Written by LW user lynettebye.
Suggested by evelynciara.
This is part of LessWrong for EA, a LessWrong repost & low-commitment discussion group (inspired by this comment). Each week I will revive a highly upvoted, EA-relevant post from the LessWrong Archives, more or less at random
Excerpt from the post:
“I didn’t get much done last week because it was so hot.”
It wasn’t the first time a client said this to me, and I was curious. “Have you considered getting an air conditioner if it’s that bad?”
“No” He replied (let’s call him Philip), “An open window is usually enough. It’s just that the heatwave this week was particularly bad.” When we discussed it a bit more, Philip said it didn’t seem worth the hassle since the AC only really felt necessary for a few weeks during the summer.
So, was Philip right? Is it worth buying an AC as a productivity hack? (Full Post on LW)
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I find it interesting that, while I often have difficulty trading money for time at the rate my time is actually worth, this particular tradeoff from the article has always been easy for me.
I tend to be pretty frugal, since before I discovered EA, my plan was to earn enough money to retire early, and the less you spend, the less you need for that. I live in a studio apartment and don't own a car, for instance. And yet, I remembered thinking the very first day I moved to my new apartment, living alone for the first time:
"Okay, Jay - you've always been told to turn off the AC at night and you've always secretly resented having to do this. Now that you're the one paying for it, should you do it? Well, let's see - you have a job that pays you a few hundred bucks a day, and you think for a living. According to this calculator you found online, running the AC an extra 8 hours a day every day costs about three bucks a day. If that gives you even marginally better sleep, such that you're 1% more productive at your job, this will pay for itself, AND be more comfortable for you personally."
And so, despite being a cheap bastard in many ways, I happily run my AC at whatever temperature I find most comfortable (Usually 73-75F / 23-24C, because I'm Australian and thus used to hotter conditions) and to hell with the price.
Nowadays, I have finally started becoming comfortable with spending money for time, thanks to EA. The reasons are:
1) Unlike my day job, I actually care about doing the best job possible in EA, rather than just doing a good enough job. (I really should try to transmute the latter to the former - in my day job, I get paid to program things, which means I get paid to learn things which I could potentially use in EA later)
2) Since I want to do the most good possible for the world, that's unlikely to mean retiring at 35 even if I have the savings to do it. If I want to retire early, incremental increases in lifestyle cost leads to needing to work longer to fund them. If I'm going to be working anyway, that no longer matters.
Even so, while my calculations both from Clearer Thinking and micromorts value my time at around 55-60 AUD (40-45 USD/hour) I still don't feel comfortable making THAT trade. I think I currently value my time as about half of its true worth in money-time tradeoffs.
I was having trouble understanding this post because my first thought was, "But I'll be paid regardless of how productive I am during the heatwave, given how unlikely it is that someone will notice the impact on my productivity!"
... But that, of course, ignores the objective reduction in value produced. This seems particularly bad if one is working directly in EA.
I ran the numbers based on the Clearer Thinking exercise and found a rate at which I'd trade money for time that I was comfortable with (in economics, this is called the marginal rate of substitution). It's based on the amount of money you earn for each hour you work, after taxes, and for me it's about US $50/hr.
However, the rule of thumb is only theoretically grounded if you are paid by the hour. I'm salaried, so I am not expected to work a particular number of hours per week, and I can't earn $50 more for each additional hour I work. I'm still willing to apply this number in my daily life because it "feels right".