I used to think time was an abundant resource, almost limitless. Then I did this.
I broke forty years down. There are 478 months, or 2086 weeks, or 14,600 days, or 350,400 hours in four decades.
And I’m in my forties and assuming that I live to my early 80’s that’s how much time I have left on this earth.
I felt like someone just kicked me in the groin.
And I did something about it.
I started tracking my time. I wanted to know where it went and how I was using it. I wanted to make the most of my 350,400 hours.
And I don’t just track my working hours. I do all of it–everything from grooming and commuting, creating and meetings, working and sleeping.
It may sound crazy to some of you. And it kind of is. But I see time as incredibly valuable. It’s an unrenewable resource, meaning you can never make more of it.
If you lost money, you can make it back and then some. But time doesn’t work that way. What you get is what you get–no more, no less. Every minute counts. So I wanted to account for every minute.
Now, I can see exactly what I am doing down to the minute every day, week or month. It’s all right there in an app. Did I read much, spend time with my family, create, see people, brush my teeth? All of it is accounted for right on the screen of my phone. And I can see exactly how I’ve been spending my 350,400, oh, I mean, 350,399 hours.
Seeing how that time is spent isn’t enough. The next step is prioritizing what is important to you. And based off of that list, start making decisions on what should be cut away or added.
Tracking my time made me realize that I was wasting a lot of it doing things like watching Netflix. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t indulge in a show, but let’s be honest. I wasn’t just watching one show, but many and often. As enjoyable as Netflix is, it wasn’t the way I wanted to spend time.
No one eulogizes a guy saying, “Man, John was so amazing: He could binge watched Ozark with the best of them.” Instead, I prefer to go out with a bang and maximize my life. I want to go down swinging by creating things that matter and help the world.
That meant making changes on how I spent my 350,398 hours.
As a result, I reduced my show watching drastically. But, I still wanted to invest in stories. They empower me. So I traded TV for books and started binge reading Harry Potter since I had never read the series before (I know! I was totally missing out and was hidden under a rock somewhere on Mars).
Learning is important, but there are also relationships and creating good for the world. Those are my priorities.
You may have different ones. The point is to make sure you know and define them. Then invest your time accordingly.
Don’t make my mistake of waiting.
It took me years to put this practice into action. The first time I heard about it was over ten years ago. I had just started my business, and I could have really used this. But, I believed that I was too busy and thought the idea ridiculous even though I read about it in a book by Peter Drucker, one of the greatest business writers and thinkers. But, I thought I knew better than him.
Another reason that may hold us back from this practice is the belief that we aren’t finite. We don’t think about the fact that we will die. But we will. Thinking about it is difficult, but invigorating.
The reality of death forces us to live our lives the way we really want to. It’s the jolt we need to break the patterns we don’t want and make the new ones we do. The realization that time is an unrenewable resource makes us value each moment and fill it as we would want to.
You can start today. You can make new habits.
I use the Hours app and pay for the premium version. It’s easy to use. The last thing I want to do is find a time tracking tool that takes a lot of time to use.
I think it’s an app for freelancers, so I make my clients into the big picture buckets: Personal, Business, Create and Learn. Those four areas hold every activity that I do. Then the category nested under clients is projects. That’s where I put reading books, meetings, grooming, sleeping, etc. and rest them under the appropriate big picture bucket. This is the way I do it. But, you should set it up whatever way best suits you.
There are pitfalls to tracking time, too. 350,395 hours.
I started obsessing over it. There were times when I noticed that I got snippy with my family during the day. They would interrupt me as any son or spouse would. And I felt like they were taking away time from me like they were robbing me. And I responded sharply with them. My mindset was totally off.
I had to remind myself that time is only a resource, not God. The moment I made it God, it becomes a devil.
My family is more important than time. I use time to do the things that are really important to me, not the other way around. It should be used for the service of those whom I love. But, I won’t lie, it’s not easy for me to remember.
But, when I have a healthy practice of tracking time, it’s incredibly useful. In fact, it’s changed my life. For the first time, I feel like I’m making the best use of time. And I have the data to prove it.
I don’t know how much time I really have on this earth, but I work to make sure that I’m using every minute to the best of my ability—everyday.
Lord-willing, I have at least 350,394 hours to go.
I’m squeezing every last bit out of them, savoring every moment.
I hope that you will, too.