Author’s Note: This is a repost from an earlier version of Dunebat Country.
You live for 168 hours every week. Each week, you exist as a living, breathing organism for roughly that duration of time.1 This is automatic; you will exist for 168 hours every week, or you will cease to exist. Those are your only options.
- You will sleep 56 hours if you get the necessary eight hours of sleep per night your body requires to function. If you sleep more, add to this amount. If you sleep less, subtract from this amount.
- You will work 40 hours if you are employed full-time, eight hours per day Monday to Friday, at only one job and work no overtime.2 If you work more, add to this amount. If you work less, subtract from this amount.
- Subtract average travel time to and from work,3 time spent getting ready for work,4 time spent using the lavatory,5 meal times,6 et cetera.
On average, you have an estimated 40 hours of “free time” remaining each week.
What will you do with those 40 hours?
If we continue our calculations further, these 40 hours of weekly “free time” become more tangible and meaningful to us. If we average out these 40 hours between each day of the week, this gives you between five to six hours of spare time every day of the week. What can you do in five hours every day?
Of course, we don’t average the time out equally between every day of the week. If you observe the Torah’s commandments and rest on Shabbat, or if you adhere to another religion that requires you to rest on a specific “holy day” every week, averaging out these 40 hours between all seven days of the week is all but impossible. Moreover, in developed nations, we try to rest all weekend — Saturday and Sunday. Minus sleep time, meal preparation time, and lavatory time for both weekend days total, 24 hours of our weekly “free time” is devoured by weekend diversions (religious services, gaming, spending time with loved ones, drinking at bars or dancing at clubs, et cetera ad nauseum) leaving us with an average of 16 hours of remaining “free time” every week. This means we have an average of three-and-a-half hours of “free time” every workday.
This number seems paltry at first. “I only have three spare hours each day! I can’t do anything with that!” Watch one movie with your family and two hours out of the three-and-a-half are already gone.
Consider the cumulative effect, though! According to the book Outliers by Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell, it takes a staggering 10,000 hours of research and practice to master any given subject. Gladwell estimates this takes 90 minutes of study and practice every day for 20 years.7
Of course, as the title of Gladwell’s book specifies, he refers solely to the unparalleled experts in their fields, like physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer — the outliers in their fields, the masters of masters. Bestselling business author Josh Kaufman opines in his book The First 20 Hours that it really takes only 20 hours for the average person to master any given skill or subject. If a person devotes only two hours of their three-and-a-half spare workday hours to learning a new skill — the time it takes to watch the average major motion picture — then, according to Kaufman, that person can learn (or even master) a new skill in only ten days. They may not be an Oppenheimer, but they’ll either have an exciting new hobby or they’ll have a skill that could net them a better job, a raise in pay at their current job, or the ability to work for themselves.
What else could be done with three-and-a-half spare hours per workday? What could be built by spending only one or two hours a day? What works of art created, what symphonies composed, what literary masterpieces penned? What websites could be forged? What podcasts or video streams filmed?
What could you do with three-and-a-half hours of “free time” every workday?
I recommend you calculate where your time is going, as I have done above. Start with 168 hours per week. Subtract how much time you sleep. Subtract how much time you work. Subtract travel time. Subtract meal times. Subtract preparation time. The number of hours you have left is your remaining “free time” every week, which can be divvied up per day. It’s extremely simple math.
If it helps, start keeping a daily log of your activities with time codes for when you initiate or end a task. I do this myself. Highlight which hours are spent working, eating, or in preparation for other tasks so you can factor that time into your equations later.
Now, examine your hobbies. How much time do you spend watching something on television or on the Internet? How much time do you spend reading, whether the medium is physical (like a book) or digital (like an ebook)? How much time do you spend playing games (board games, video games, roleplaying games, gambling, sporting games, or whatever)? How much time do you spend partying? Traveling? Exercising? Spending time with friends? Enjoying some “decompression” time alone? Improving yourself?
Are you religious or spiritual? If so, how much time do you pray or meditate? How much time do you read your holy writings? How often do you attend worship services or congregate with other like-minded individuals, and for how long? Do you volunteer to help others? How much time do you spend helping others?
Ask yourself: Is this how I want to spend the time I have in my life? Am I satisfied with how I use my time right now?
How much time do you have left in your life, and how will you use it?
- Time varies each day due to the decrease of the Earth’s rotation, but so far that variance has been negligible. We barely notice the shortened time.
- This assumes you live in the United States and work what Americans consider a standard work week. Unfortunately, our government’s labor laws are woefully behind; the Federal government considers a 30-hour work week “full-time” employment, but the majority of America’s states consider a 40-hour work week “full-time” employment. If you work only 30 hours a week in many states, your employers can exempt you from receiving employer-provided benefits like medical coverage or paid time off work.
- For this argument, I assume you travel fifteen minutes from home to work and thirty minutes from work to home every workday, on average. This gives you a total of two-and-a-half hours spent traveling to and from work every week. If you travel farther, add time to that amount. If you travel shorter distances, subtract time from that amount.
- For this argument, I assume you spend thirty minutes every workday getting ready for work, for a total of two-and-a-half hours spent preparing for work every week. If you spend more time preparing for work, add time to that amount. If you spend less time preparing for work, subtract time from that amount.
- For this argument, I assume you spend one hour total using the lavatory each day, giving you a total of seven hours spent in the lavatory every week. If you spend more time in the lavatory, add time to that amount. If you spend less time in the lavatory, subtract time from that amount.
- For this argument, I assume you spend one hour preparing and eating each meal, three times per day. If you adhere to this, you spend twenty-one hours every week preparing and eating meals. If you spend more time eating, add time to that amount. If you spend less time eating, subtract time from this amount.
- As the late psychology professor K. Anders Ericsson noted in a text for the British Journal of Sports Medicine quoted by MakeUseOf.com, Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule — which Gladwell considered the “tipping point” to becoming one of the greatest masters of any skill or subject — is a generality that doesn’t really bear fruit in reality. Some people have mastered new skills or subjects in far less than 10,000 hours, while others took over 25,000 hours of intense study and practice to master a particular field. Doctors, for example, must live, eat, and breathe their chosen medical fields for up to 70 hours a week or more to attain familiarity, let alone mastery. As urologist Dr. Nathan Colin Wong asks in an article for the Canadian Urological Association Journal, “Is 10,000 hours really enough?” Additionally, consider all the time you spent in school as a child. Do you consider yourself a master of any of the subjects you learned?