The Reduced Opportunity Cost of Trying New Things During Lockdown

Picking where to go on holidays has always been a challenge for me. With only four weeks available per year and so many hikes I’d like to do around the world, there will inevitably be some that need to be culled. There is a sense of loss every time a different destination is rejected in favour of another; even though the Overland Track was great, I didn’t get to do the Great Ocean Walk. This is called the opportunity cost. Not only is there the actual cost of the flights and accommodation, there is the cost of not taking the next best alternative option.

This is often ignored in professional contexts too. For example, governments love to proclaim the employment benefits of their initiatives. These jobs are not created in a vacuum, however; people are taken from other industries to fill these jobs. The value of this labour could have potentially been higher in these industries or in other alternative uses which may not have the same political clout.

At the moment the opportunity cost involved in filling leisure time is a lot lower than usual. There is no party to miss out on (not even from being not invited), no gig that conflicts with your nephew’s birthday, no football training to make excuses not to go to. One option with this lower opportunity cost is to substitute leisure time for labour. However, most of us get paid by salary, so this doesn’t really make much sense as an extra hour worked per day doesn’t come with additional payment.

I have found a more worthwhile use of my time doing those things which I have talked myself out of in the past, usually along the lines of: “I’ll do it for a week and then give up” or “you won’t put in the time to do it”. Playing the mandolin, writing, getting into chess and buying a bicycle have all proven me wrong, and all come at the minimal opportunity cost of worthless aimless scrolling. Take that, me.

So if you find yourself feeling like there is an abundance of wasted time, or are fixated on the things we can’t do at the moment, take the chance to do things you’ve been putting off or haven’t had the time for. Starting something new can be difficult, but embrace being a novice, accept being imperfect at something and take joy in seeing obvious improvement. Even if it doesn’t give you the satisfaction you expected or is too hard, that’s OK, you’ve got the time to try the next thing!

*Opportunity cost for parents right now is high as more time is required for caring for children, which has a high cost attached to neglecting it

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