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International Generalist #13: buying back your time, a drippy matrix, & memory dividends.

How much is your time worth? When should you start delegating? How can you make time pass more slowly?

Dominik Nitsch
6 min read

Quick programming note: if you expected to receive this newsletter on Sunday, you were right. I apologise for missing that deadline, but after 2 days of a gruelling training camp, I just couldn’t muster the strength to write good content. With that out of the way …

Let’s dive in.

Photo by Clicker Babu on Unsplash

You can always make more money, but you cannot make more time.

Yet, there are millions of content pieces out there on how to become rich, and few in comparison on how to be “time-rich”.

Let’s talk about that.

I’ve observed a paradox:

  • When you’re not doing anything, time passes really slowly, but seems fast in retrospective.
  • When you’re doing things that you thoroughly enjoy, time passes fast, but seems slow in retrospective.

Which makes sense: when you’re engaged, you lose track of time, but by doing things out of the ordinary, you give yourself “landmarks” to anchor your memories to.

Thus, retrospectively, you’re able to orient yourself better looking back, leading to the feeling of time passing more slowly.

So let’s give ourselves more “landmark” moments.

(Most of the insights inside this newsletter are taken from the book “Buy Back Your Time” by Dan Martell, which I strongly recommend reading. Probably the best book I’ve read so far this year)

Photo by QooQee on Unsplash

[1] Rocks first: The Preloaded Year

“You have a glass jar, rocks, pebbles, sand, and water. …”

Yeah, yeah, we know the drill. Put the rocks in first, pebbles second blah blah.

For real though: put the rocks in the jar first.

By rocks, I mean your “landmark” events, and by jar, I mean your calendar.

Anything that’s truly important to you goes into your calendar first:

  • Vacations
  • Time with family & friends
  • Events, concerts, games

Now you’ve ensured that the “landmark” events happen and your year will be memorable. Awesome!

Onto the pebbles:

  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Weekly social time
  • Projects you love working on
  • Everything else that keeps you running

Putting yourself first ensures you have energy to do everything else in your pre-loaded year.

Finally, the sand:

  • Work
  • Other duties & obligations

For some, work might cause a few landmark events (I’ll never forget the day in which I signed my first Share Purchase Agreement with another company, or the day we welcomed the first nurses to Germany with my first startup).

But chances are, your job is a job (which is perfectly fine!), and you mostly do it because you somehow need to pay the bills.

Your calendar should be fairly full at this point. Water (chores, errands etc) will find its way into your calendar anyway.

Your year is now preloaded.

My mother has always done it this way. When I asked her about it, she simply answered: “the farther ahead you plan something, the longer you have something to look forward to.”

She’s a wise woman.

[2] Mad drip but for notorious self-optimisers: The DRIP Matrix

With the landmark events planned out, let’s take a look at the “pebbles” and “sand” activities: do you actually have to do all of them yourself?

Martell summarises this in the “DRIP Matrix” that groups activities on two axes:

  • Makes you money
  • Lights you up
Graphic by yours truly

Things that do both are things that you should be doing. This is your sweet spot, your “Production” quadrant. For me, this is:

  • Working on complex business challenges, like negotiating M&A deals and planning post-merger integrations
  • Building and developing international teams
  • And to some extent, writing!

Things that do neither are things that you should delegate. For example:

  • Cleaning (we recently got a new cleaner and holy hell is he good), and generally chores
  • Administrative stuff at work
  • Specifically: ironing shirts, I just hate it

Those are cheap to delegate, and therefore easy to get rid of. Anyone can do these.

Things that light you up but don’t make you money are ones you should invest in. In my world, that’s:

  • Playing Lacrosse (requires a hefty investment)
  • Lifting weights
  • Drinking crisp draft beers
  • Generally traveling (although business travel is in my production quadrant)

Things that make you money but don’t light you up are ones where you should look to replace yourself. Like:

  • Giving workshops about agile project management
  • Running the day-to-day operations of a company in the long-term
  • High cadence, low ticket sales

Here’s where it becomes difficult: it’s expensive to replace yourself, and your replacement likely won’t be as good at the job as you are.

That’s okay: if you can get 80% of your previous performance with only 10-20% of your time investment, this is a huge win!

Don’t be afraid to delegate and replace.

But where should you start?

[3] A metaphorical shopping spree: The Buyback Rule

Martell uses a simple formula for this.

Take your annual salary, divide by your annual hours worked, then divide by four. (Martell uses 2000 h / year, but I live in Germany where we have cool shit like actual 8-hour workdays, healthy work-life balance and PTO, so I’ll use 1600).

For example, say you make 80.000 € / year.

Divided by 1.600 hours, your hourly rate is 50 € / h.

Divided by 4, your “buyback rate” is 12.50 € / hour.

So at this salary, everything you can delegate at < 12.50 € / h, you should instantly delegate.

Use the newly won time to work on more things in your production quadrant. Once you make more money, do the next round of delegation, and so on.

At some point, you’ll (maybe, although unlikely) arrive at Naval’s buyback rate who allegedly values his time at $5000 per hour. Which allows you to delegate basically everything outside of your production quadrant.

A life lived in your production and investment quadrants is a life well lived.

[4] Compounding … again?! The concept of Memory Dividends

There’s another benefit to having “landmark” events in your calendar that becomes obvious after you’ve made these experiences.

Photo by the author

I’m writing these lines from a coffee shop in Riga. I feel calm and happy to be here. And I know that whatever memories I make on this journey to Latvia, I’ll cherish for a long time.

Every time you make memories, you pay into your “memory bank account”. And every time you remember them and a smile pops on up on your face, you earn dividends on them.

This is what kept my grandmother going for a long time: every time we’d meet, she’d tell a story from the hundreds of trips that she made. She couldn’t really make any new experiences, but she consistently drew from her memory bank account, earning tons of dividends from the past.

Invest in your memories early. If a trip seems expensive, do it anyway.

You can always make more money, but you cannot make more time.

Carpe diem.

Action Items:

  1. Plan out your next 12 months by scheduling the things that are most important to you first.
  2. Map out your main activities in your DRIP matrix.
  3. Calculate your individual buyback rate and compare that to your findings from your DRIP matrix.
  4. Delegate, replace, invest, and produce accordingly.
  5. Use your newly found time to invest in your memory bank, so you can earn dividends for the rest of your life.

That’s it for this edition of International Generalist. Thanks for tuning in and reading!

If you enjoyed this, please ask yourself: which one person that you know would most benefit from reading this newsletter? The number one way to support me is to share this with others aspiring to become more effective in their personal and professional lives.

Who’s behind International Generalist?

I’m Dominik, and every day, I try to figure out how to become a tiny bit more effective. Then, I share some of the lessons learned here.

When I’m not writing, I build the international business for Sdui - the Leading European SchoolOS -, play Lacrosse, lift weights and enjoy draft beers.

Here’s how else I can help you:

See you in two weeks!


Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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