Productivity

How I learned about Opportunity Cost

One of my biggest learnings this year, has been the concept of “Opportunity Cost”. I’d always known opportunity cost was a thing. I knew that the time I spent in doing X meant I couldn’t use it to do Y.

But knowing about the concept and actually understanding what it means are very different things. In my case, my failure was in being unable to accurately estimate the disruption that would be caused by picking up Y. Eg: while learning Django to build and finish my own website, I started reading about Postgres and from there onto general database theory. This ‘diversion’ felt very productive. I was after all reading about new tech, becoming better informed and not wasting my time. But it wasn’t what I had signed up to finish right? A better approach might’ve been to finish the Django website as soon as possible and then decide whether to spend time in learning marketing/content writing/database theory.

What finally gave? How did I learn this lesson? A lesson from Toptal helped. I was trying to qualify as a freelancer on the website and had managed to successfully complete 3 out of their 4 rounds.  Well, the last round was pretty simple. Create a simple CRUD app with various authentication and authorizations in two weeks.

I’d done similar projects several times over the past one year. Should’ve been a peace of cake. But to impress my interviewers, I decided to use DRF and … (wait for it) React!

That’s right. I decided to tackle the javascript ecosystem and learn my first front end  framework and finish my first project within 2 weeks. Tough, but manageable.

So I got started, learning about emacs. Why emacs? Because despite having used vim on and off for over 2 years now, I am still way more productive using sublime text. So after reading a hackernews discussion, I decided to use emacs to build my project in.

Knowing my limits, I cancelled all my travel plans and spent 8+ hours a day reading and learning about emacs, react, javascript and django-rest-framework. In the meantime, I also read some detailed articles on JWT auth-tokens, REST api best practices, managing redux state etc etc.

What happened in the end? I was unable to complete the task and got rejected.

What did I learn?

Curiosity is a good thing but only if you’re able to rein it in. Working hard is only of use if you are able to channel your energies wisely. And always ask yourself if what you’re doing right now, is really the best use of your time and energy.

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