November 25, 2018

168 Hours

Way back in 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that at this point in time, we’d be working 15-hour weeks. With all due respect, Mr. Keynes…WRONG!!! On average, we’re working a whole lot more. In fact, Gallup estimates that a full-time salaried worker now works, on average, 47 hours per week. This got me thinking about my time and how I spend it on work and other things.

I recently finished a book called The Burnout Gamble by Hamza Khan. It’s good, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s interested in learning more about burnout and how to overcome it. It’s not my intent to summarize the book, but I would like to share an exercise that helps you assess how you’re spending your time.

The idea is to create a chart that shows how you WANT to spend your time and another that shows how you ARE spending your time. Since I’m no good with fancy charts and graphs, I devised a table that illustrates my situation up until about six weeks ago when there was a temporary change in my circumstances.

My numbers aren’t 100% precise, but they’re my best estimate. Also, there are all sorts of things that factor into these numbers, e.g. my husband is retired and keeps a lot of the home fires burning, we were frequenting restaurants because of my work schedule, I have someone who cleans the house every couple of weeks, my kids are on their own, I live close to work and amenities, etc.

However, these are nitpicky details and your numbers, based on your circumstances, would be different. My goal in doing this exercise was simply to get a concrete picture of how I’m actually spending my time and how I want to spend it. You may have other categories I haven’t included, e.g. kids’ activities, caring for elderly parents, and so forth.

Keep in mind that this chart represents the 168 hours we all have in one week.

Activity Hours/Wk – Goal and (Actual) Variance to be at Goal
Sleep 56 (50) +6
Work (job) 40 (55) -15
Eat/Cook/Groceries 15 (12) +3
Exercise 6 (4) +2
TV/Internet/Social Media 10 (19) -9
Family/Friends 3 (2) +1
Self-Care (bath/shower, getting ready, daily routines, etc.) 14 (14) 0
Quiet Time (reflection, meditation, journaling, etc.) 4 (0) +4
Commuting (work, activities, etc.) 2 (2) 0
Hobbies (reading, writing) 12 (4) +8
Miscellaneous (errands, shopping, cleaning, volunteering, appointments, and other things I can’t think of right now) 6 (6) 0
Total 168 /////////////////////////////////

On one hand, this exercise didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know, i.e. if I want to do MORE of certain things (e.g. sleep, quiet time, hobbies), I have to do LESS of others (e.g. work, TV, Internet and social media). However, the exercise is valuable in that I can see clearly how much time I’ve been spending on things and where my wiggle room is.

It’s also given me some things to think about and made me realize I have some decisions to make.

I will use the results of this exercise to help me better plan my time, focusing more on what’s important to me and good for me and less on what’s not (subjective, I know). That said, I realize the need to be flexible and the fact that I have to accept the consequences of my decisions. It also means I may have to say NO more often when certain things don’t fit my schedule.

This exercise has helped me gain control over feelings of overwhelm by getting real about where my time has been going. Now that I see it, I can do something about it. I’m in the driver’s seat, and that’s a good place to be.

Maybe you’d like to try this yourself and let me know how it goes.