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Time. It moves in one direction: forward; and for every living thing on Earth there’s only a finite amount of it. Time passes whether we like it or not and if you’re not careful it’s an easy thing to waste.
People nowadays are always so busy. At least they appear to be. When folks hear about all the creative endeavours I undertake, and all the things I do outside of work, the most common question I get is, “Where do you find the time?” Along the same lines, when I listen to people talk about all the things they have to do in their day one of the statements I hear most frequently is, “I don’t have enough time!“
Well, I have an answer to the question and I’m calling bullshit on the statement right now.
Let’s look at the breakdown of a typical year for someone like myself. First, here are some high level things about my post-secondary education life that will help give you an idea of how I got to where I am today:
Two years after I graduated in 1997 I married the girl I met in the first week of University. We now have a son, a daughter, a house in the suburbs, and two cats. I’m on my fourth office job/career since 1997 and my fourth house since 2001. It doesn’t take a genius to see that in the last nineteen years, I’ve spent a lot of time husbanding, working, parenting, and apparently moving (I guess I was making up for spending the first nineteen living in the same house, sleeping in the same bedroom, and mooching off my parents).
Where does the time go, indeed. With a little bit of hindsight, and a spreadsheet, we can find out the answer to the questions asked / statement made thus far, and for the record, I used to say all three. So let’s take the time and have a closer look. With finances if you delve deeper into where you’re spending your money it becomes quite easy to figure out where you can save. Time, as it turns out, works the same way.
- I spend 8 hours a day sleeping (or trying to).
- I spend about 1 hour a day cleaning, grooming, going to the bathroom, and performing other solo activities (I suppose you could shower with somebody but I can guarantee you that you run the risk of it taking even longer than it would on your own, for various reasons I’ll leave up to your imagination).
- I spend another 1 hour per day preparing and eating meals.
- I spend about 260 hours in the year on family commitments like taking the kids to sports or driving them places or helping them with their homework.
- I spend about 182 hours in a year on health and exercise (yoga, walking, shooting hoops out on the driveway, etc…).
So out of my original 8760 hours I only have 4668 remaining (or roughly 53%).
That means 47% of my time – right out of the gate – is spoken for. That’s okay though, all those things I have spent it on are important. I’d probably be better off if the health number was higher and my kids would be better off if their homework/activities number was higher too but in terms of committed time – non negotiable time – I’m doing okay. Plus, I still have more than half a day to work with, right?
“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day. You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.” – Roger Waters
As you can see from my background I have an office job. That job is a 30 minute drive in each direction from where I live as well. So what’s that worth in terms of time?
Well, if you count from when I get in the car in the morning to when I pull into the driveway in the evening my job takes 10 hours per workday out of the total. If you take out weekends, statutory holidays, and vacation/days off I end up working roughly 226 days out of the year. That’s another 2260 hours.
Now where does that leave me?
My total remaining time for the entire year is 2408 hours.
That’s a titch more than 46 hours a week.
That’s an average of about 6.5 hours per day.
I have TONS of time. I have all the freaking time in the world!
But wait a second, those averages assume a 365 day year. As mentioned, I don’t work on some of those days, and as you’ll see in a second they are bringing up the average considerably.
If we split my life into days in which I work and days in which I don’t work here’s how it unfolds:
- On work days I am left with about 1 hour and 48 minutes per day “free time”.
- On non-work days that number spikes to 10 hours and 30 minutes.
Non-work days tend to fill up with various obligations so the 10.5 available hours are a bit misleading. Long weekends are family weekends up at the cottage. It’s a two hour drive each way (typically getting there on a workday and obliterating my hour and forty-eight, and then some). Soccer tournaments, family outings, birthday parties, yard work… you see how this goes. Perfectly reasonable things start taking up the time, and meanwhile time keeps on slippin’… slippin’… slippin’… into the future.
But here’s the best part, there should always a little bit left. Try it. Get out your spreadsheet and write it all down. You’ll see.
A good number of you will look at your list of Things I Do and you’ll notice that you work too much, or don’t sleep enough, or sleep too much (lucky jerks). Another thing you will notice is that the list will easily divide into two categories: have-to-do and want-to-do. Once you’ve captured all the things you absolutely have to do, you can shift the blocks around and allocate a little more here and a little less there with all the things you want to do.
List your job hours in the have-to-do column at the minimum you are contractually obligated to work (a more difficult task for self-employed folks and entrepreneurs but do your best to quantify the minimum). If career advancement is something you desire then you put that in the want column, attach time to it, and then prioritize it.
You see, the time is there, accessing it is just a matter of prioritization. If you allocate time to one block make it a conscious decision and be aware of what other block pays the price. Want everything you want exactly when you want it? I hope you can adjust to getting a lot less sleep (Pro Tip: not recommended. Sleep is really good for you). Another approach would be to ensure time is always taken from lower priority items – the want-to-do stuff. If you can do that you’ll be surprised at how much time you actually have.