focuses on high-priority activities. If you ask me, five minutes is crazy, but a few pomodoros every day never hurt anyone!

2. Warren Buffett’s Selective Focus

Renowned investor Warren Buffett exemplifies the Pareto principle in his time management strategy. He is known for his selective focus on a few high-impact tasks that drive significant results. Buffett’s ability to prioritise and allocate his time to critical investment decisions showcases the practical application of economic principles in time management. The only thing keeping you from being Warren Buffett is that time management skill! And a few billions.

3. Google’s 20% Time Policy

Google famously implemented a policy where employees can dedicate 20% of their work hours to pursue passion projects unrelated to their primary responsibilities. This initiative reflects the concept of opportunity cost, as it allows employees to explore innovative ideas without compromising their core duties. The 20% time policy has led to groundbreaking innovations such as Gmail and Google News, demonstrating the value of allocating time for creative pursuits. Also notice how the numbers were not chosen at random: 20% “project time”, 80% work time.


As you have seen, time management and productivity are essential elements for success. By understanding the economic foundations of time management, we can optimise our productivity and achieve a balanced lifestyle. However, it is entirely up to each one of us! Some of us work better with Pomodoros, others might feel better “just flowing”; you have your own strengths and weaknesses, and it is your job to work around them using whatever works best for you. Either way, here are some final thoughts that I think everyone can find useful in some way:

  1. Embrace the mindset of an ‘economic man’ or ‘economic woman’: Make intentional choices based on long-term value creation. Try to be as rational as possible, but don’t numb your “gut feelings” entirely.
  2. Unlock the potential synergy between economics and time management: Integrating these two disciplines can lead to better decision-making and resource allocation. Find your own system, method, tool or mindset, but give these principles a try and see how they work for you!
  3. Take action and explore further resources: To deepen your understanding of the subject matter, consider reading not just my articles, but also the sources that I cite at the end of every post, which explore more topics in further detail.

“Putting things off is the greatest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future.” — Seneca, On The Shortness of Life


Sources and more:

  • Newport, C. (2016). Deep work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Piatkus Books.
  • McKeown, G. (2014). Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Currency.
  • Seneca. On the Shortness of Life. Penguin UK.

More knowledge below

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *