Programming and Personal Development

Time, a longer perspective

Spending an hour or two everyday commuting to the office or watching TV have become such a norm that we don’t realize how much time we spend doing things that doesn’t add any value to our lives.

Long Term perspective

An hour spent doing a useless activity might not seem like a big deal immediately. But when you consider it cumulatively over a longer time period you will realize what I mean. To illustrate, the table below lists the amount of time spent everyday in the first column and its cumulative accumulation over period of week, month, and years in the subsequent columns. Spending an hour watching television everyday translates to 152 days  in 10 years and 304 days in 20 years. That’s almost a year of your life gone, right there !!!.  Even spending 10 or 15 minutes a day amounts to months of your life time when you take the long term perspective.

 

Time spent/day (mins)

One Week (hours)

One Month (hours)

One Month (days)

One Year (days)

Five Years (days)

Ten Years (days)

Twenty Years (days)

10

1.17

5.00

NA

2.53

12.67

25.35

50.69

15

1.75

7.50

NA

3.80

19.01

38.02

76.04

30

3.50

15.00

NA

7.60

38.02

76.04

152.08

60

7.00

30.00

1.25

15.21

76.04

152.08

304.17

90

10.50

45.00

1.88

22.81

114.06

228.13

456.25

120

14.00

60.00

2.50

30.42

152.08

304.17

608.33

150

17.50

75.00

3.13

38.02

190.10

380.21

760.42

180

21.00

90.00

3.75

45.63

228.13

456.25

912.50

Active life time Vs Awake life time

Lets assume that you stay healthy and can maintain a active lifestyle up to the age of 75 years. Now, consider your typical weekday. If you are like most of us, you would spend ? rd of the day sleeping, and the remaining ? rd awake and doing your daily activities. So the time where you can actually accomplish something is only ? rd of your active life. Lets call this awake life time. This means if you are currently  25 years old, you don’t have 50 years of active lifetime, you only have ? of it or 33 years of awake life time. Look at the table below to get a sense of the amount of awake time  you have based on your current age.

 

Current Age

Awake Time   (Days)

Awake Time (years)

Total Time (years)

25

12166.67

33.33

50

30

10950

30

45

35

9733

26.67

40

40

8516

23.33

35

45

7300

20

30

50

6083

16.67

25

55

4866

13.33

20

60

3650

10

15

65

2433

6.67

10

70

1216

3.33

5

Now lets combine what we have discussed so far to see how time spent on our daily activities maps to our overall life. The table below lists the amount of time spent as a percentage of our awake time across ages. To keep the table brief, I have only listed those days which are highlighted in bold in the first table above.

 

Days/ Age

25

30

35

40

45

50

55

60

65

70

152

1.25

1.39

1.56

1.78

2.08

2.50

3.12

4.16

6.25

12.49

190

1.56

1.74

1.95

2.23

2.60

3.12

3.90

5.21

7.81

15.62

228

1.87

2.08

2.34

2.68

3.12

3.75

4.68

6.25

9.37

18.74

304

2.50

2.78

3.12

3.57

4.16

5.00

6.25

8.33

12.49

24.99

380

3.12

3.47

3.90

4.46

5.21

6.25

7.81

10.41

15.62

31.23

456

3.75

4.16

4.68

5.35

6.25

7.50

9.37

12.49

18.74

37.48

608

5.00

5.55

6.25

7.14

8.33

9.99

12.49

16.66

24.99

49.97

760

6.25

6.94

7.81

8.92

10.41

12.49

15.62

20.82

31.23

62.47

912

7.50

8.33

9.37

10.71

12.49

14.99

18.74

24.99

37.48

74.96

For example, the first row represents 152 days and its contribution as a percentage of the awake time when you are 25,30,35… years. Said differently,  152 days translates to 1.25 % of your awake time if you are currently 25 years and 3.12% if you are 55 and so on.

Focus on your daily routines

Hopefully, you now realize that you have less time than you think you do. The obvious question then is, which activities do you want to devote your precious minutes to?  To answer that,  its helpful to first understand how you are using your time currently. Focus on your daily routines to keep track of where you spend your time everyday. I suggest you divide your day in 15 minute intervals and keep a log of your daily activities for about a week or so.  You’ll often be surprised by what you find. You can use David Seah’s Emergent Task Timer for this. Its a simple but useful, paper based tool to easily record your daily activities in 15 minute intervals.

Once you have understand your daily activities, you can then start adjusting your routines to steal time from useless activities and divert them towards activities that you do want to spend time on. For example, if you realize that you do spend 1 hour in front of TV everyday, you might decide to replace it completely or spend a portion of it (say 30 minutes) exercising instead or you can even combine the two by putting a treadmill in front of your TV.  You can work from home, couple days a week instead of commuting to office everyday. You can batch your smaller activities together to gain longer chunks of free time and so on. I am not suggesting that you always have to do something useful. If you want to relax or do nothing, by all means go for it. But whatever you do, do so consciously.

Don’t over do it

When you start adjusting your daily routines, don’t try to change too many things at once. Be patient.  Adjust one small thing, make sure it becomes part of your routine. It should feel natural and you should be able to perform the adjusted routine consistently for at least a month or so. Then move on to the next change.

If you attempt to make too many changes at once, you are more likely to give up and revert back to your old ways.  If your last attempt to get back in shape  wasn’t successful that’s probably because you tried to change too many things at once. Attempting to hit the gym 3-4 times a week, changing your diet, watching and keeping track of calories etc,  all the at the same time is too demanding and we are more likely to give up than if we did them gradually and one at a time.  Make it easy on yourself and give yourself the chance to succeed gradually.

Your purpose

Lastly, saving those extra 10-15 minutes or an hour on a daily basis won’t matter unless you have a sense of purpose and a burning desire inside you that is driving you to achieve things that you consider valuable in your life. You save those 10 minutes not to spend on some other useless activity but because you have something that is worth your precious time. What is  it? If you have not yet taken the time, now is the time, find it, focus on it.  As Steve Jobs put it in his stanford graduation speech, “Keep looking, Don’t settle”.

Time is undefined, limited, irreversible and you have one shot at it. How are you going to spend it ? Purposefully or aimlessly ? The choice is  yours.

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