What do you do with your spare time? Do you make the most of it and view as a resource or is this something that’s granted and unlimited? Do you value your time to make or save money? Is it productive time or are you just procrastinating, relaxing? Do you do any volunteer work to express yourself or does your day job provide that satisfaction? Are you trying to manage more than capped 24 hours per day? Perhaps that is done at the expense of healthy sleep? Maybe you have invested in yourself and have analysed where you can shave off those valuable seconds, minutes and hours? Is Time = Money or which of two is more important, more valuable to you?
So many questions and each of them will provide numerous answers. As I am approaching my 30th birthday I start to value my time more than before. Now I treat it like any limited resource which is wise not to waste so I am working towards maximizing the value I get from the time I have.
As a teenager, I had an abundance of time – I was always hooked up to telly, spend time outdoors playing with my siblings and neighbor. I had plenty of sleep and never ran out of it. I didn’t mind watching TV commercials every half an hour. With the rise of technology and the Internet access, I got rid of my TV and started to watch movies and TV shows on demand. I started to dislike the commercials as they consumed my time and I gained nothing but desire to buy the stuff I don’t need with the money I don’t have yet. That was back in early 2000’s when I was still living in Latvia, working five days a week and studying part-time. I still managed to go out 3-4 times a week, Wednesdays were the little Fridays and I remember this as very joyful time of my life. But I was not focusing my energy and attention in any direction to better my future. I let the life run its course.
After my graduation from university I moved to London where the pace is much faster and people equate time with money. I have been in UK for just about six years now and have found a way to make my time useful. There are 168 hours in a seven day week out of which 37.5 hrs are spent at work, 42 hrs (7 x 6 hrs) – sleeping, 10 hours for five day commute to/from work. This leaves me with about 78.5 hours of personal time. For the sake of this exercise I will add the 10 hour commute back to the total as I can make this time useful for me. Hence the updated total is 88.5 hours.
- 5 hrs. Hourly lunch breaks during work week – eating, running errands, online shopping, banking, talking on the phone, reading etc.
- 3.5 hrs. ½ hr daily is spent on dinner time cooking from scratch. It is cheaper, more tasty and healthier. While preparing the food, I can catch up on latest news around the world on my iPhone, call my friends/relatives on Skype and unwind from the work day.
- 12 hrs (or more). That is how much time in a give week was spent on smoking half a pack per day with average length of 10 min/cigarette. Since I no longer smoke I save both the time and the money (other benefits beside).So I will not deduct this from my available hours. Almost at the top of the list as this felt like a must-have activity. I have kept this listed as a reminder how much better off I am right now.
- 4 hrs. Cycling 10 miles each way to work, twice a week, if the weather permits, except for winters. It’s a perfect way to kick-start my day, save some money and a great way to stay in shape. As a result I do not have to buy gym membership and spent extra time (on top of commute time) for cardio exercises not to mention time getting to the gym and back home.
- 2 hrs. Up to four occasional ½ hr workouts at home in the garage (is there anything more important than your health?)
- 2 hrs. Groceries, personal supplies, other shopping. I visit food store several times a week to get fresh groceries however my visits are brief and I’ve excluded the walking to/from the shop as I do this on my way home from work.
- 1 hr. Preparing for next week – laundry, ironing shirts etc.
- 1.5 hrs. Personal care, grooming, pampering J – shower, shave etc.
- 10 hrs. Reading – little bit on the internet including copying ‘read later’ materials, but mostly on Kindle on the way home from work.
- 10 hrs (min). Jenny time – precious time with my dear wife.
Everything listed above are my must-haves and represents a typical work week. During or around holidays this schedule will need to change to accommodate the needs. Same goes for different seasons – I will go out less in the winter and more in the summer. Often I will have the dilemma of whether I should make extra food for tomorrow’s lunch or should I go lazy and think about tomorrow when it’s tomorrow. It happens on occasion, however I much rather prefer to eat home made food.
This leaves me with just about 50 hours (or average of 7 hrs/day) of personal time which I spend the way I like. Have few beers, relaxing, watching good movie(s), visit my brother, sister or friends. Sometimes I discover new music on Soundcloud, procrastinate on Facebook (more than I should), discover new bar etc.
Another important area of time allocation is self improvement. You need to keep the grey matter moving so I read magazines, books and online, do some networking and learn from other people’s experiences. A year ago I started working towards a professional qualification in accounting – the outcome is that I will be Part-Qualified in a year’s time and 1-2 years after – (fully) ACCA Qualified. To get there I have to pass 14 exams (1-3 basic, 4-9 skills, 10-14 hard core 😀 ) and I have done five already. This means that twice a year I have to sacrifice some of my precious 50 hours of personal time to raise my worth and become more competitive in future. So that takes upwards of 15 hours each week (about 6 weeks of self study comes to about 90 hours of study time) 4-5 out of 12 months.
Other than that I am also looking for ways to make myself more skilled, by jumping in unknown areas, such as blogging, learning a new language or getting more eloquent the one you already know, sign up for MOOCs (massive open online courses, i.e. Coursera) etc. As with everything you do, there is a learning curve so the actual time spent on each task will only go down as I will become more efficient in each discipline:
- I will learn to type faster (I’m pretty close to touch type already)
- Learn new and creative recipes to cook tasty food
- Find better ways to commute to work (plan your bed time and wake time, check the public transport timetable)
- Don’t waste time & money to grab breakfast on your way to work (have it ready/prepared and waiting at office, i.e. milk + cereal)
- Learn how to make the most of technology and to your advantage. Find the way to optimize each operation without sacrificing the quality
- Learn to manage your tasks & time. Get clear what’s urgent and/or important and act according to this order.
- Invest in proper tools – you don’t want to buy something just to have it malfunction at early stage of its useful life. Then you have aggravation, time wasted on sourcing replacement and cluttered household.
- If you need something to get done more than once and it’s not super high-tech stuff – instead of outsourcing, get the know-how online and do it yourself. For example it takes about one minute to take out extra links from the wrist watch vs 20 min to get it to repair shop. iPhone back glass cracked? Order one from Amazon and get it replaced in few minutes instead of getting to your Apple store, finding someone who’s free and then wait another 5 minutes. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not repairing my own shoes and dry cleaning my own suits. I don’t own such equipment.
I believe there is a room for improvement and as I get older my priorities will change and, more importantly, I will have to do more with less time on my hands. So it’s vital to be efficient in all areas.