Often throughout life your income gradually increases and at times your expenses decrease, such as paying off a car loan or mortgage. As these happen you suddenly have more available income to spend however you’d like.
“Lifestyle creep” is the name given to the situation where you use this extra money to increase your standard of living to the point that former luxuries are now considered necessities, leaving you with even less available income than you had before.
For a while this can seem harmless, as you believe you’ve earned the increase in lifestyle but can later in life cause lots of stress when your income drops due to a salary change or retirement. You soon learn that even though your income is still more than you used to comfortably live on, you suddenly can’t seem to live at all. It’s a real problem.
As I’ve been slowing down and simplifying life lately I’ve come to realize that we fall prey to the same trap in other personal economies, too: namely our time and attention.
Often times we spend money on material things or processes in order to streamline our lives and “save” time. We all do this for various reasons, such as:
All of these things can be valid and even smart choices to trade something you do have (money) for something you don’t (time).
There’s a trap we can fall into here, though. With all of this newfound time we often feel the need to spend it, just like with the newfound income above. Often we don’t spend it wisely. We reclaim thirty minutes of our lives only to spend it all on Facebook or Netflix instead.
Or worse, we optimistically decide to fill the time with new endeavors and experiences that eventually take more time than we had freed up. It becomes net-negative and we find ourselves with even less time but more commitments. Often hard decisions about priorities will need to be made. Unfortunately that usually comes after much stress.
This is leisure creep. We should be very careful how we refill our time. Freeing an hour doesn’t necessarily mean you can now squeeze in an extra workout or dinner with a friend. If these things are ones you’re passionate about and would increase your wellbeing, go right ahead, but always consider the cost. Whatever you do, always make sure that the time is filled by you and no one else. Guard your attention the most because it is the most valuable commodity you have and entirely yours to allocate.
That extra hour may be better spent just taking a nap or by simply having no assigned purpose at all.