We need to stop lying to ourselves. Last time I checked, there are 24 hours in a day. That’s 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. How are you spending yours? Let’s do the maths. We’re all sleeping through a whole bunch of them. If you’re one of those people who manages to exercise before breakfast or endures a soul-destroying commute, you might be sleeping for a meagre 6 hours. You have my respect. If you’re one of my sloth-like housemates, or, in other words, a student, you could be kipping away upwards of 12 hours. For most people—the grey majority, the unremarkable average—let’s call it 8 hours in the land of nod.
For the sake of making a point, let’s say you have 16 hours left in which you are, at least relatively, awake. Most people have, have had, or will regrettably end up, in a 9 to 5 job. The ‘working week’ might be five sevenths of your regular week, but it’s important to remember that your ‘working day’ is probably about half of your actual day. You have about 8 hours left then. A couple in the morning and half a dozen in the evening. Let’s take away 2 for commuting (though if you’re lucky it will be a lot less) and another 2 for meal times and chores.
You have 4 hours left. That’s a really long time.
How are you spending those leftover hours? The chances are you’re sat in front of the television, binge-watching Netflix, a football match in which your team isn’t even playing, or the first film you found channel-flicking, having already missed the first half. If I asked you why, you’d say it’s because you’re tired and just want to just switch off after work. And that’s absolutely fine. There’s nothing wrong that. It’s your leisure time—do whatever you want. But don’t say you don’t have any time. You haven’t seen your friends in weeks. You’re on your third consecutive takeaway meal. You haven’t exercised properly since school. Don’t say you haven’t had time.
If you don’t like your job, that’s to say, if you don’t live to work, and this unfortunately seems the case for the majority of people today, then your life is what goes on around the office. It happens in those 4 hours in the evening, on your weekends and your 28 days of annual holiday. It isn’t easy to lead this productive double life. Some people can juggle two jobs, or do volunteer work in their spare time, but most of us can’t—or at least don’t. I’m yet to even start my 40 to 50 year working life so I’m not lecturing anybody. Soon enough, I’ll be in the 9 to 5 machine and then we’ll see how easy it is to write something like this when I’m falling asleep on the sofa at 9pm. That’s why I’m writing it now, as a reminder to myself that I will have a life outside of my job.
‘I do have time’ is a mindset. Getting more value out of those 4 hours is a life project. Something to think about and work on every day. Maybe you’ll play badminton for an hour with friends tonight after work, and then progress to watch three back-to-back episodes of House of Cards.