168 hours: More time than you think

Mar 22, 2021

I’d like to think of myself as busy and doing a lot of things. But busy doing what exactly? I imagine work, training, goals and household tasks in that order. While in reality it seems more work, gaming, training(few short sessions), household task and at last goals. I am busy but not busy on the right things.

Every time when I check the hours spend on my phone I go: “Where did those hours go?”. Or the worst, You wanted to work on a personal project but it is already late. “Well no time to work on it today, will postpone it to tomorrow!” You say while booting up that game again because there is not enough time to do the actual work.

I am fortunate to already started kicking myself because I wasted time and opportunities. Regular reflection on what I am doing and where I am at helped me a lot with that. I procrastinated on work issues so that months later I am still stuck in that project I don’t like. Or I did not go for that certification because I did not feel like it only to see it open up opportunities for others who did go for it.

The book 168 hours: You have more time than you think goes in to depth on these issues.

The data is backed by the ATUS American Time Use Survey.

People claim they work 40 to 50 or even 60 hours and spending lots of time with family, children or pets but when it actually gets measured it is a lot less than they think. The stats about TV time always amaze me: 2.6 to 3.3 hours per day. I don’t watch TV shows, just occasionally I use my TV to watch a movie or some Youtube clips. However I do spend a (too) great amount watching Youtube videos on my phone or computer. Which essentially is the same thing as watching TV. Yes, you could use Youtube to learn about topics, but is that really what you do?

A good remedy for this is to log your own hours. Which is a task I am certain everybody hates. Working as a consultant I always had to log my hours on every project and every week I skipped a few days and had to spend a lot of extra time looking up what I did. But a few times I did manage to be on top of the hour logging and then it was really easy. Either I logged it right after the task or I used another medium, such as a calendar, to log how much time I spent and what I did. I tried to log my own time using apps but this quickly got confusing. Some times I forgot to stop the timer and then I spent all day exercising. So the weekly numbers were flawed quite a lot.

People tend to overestimate the amount of time they spend on certain things such as work, household chores and exercising. Most of these are routines tasks or things that are the same most of the time. Which is why it seems time slows down and everything takes longer. Using the data from the ATUS people’s accounts of an average week added up to 180 or even 200 hours, While we all get just 168.

Americans report that they have only 16.5 hours of leisure a week, after the obligations of job and household are taken care of. Yet they report they watch more than 16.5 hours of TV weekly. An activity that is hard to classify as anything but leisure

  • The Overworked American

The hardest part of this book is creating your own time log. You are supposed to track your hours for 1 week and then categorize them. Using this data the book will guide you to plan your time better. I started tracking my time in a small notepad. This is a lot easier than an app because you can use your own way of writing it down. I just note the time on which I start a new task. A short 30 minutes of gaming turned out to be 80 minutes.

Time at work

You probably spend a major bulk of your time (32 to 50) hours a week at work. The most important thing is to make sure that you enjoy it. Being in the right job for you will boost your satisfaction by a lot.

Identify core competencies and find a way to include them in your work. Think back at creative and productive times and ask yourself the following: Who, what, when, where and why?

Your work should be right around your skill level to make it challenging. Think about video games, they give you as tutorial and gradually build up the difficulty while you and your character get better. They don’t show you the ropes and throw you at the final boss right at the start. You should also have a certain degree of autonomy in your work. You should be able to decide how to do the task at hand and not be micro managed all the time.

Happy people are more productive and successful than unhappy people This would seems obvious, it would be logical that career success makes people happy. But a literature review shows the exact opposite. It states that Happiness is an important precursor and determinant of career success.

Happiness is also something that is in your circle of control. Using Stoicism you can focus more on the happy things in your life and thus become more successful. People induced to experience positive emotions set higher goals for themselves, persisted at difficult tasks longer, thought they were doing a better job and, in may cases really were.

Time at home

Most of this part covers handling children and making sure to spend enough time with them. As I don’t have any children and do not plan to have any in the foreseeable future I just skipped this part. After a while the book starts covering household tasks such as cooking and cleaning. This is where I picked it up again.

BooksTime management

Vito Minheere

Goodbye Things