“If you love life, don't waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” - Bruce Lee
My homepage reads as follows: “Time is your most precious resource. You can't save it. You can't grow it. But you CAN use it wisely.” I remind myself of this on an almost daily basis because time is the ultimate luxury, resource and currency. In my opinion, people that don't respect their time, either don't respect themselves or are ignorant about the consequences of squandering their time.
This post will focus on accounting for your time and optimizing your time use. You can break down your time the same way you would break down your finances. The first step is to take a personal inventory: How much time do you have and what are you spending it on? The second step is to develop a plan and make choices about where you will allocate your future time.
What's interesting about time is, unlike money, we all have the same amount of it every day. Bill Gates and that homeless person begging you for change both have 24 hours in their day. What differentiates Bill from Bum is what they choose to spend their time on.
Before you can evaluate and optimize your use of time, it's a good idea to determine the upper limits of available time. In other words, how much time do you actually have at your disposal? Below is a breakdown of a year's worth of time:
One Year = 12 months = 52 weeks = 365 days = 8,760 hours = 525,600 minutes = 31,536,000 seconds
Time can be broken down into three major categories: 1. Sleep 2. Work 3. Free Time. Let's start by quantifying each one of these categories.
- Sleep: Assuming you sleep an average of 8 hours per night, you will spend 2,920 hours per year sleeping, which accounts for 33.33% (2920/8760) of your total time. Some people may function optimally with only 6 hours per night, while others may need closer to 10 hours. This range translates to 25.00% - 41.67% of your total time being spent on sleep. For the remainder of this analysis, I will use the average of 8 hours per night or 2,920 hours per year for my calculations.
- Work: If you have a standard 40 hour per week job, you can expect to work approximately 2,080 hours per year, which amounts to 23.74% (2080/8760) of your total time and 35.62% (2080/5840) of your awake time. When you factor in vacation time, holidays, personal days and sick days, your yearly total hours worked may be closer to 1,920 hours or 32.88% (1920/5840) of your awake time. For the remainder of this analysis, I will use 40 hours per week or 2,080 hour per year for my calculations.
- Free Time: If we assume that you work 2,080 hours per year and sleep 2,920 hours per year, this leaves you with 3,760 hours of free awake time per year (8,760 – 2080 – 2,920 = 3,760). That is 42.92% of your total time and 64.38% of your awake time.
At this point, you should realize how much free time most people actually have. If you're working 40 hours per week, you have almost twice the amount of free time than work time. However, not all of this time is really free as many of us have other activities and obligations that eat into our time. We will get into these next.
Commuting is a huge killer of time and productivity for many people. All of us commute in one way or another, whether by foot, bicycle, car, train or airplane. Commuting doesn't only include your commute time to work, but also the trips you take to the store, to visit family, to go on vacation, etc. Everyone's commute time will be different depending on their job and life situation. The key is to figure out how much time you spend on commuting and how you can reduce and optimize that time. If your average commute time is 2 hours per day and you can't be productive during your commute time, you're wasting 730 hours per year or 19.41% (730/3760) of your free time!
There's a difference between optimizing your commute time and reducing your total commute time. Sometimes, a longer commute can actually increase productivity and better optimize your time. For example, it might take you 35 minutes to drive into work and find parking, while taking a train might take 55 minutes. But because you need to be focused on the road while driving, you're not free to do more productive things like read, write or make a business call.
Since we all have a super-computer in our pockets, it's easier than ever to make the best use of our commute time by listening to music, lectures, audiobooks, news broadcasts, etc. If you take public transportation, you can also add reading, writing or watching something to this list.
You can reduce commute time by relocating closer to work, changing jobs or changing careers. These solutions aren't options for everyone but can be optimal for some people willing to take things to the next level.
The world has become saturated in information and deciding what to spend our time on is becoming ever more difficult. As a first step in this process, you should track what you're currently spending time listening to, watching and reading. You might be surprised at the amount of time you waste on consuming media that adds very little to your life.
The second step, is to evaluate whether what you're consuming is practical/educational/beneficial to your life or whether it's pure entertainment. If you're checking your Facebook because you run a business and are evaluating the effectiveness of a recent campaign ad, that is a productive use of your time. If you're checking Instagram so you can procrastinate and avoid completing a project for school or work, that is a poor use of your time.
A good rule for consumption of media/information is as follows: for every hour spent on consuming entertainment, spend twice the amount of time on educational/practical content. You can increase this ratio for even better productivity gains.
Outsourcing Activities to Save Time
We often spend time doing tasks that can potentially be outsourced, such as child care, laundry, cleaning, etc. If you're a professional who's gainfully employed, it doesn't make sense for you to spend 2-4 hours a week cleaning your house when you can hire someone and pay them 1/3 of your average hourly wage. If you outsource cleaning your house, you can instead use those 2-4 hours a week to further develop your professional skill-set or work overtime hours.
Another reason to outsource a task is to utilize economies of scale. A laundromat is able to buy detergent and other supplies at much cheaper prices because they buy them in bulk. They're also able to utilize their time and other resources much more efficiently since all they do is laundry all day long. These efficiencies are then passed down to you as a consumer. Many people that do laundry at home, don't factor in the cost of their laundry machines, electricity costs and water costs associated with using the machines. When all is factored in, you may find that dropping off your laundry is actually cheaper.
In general, it's best to outsource activities that you have limited expertise in or that can be completed at a fraction of your hourly wage. You can then use your time savings for more productive activities.
Blocking Out Time
Planning ahead is the ideal way to maximize your use of time. This can be done by dividing your day into blocks of time and filling each one of those blocks with a particular activity. I recommend using 30-minute blocks, but you can also use 15-minute blocks if you're a very busy person, or hour-blocks if you have a more leisurely schedule. The blocks don't have to be fixed to a specific time of day unless the activity requires it.
To use your time productively, it's important to give yourself deadlines, because activities tend to swell to fill the time alloted for them. I also find it best to plan your day the night before. This way there's no added pressure or time wasted in the morning trying to figure out how you will spend your time.
Excuses for Wasting Time
Many people CLAIM that they don't have time to do the things that will improve their quality of life. Some popular categories that people “don't have time for” are working out, cooking/eating healthy food, furthering their education/knowledge, taking care of their health or addressing their health problems, etc. This is simply a load of bullshit. You have time for what you make time for. Unless you are in prison and/or are a forced laborer, YOU are making the decisions about how you spend your time. It's important not to shift responsibility for your actions to other people or external circumstances. Own your decisions.
I hope this post wasn't a waste of your time and gave you some ideas about how you can assess and optimize your time. Time is the ultimate non-renewable resource. Don't waste it.
I would love to hear your thoughts or feedback regarding this post. Please feel free to comment below or shoot me an e-mail.