700.000 hours: the only thing we have
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 45 seconds
700,000 hours – what are you gonna do with them?
Let’s do some math. 80 * 365 * 24 = 700,800. Cool – anyone can do that. Thanks for reading!
Or wait. What did we just calculate there? I was wondering how many hours my life would actually last. Assuming I’ll live until I am 80 (which considering my current lifestyle isn’t necessarily a given), there is a total of 700,000 hours in my life – 210,000 of which I’ve spent already. Is that a lot? I have no idea. I simply cannot relate to such a large number in the context of hours. There’s only one thing I know: once the current hour is gone, it’ll never come back. Ever.
Time is our most valuable resource, nevertheless we disrespect it in an almost frivolous manner. How often does the day just pass by without really having achieved anything? To me, that happens a lot. Tic Tac. Another day gone. And while we tend to think we have plenty more of them, they’ll pass by sooner than we can even fathom.
This post was inspired by the idleness I’ve observed here in the Dominican Republic. Monday, around 11 am. I’m walking down to the beach and there are people sitting everywhere. Hey – it’s awesome that you can do that, but … is this really where you want to be? I’ve talked to plenty of these people just hanging around and if they were happy where they currently are. 100% of them said no (sample size 12). That made me think – you’re telling me you’re not happy in your current situation, yet you’re just sitting around doing nothing? Something’s wrong here. And I’d like to find out what it is.
We all know the old adage: “time is money”, or in more mathematical terms, “time equals money”. Following that logic, it’d be perfectly rational to put the exact same value on both time and money. Therefore, if we value one hour of our time at 50 €, then it’d be perfectly rational to flush at least 100 € down the toilet every day. Would you ever do that? I highly doubt it (unless you’re some filthy rich masochist, but then it’d be better invested just giving it to me). However, we all do this every day: check some Facebook here, some Instagram there, wait for the bus for 15 minutes, sitting around idle because we don’t know what to do with ourselves. In my opinion, that is borderline criminal. The same is true for the people in the Dominican Republic: in the previous logic, they’re constantly throwing money into the Atlantic Ocean. And that just cannot happen.
“But Dominik, I have a job, I do sports, I live a great life, I’m not one of them.” Right. And you never “have time” (aside: this phrase is my personal arch enemy). That’s okay if you’re happy with what you’re doing, because you’ve got your prioties straight. Most of us however haven’t. “I’d like to read more”, “I’d like to speak another language”, “I really want to spend more time with my girlfriend”. Cool – so why don’t you do it? “But .. when?”
Glad you asked.
I’d like to present a few activities that you can leverage and techniques that will help you free up more time for the things that really matter to you. I’m also most focusing on the things happening outside of your professional life (although some of the below points can also be applied to life inside the office). Let’s get into them:
5 ways to get more out of your time
1. Leverage your commute
As normal human beings in our society, chances are that we’re not working from home but instead have to go to our job or our university. For instance, it takes me around 15 minutes to get from my home to the office. Now, there are several ways that I could get there. I could either take a bus or use my bicycle. The former is convenient, but the latter is a lot faster and allows me to work on my cardio every day – something that I normally do when absolutely necessary (I prefer lifting weights) and probably would not make time for outside of it. While commuting (I have a route without a lot of traffic), I listen to audiobooks or podcasts. 15 minutes isn’t a lot of time though – or is it? Here are some number acrobatics: 15 minutes * 2 (because I also have to go back home) * 5 (5 workdays a week) * 4 (4 weeks in a month) = 10 hours of time spent commuting every month.
To put this into relation: this is the time it roughly takes to listen to two average audiobooks on 1.25 listening speed. In other words: I get to read two books every month and have amazing cardio simply due to leveraging my commute. This adds up to an additional 24 books a year – on top of the time that I dedicate to reading anyway. That’s a ton of books, more than I’ve probably read during my studies. Just imagine what you could do with all that information. It’d be insane. If you want to start doing that, podcasts on Spotify and an Audible subscription are good places to start. The apps are incredibly easy to use and in no time, you’ll be listening to a lot of cool shit.
Because I really want to hammer this point home, do the same equation again but this time, you have a 60 minute one-way commute. This adds up to 40 hours every month – or, roughly, 11.3 % of your awake time (assuming you sleep 8 hours every day). Shit. That’s A LOT of time – and it’ll be gone forever. You better use it.
Personally, I always tend to pay a premium for location. A long commute to work simply isn’t worth paying $200 less in rent every month, as I just demonstrated. So if you’re stuck in a situation like that, you might wanna think long and hard about moving closer to your workplace.
2. Leverage other activities
In order to not let this go unmentioned, you can apply this principle to any activity that does not require your full attention. I like to call my parents and grandparents while I’m cleaning or washing dishes, for instance. Household activities are things that I absolutely despise, but by calling the family, they become a lot more enjoyable. Grandma is happy and so are the flatmates. Same goes for the gym: you have plenty of time between sets (if you train like me at least), so listening to a podcast while working out works pretty well.
