Time is like the currency for life. It’s our most important resource, so naturally we complain that we don’t have enough of it. Ever.
Truth be told, there’s more of it than we think, but we’re probably not the best at utilizing it. We waste it, we procrastinate, and we spend it on things that aren’t worth it.
Statistics on the average American day says as much. This great infographic from the WallStreet Journal (below) based on the 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics shares the average day in the life of a typical American over the age of 15.A few things of note:
- We spend 8 hours and 48 minutes on sleep
- We spend nearly 3 hours on TV
- We spend approximately 2.5 hours on other leisurely activities and sports
- We spend less than half an hour on education
Now I’m a fan of sleep, so I don’t have a problem there, but the leisure and TV parts of our day are a bit out of hand. You’d think we’d be able to give up TV, but how can you justify giving up Game of Thrones! Thanks to Netflix, HBO, and ESPN, it’s hard to turn your attention away from the big or small screen.
If you take that 5.5 hours a day and do the math, it works out to about 2,000 hours a year! That’s a lot of time we’re spending on something that’s not really impacting our lives in any meaningful way.
This is of course an average and not all of us are binge watching Netflix every evening, but to say that we don’t have enough time is mostly an exaggeration. How you choose to spend your time, outside of your job or daily responsibilities, is a choice. Here are 5 ways to make sure that choice is a good one.
Track Your Time
Not forever, but for at least a couple of days. This accomplishes a few things. First it makes you more aware of how you spend your time. Knowing that you’re keeping track, you’ll quickly start to notice where your time is going and possibly why you think there’s not enough of it.
Give your brain as much attention as you do your hair and you’ll be a thousand times better off.Malcolm X
As Malcolm X points out, you may be spending hours on your hair or watching TV or in the car. Whatever it is, understanding this breakdown will show you the gaps and inefficiencies in your own schedule and point you in the right direction.
Maximize Dead Time
A direct result of the above exercise is that you’ll start to notice periods of dead time that aren’t being used or for that matter, are completely wasted. Perhaps you have a 2 hour commute every day or maybe you find yourself waiting on other people during the day.
Making the most of these dead periods can make a big difference. Listen to audio books or podcasts during your commute. Use educational apps on your smartphone whenever you have down time, perhaps to learn a language or pick up some programming. There’s a lot that can be done during these lulls of the day that add up quickly.
Be Aware of Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s Law is an adage that says work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. I’m sure we all have experienced this very feeling. I mean it’s what procrastination is all about. We procrastinate on doing things until we know we can’t procrastinate any longer.The thing is, what does this procrastination look like? Probably something like being busy (see below), but not really doing much of anything. Being aware that this happens can help us instill some urgency and maximize our time.
Stop Being Busy
As a society, we’ve glorified the idea of being busy. The thing is, being busy doesn’t mean being productive. What keeps us busy is often not necessary work, rather it’s just things we do to feel like we’re doing something.
When you track your time, find these busyness traps that make you feel productive, but aren’t actually creating value. You’ll be surprised how much of your time goes into them.
Start With The Hard Stuff
Everyday we usually have a list of things we’d like to accomplish, but for some reason, by the end of that day, the most important item on the list is still there. Why does this happen? Throughout the day, our willpower is being used and slowly runs out. By the end of the day it’s so spent that it’s easier to crash in front of the TV than it is to work on the things that matter to us.
If we just start the day with our most important task, we can fix a lot of these issues. Getting that out of the way first will not only build momentum, but you’ll find that it’s easier to do the other tasks on your list.
In the end, Seneca said in best:
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
We have the time to accomplish our goals. To realize our dreams. It all comes down to how you choose to spend your time.
If you spend it wisely, everything you want to achieve and more will become reality. If not, well, you’ll realize your mistake later in life.
Life is long if you know how to use it.