There are 168 hours in a week. What, you didn’t know that? That’s OK, I just learned it a few years ago. Oh yeah, the data was tucked into some crease in my cranium, but the cold hard realization didn’t really hit me until I was half-way through grad school. So, I forgive you if you haven’t realized it yet either – I’m actually quite understanding that way.
Like I said, it wasn’t that long ago that I was in grad school. I’ve always found that I’m a better student if I have a part-time job to keep me busy and remove any temptation to procrastinate. However, this all snowballed on me very quickly. I was a full-time student, working about 20 hours a week managing a small network, expending another 20 hours a week on my graduate project, and, because I was a fool, I allowed myself to be elected as the student-body president.
I didn’t really step back and face this until I had to drop a class. I stood back and took a hard look at my life. I suddently realized that I was only sleeping about five hours per night and I had virtually no social life. When I tallied my “normal” hours in a spreadsheet, I realized that I was putting in 110 scheduled hours! This was insane – and helped me to realize that this only left me 58 hours to sleep, chill, socialize, and take care of the unexpected.
Of course, once one is committed to a certain schedule, extricating oneself from said schedule is much more difficult. I had two motivators though: first, I had just started dating a beautiful woman with whom I am now married; and second, I was constantly exhausted and frequently sick.
In his book“First Things First” Stephen Covey tells a great analogy that helps us figure out our priorities (read it here). We have to put in the “big rocks first.” If you don’t put in those high priority tasks first, you’ll never find room for them. So what are your high priority values, tasks, or needs?
When I sit down and think about it, I realize that my family, my spiritual, emotional, and physica health, and my career are all important. But, in what order? Here’s what I discovered:
- Start with 168 hours in the week (I think most of us can agree, this is pretty inflexible)
- Subtract 8 hrs/day for sleep, that’s 56 hrs. (whether you actually sleep that much now is mostly irrelevant, if you want to stay healthy, you need to schedule this much time)
- Subtract another 21 hours (3/day x7) for obtaining, preparing, and eating food (plus some extra time for personal grooming and other personal tasks)
- I personally take at least an hour a day for spiritual health, meditation, and prayer, so I subtract another 7 hours (some may use this time to workout, read, yoga, etc, but it’s safe to say that 7 hrs/week is not unreasonable for personal health)
- This leaves 84 hours (168-84) for work, family, play, and other extra-curricular activities.
In the past, I’ve often tried to squeeze the big rocks in last. This is why I lacked sleep and probably why I was well over 40 before I found and married the woman of my dreams. If I work 50 hours a week, which is pretty normal, this only gives me 34 hours for family, commuting, socializing (online, or off), volunteering (about 10 hours/week for me), and other special activities.
Throw in a couple of unplanned events, or work-related meetings or inservices, and there aren’t a lot of extra hours in one’s day. This is why I try to build margins into my schedule. If I schedule every existing hour, something has to give when it all doesn’t come together as planned.
As it stands right now, some of you are probably saying things like:
I know, I know – me too actually. But what we’re talking about here is a plan. If you don’t have a plan to sit down and eat, you never will. If you haven’t scheduled in family time, you never will have it. If you don’t have a plan to get a good night’s rest, you never will.
I don’t claim to have this all worked out, but at least I have a plan – and very, very high on my list, is my family. The above plan only gives me about 2 hours a day with them, but being an introvert, I need much of that time for myself, to reharge. So, to compensate, I end up sacrificing sleep – which has been proven to not work out very well.
What is your plan?