3. Outsource things that you dislike doing or aren’t very good at
Speaking of household activities, we really need to get a cleaning lady. Why? Back to “time equals money”. I value my time at around 50 € per hour (if you want to get into the nitty-gritty economics with perfect substitution and all that, feel free to message me). Therefore, if it takes me two hours to clean the apartment and I can get the job done for less than $100, I shouldn’t do it myself. I can get a cleaning lady for this purpose for around 40 € in Germany (not to mention that she probably does a lot better job than I do. Just ask my flatmates.). Why should I do it myself? I don’t enjoy it, and it’s not worth my time. Therefore, the only rational solution is to outsource it.
Side note: This, of course, changes a lot if you enjoy cleaning. Then, it’s absolutely worth your time!
4. Eliminate time consumers
Breaking news: social networks eat up a lot of time. Nowadays, I believe we’re all aware of this – but we don’t act upon it (myself included). I still spend plenty of time every day looking at my Instagram feed, checking Facebook and WhatsApp messages and whatnot. Now that my phone has been stolen, I don’t feel the urge to do that at all – I’m really not missing anything (or have you ever felt like you REALLY REALLY had to check Instagram?). Now, the easiest way out would be to simply not have an account there; which is easy to say, but hard to impossible to actually put into practice. Facebook has been a blessing in managing my whole network, and I wouldn’t wanna miss it for the world.
You can, however, eliminate the most time-consuming part of it: the newsfeed. There is an amazing browser extension called “Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator”, which simply blocks your newsfeed and instead gives you a smart quote from somebody. I regularly catch myself going to facebook.com, just to realize that there’s nothing going on there. I highly recommend installing it. On the phone, just use the messenger app; not the Facebook app. The same is true for Instagram and others: switch off the notifications and all the sudden, you won’t even know what to do with all your time anymore.
5. Stop binge watching Netflix
“But I love Game of Thrones!” Absolutely – and that’s awesome! The beauty and ugliness of TV series is that it’s just so easy to watch another one; it’s so smooth and shallowly rewarding. And all the sudden, you’ve spent 6 hours in front of the TV without actually having achieved anything. I personally don’t watch TV series (when I tell people about that, sometimes they tend to look at me like I just told them that I’m Amish and have never used a car before), because I prefer to do other activities that I find more rewarding. This is completely up to you – but I want you to be aware of how big of a time sink Netflix and TV is.
A note on idleness: one question that certainly came up while reading this post was – isn’t it good to sit back and relax every now and then? Yes. It isn’t just good, but it’s absolutely necessary. And I’m not very good at it, as many of you know. However, I believe that you’ll know when you have to take that time. After a long workday, I sometimes cherish the ride home without having any input, or sitting on the roof doing nothing for 30 minutes. It’s part of human life and we should not forget to take our downtime every now and then. What’s important to me is to consciously take that downtime – and not just “letting it happen to you”. As I’ve stated previously, control over our lives is one key factor of happiness – and that also includes controlling your idle and non-idle time.
Side note: I hesitated publishing this post for a while because I started thinking more and more about the topic of conscious idleness. To me, one metric to tell if someone is successful is if they can spend 30 minutes just doing nothing. That’s a pretty amazing feat – one that I haven’t accomplished yet. Idleness has its time and place. But it shouldn’t be the activity that takes up a huge chunk of your time. Maybe I will look at this completely differently one year from now – I don’t know. As of right now, that’s my point of view and I’d love your thoughts on it.
During the past couple of years, I’ve gotten the feedback every now and then that I’m very mature and reflected for my age. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and it’d be easy for me to say that I’m just super awesome and mature and everything. However, I don’t think that that’s my personality – it simply is the result of good habits, and especially of reading a lot. Reading is one of the things that I the most on a regular basis, and it has greatly expanded my view on the world as well as on myself. Just think about it: an author (presumably) only writes about things that he has understood at a transcendent level; therefore, he probably put in 10,000+ hours of his time into that topic (or 1.428% of his total time alive). When you read his or her book, you can acquire that knowledge (to a certain degree, of course), within 5-10 hours. That’s very accelerated learning and one reason why the invention of printing has advanved our society so far. Use reading as a mean to leverage your time in order to acquire great deals of knowledge and perspectives. It won’t hurt you, but instead turn you into a well-rounded human being. Chances are that if you’re reading this blog, you’re already on a good way – keep going!
Am I holier than thou? Absolutely fucking not. Like most humans, I’m notoriously bad at taking my own advice and spend plenty of time pondering about irrelevant decisions, sending stupid snapchats to my friends and doing things that I really shouldn’t be doing. I have plenty of room for improvement.
Yet in the end, it comes down to what we want to achieve with our 700,000 hours. And I certainly don’t want to be the guy whose tombstone says: “he lived a great life, filled with social media, doing unenjoyable things and spending more than 10% of his awake time going somewhere”. Do you?
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