The 168 Hour Experiment

I first read about the book 168 Hours:  You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam here on Paula Pant’s blog. (Paula’s adorable, you should go check it out.)

Vanderkam’s book is based on simple math that proves most of us don’t use our time wisely. Even with a full-time job, 8 hours of sleep each night, and all that useless time we spend doing things like packing lunches, showering, and keeping our homes clean, she posits that the average person still has 42 hours of free time each week.

Forty-frickin’-two.

Do any of YOU feel like you have that much free time?

Neither did I.

So I did the rough math for my own schedule, plugging in numbers that sounded appropriate. Commute time? Meh, 30 minutes each day. Time exercising? Hmm, maybe three or four hours a week. How about time spent on personal hygiene? Uh, does that include playing with makeup?

The estimations weren’t good enough for my inner numbers nerd, so I printed out the Excel spreadsheet that Paula provided as part of her post and followed in her footsteps. I carried the thing around with me and documented how I spent my time in 15-minute increments for seven days. At first I thought that sounded insane and half hour time slots would be more efficient. I quickly realized that you can do a LOT more in 15 minutes than you think, and tracking it this way gave me the best picture of how I was spending my time.

To be fair, I have no idea if that’s how Vanderkam suggests that you do it. I picked up the book from the library but found her writing style didn’t hold my attention. Hopefully she won’t mind that her message reached me via other avenues.

168 Hours_Pic 1.jpg

Anyway, here’s how my 168 hours broke down that week:

56.5 hours sleep
40 hours at work
13.25 hours working on videos and blog posts
13 hours family time
12.5 hours on chores and running errands
7.25 hours exercising (includes changing, mixing pre-workout, stretching, etc.)
7 hours “getting ready” and commuting, i.e. general morning time
5.75 hours reading
5.25 hours cooking and eating
4.5 hours grooming and personal hygiene
3 hours watching TV

I was exceptionally proud of how little TV I watched in a week, and even prouder that I spent nearly double that amount of time reading. I averaged 8 hours of sleep each night, and I can’t emphasize enough how much better I feel each day when I’m well-rested.

Other numbers, however, I found surprising and/or appalling.

12.5 hours on chores and errands? That category included driving time on errands and things like grocery shopping, going to the library and retail stores, cleaning, and laundry to name a few. Now, I love a clean house, but that amount of time seemed excessive. If I could just spend one hour each day cleaning or running an errand or two, that would get me 5.5 hours back. I could do a ton with that time. Way more than I would have imagined before conducting this little experiment.

Even after the week was over, I was tempted to print out another spreadsheet and keep going. An interesting side effect of having to track my time was that I was significantly more likely to do something I wouldn’t feel guilty about recording. This reminded me of why food journals are so effective when people are trying to lose weight; it created accountability. If I found myself with down time to scroll through the internet, I made myself get up and go write a new recipe instead.

168 Hours Pic 2

I really want you to stop and think for a minute. What’s something that you want to do, or have been wanting to do for a while, that you claim you don’t have time for? Is it working out? Writing your first book? Spending more time with your kids? Cooking wholesome meals at home?

Whatever it is, I would challenge you to track your time for a week and find out where all that time is actually being spent. Then it’s just a matter of lining up your priorities. I was pretty happy with how I was allocating my time for the most part, but still found ways to make some adjustments to get more of what I wanted out of life every day. The changes I made didn’t require any great amount of effort, but you’d be surprised how even just little tweaks can change your whole perspective.

So tell me. What’s your highest priority, and is that what you’re devoting your time to?

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