Alexander Bell wasn’t exaggerating when he said that time flies. Ever been caught telling a story about something that happened three years ago only to be corrected by your partner and reminded that it was more than eight years ago? Ever blinked and realized your children aren’t small enough to fit in your lap anymore? Ever gone back to visit the town you grew up in only to find it transformed by urban decay? Time is fleeting. And so much—so much—happens while our eyes and thoughts wander. And the reality is, we have less of it than we realize.
Lets Do The Math: Hours in a Week
There are 168 hours in a week.
We spend (or should spend!) 56 hours a week sleeping.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend roughly 28 hours a week (4 hours a day) eating and drinking, doing household chores, and “other” activities.
That leaves us with 84 available hours a week, or 12 hours a day.
Now subtract that 40 hour typical workweek and we are left with:
12 available hours a week, or an average of 4 hours a day.
Time is what you make of it
I remember doing this exercise and feeling pretty sober afterwards. After tending to the basics (work, sleep, etc) I was only left with around 4 hours a day to spend time with my wife, my kids, my interests, not to mention squeezing in a workout or two.
The reality is that there isn’t a lot of time available to us, yet we so often flit about in our lives acting as if there is. We get lost in the blue haze of our smart phones, ingest hours of media while shoving Doritos down our gullets, or we worry about tomorrow or yesterday instead of being present in the now.
Your relationships with others and your relationship with yourself require your utmost attention. Your children need to see you and be seen by you. Your spouse or partner needs time to connect with you. And you need to tend to your own needs by pursuing the things that not only make you a unique individual but fill your heart with joy and energy. So here is what I would like for you to do:
First, be intentional with each day. Understand where you are putting in time and why. Each week, map out your days in your calendar or journal so you can visually see where your hours are being dedicated.
Second, schedule family time. Decide when you can spend meaningful time with your loved ones. It may be a date night with your spouse on Friday and taking the kids to a game on Saturday. Whatever it is, if you schedule it in, it is much more likely to happen.
Third, plan time for yourself. We can only be as good for others as we are for ourselves and it’s essential that we engage in the activities, interests, and hobbies that fill our cup. Work with your spouse to find a few hours each week when you can take part in those.
Finally, stay flexible. Even the best laid plans can’t escape reality. A work project may have you in the office an extra 10 hours meaning quality time with your family has been sacrificed. Look at your schedule and triage, deciding which priority needs your attention and which can wait another week. Be mindful, however, when doing this and notice how often your family time or me-time is being sacrificed. If it’s a constant, then you either need to accept and embrace the reality of your work at this time or, if you are no longer willing to compromise your time for your work, it may be time to have a conversation with your employer.