There are 168 hours in the week. Are you maximizing yours?
I’ve been reading a lot lately on Medium about productivity hacks.
This makes sense, as we live in the age of instant information, an age defined by the relentless pursuit of optimization.
The Four Hour Workweek
Exhibit A is Tim Ferris’s seminal book, The Four Hour Workweek.
The fatal flaw of the The Four Hour Workweek is that it changed the scale – the dark implicit conclusion of that book is that soon employers would catch on and demand that everyone implement many of the time-saving and outsourcing shortcuts presented therein as a matter of course, i.e. all the time.
(For more on this and additional criticisms of Tim Ferris’s approach to work and building his empire, see Penelope Trunk’s classic blog post 5 Time management tricks I learned from years of hating Tim Ferriss.)
But it boils down to this:
Were the central premise of the The Four Hour Workweek true, rather than cram 40 hours of productivity into just 4 hours per week, the new normal would be an expectation that employees do that 10x in a row, cramming 400 hours of productivity into a mere 40 hours, courtesy of our own personalized cadre of outsourced virtual assistants.
While this dystopian vision of a “new normal” has yet to happen, the premise of “life-hacking” has so taken root in pop literature and the blogosphere that efficiency gains and long hours are now expected in many more fields than a decade ago, all cloaked in the romantic aegis of the “start-up culture.”
“Live like no one else,” the old quote by Dave Ramsey goes – “so later you can live like no one else.”
This adage is great if you’ve got stock options in a pre-IPO unicorn in Silicon Valley.
For the rest of us, the pay-off is less secure.
I’m not immune to these promises of maximum productivity for minimal effort, or of figuring out shortcuts that maximize my time.
But at the end of the day the truth boils down to 168.
Each of us has the same 24 hours in the day. That’s 168 hours in the week.
This isn’t a mistake. For instance, the number has a special meaning in Chinese:
168 (一路發)when spoken in Chinese is “yi lieu ba,” which sounds very similar to “yi lu fa,” meaning “one road of prosperity.”
Thus, in Chinese the number 168 is associated with good luck and fortune.
An Average Day
Here’s how the average adult spends her time:
Given that the average adult in the U.S. gets just 6.8 hours of sleep per night (vs. a recommended 7.5-9 hours) – that adult spends 47 hours asleep, 47 per week on the job, and has just another 74 hours of waking free time to go about the business of life.
Let’s call those 74 hours “discretionary time.”
And thus, those 74 hours hold the key to success.
Your mileage, of course, will vary:
- Long commute? Deduct as many as 10 hours.
- Family responsibilities? Deduct another 25 hours.
- Yoga (or a gym routine)? Deduct 6 hours.
But the point is this – no matter how many external demands on your time, there is a surplus that can be used to increase your happiness.
When’s the last time you audited your week?
What could you accomplish if you:
- Cut out TV?
- Skipped happy hour?
- Could shorten your commute?
What could you accomplish if you focused just one waking hour per day on your dream?
That’s it. One hour.
1 hour a day, or 7 hours a week.
7 out of 168 hours, or 4.2% of your time.
“People overestimate what they can accomplish in a day, and underestimate what they can accomplish in a year.”
It all starts with living more intentionally, being more acutely aware of how you use your time.
But by making small changes to give yourself just another hour or two a day, a year from now, you could be astonished by how much you’ve accomplished.