Introducing the 168 Time Budget

The fact that most of us budget money and not time has always intrigued me. Money is an elastic resource that is figuratively infinite. Time, however, is finite; we can’t make more of it, once it is gone, it is gone.

168 hours a week. That is all we have.

You, me, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jack Ma, Malala Yousafzai and every other being on this pale blue dot has 168 hours a week to realize greatness. And even at that, the number of weeks available to us are also counting down. Time stops for no one.

So I ask you, how do you spend your time?

Prior to diving into my 168 Time Budget concept, I would like to introduce the following short story to create the right context. If you have read it before, I encourage you to re-read it now for full effect.

A teacher walks into a classroom and sets a glass jar on the table. She silently places large rocks in the jar until no more can fit. She asks the class if the jar is full and they agree it is. She says, “Really,” and pulls out a pile of small pebbles, adding them to the jar, shaking it slightly until they fill the spaces between the rocks. She asks again, “Is the jar full?” They agree. So next, she pours sand into the jar, filling the space between the pebbles and asks the question again. This time, the class is divided, some feeling that the jar is obviously full, but others are wary of another trick. Before they answer, she reaches for a pitcher of water and fills the jar to the brim, and asks, “If this jar is your life, what does this experiment show you?” A bold student replies, “No matter how busy you think you are, you can always take on more.” “That is one view,” she replies.

Then she looks out at the class making eye contact with everyone, “The rocks represent the BIG things in your life – what you will value at the end of your life – your family, your partner, your health, fulfilling your hopes and dreams. The pebbles are the other things in your life that give it meaning, like your job, your house, your hobbies, your friendships. The sand and water represent the ‘small stuff’ that fills our time, like checking social media, watching TV or running errands.”

Looking out at the class again, she asks, “Can you imagine what would happen to life if we had started with the water, the sand or the pebbles?”

Like so many, I too have let water and sand fill every crevice at many intervals in my life; not realizing that I left no time or energy for what really mattered to me. With distractions everywhere, I learned over the years to become mindful, vigilant and a fervent guardian of my time. I also started to gain an acute awareness of the elements that bring me joy. By applying traditional money budgeting techniques to time management, I now invest more of myself in things that make me happy. The time budget I created for myself is aptly named 168.

My 168 Time Budget concept is quite simple.

  1. Identify the “big rocks” that create great JOY in your life.
    • Health including sleep & exercise, family, partner, life goals, key relationships.
  2. List and prioritize the “pebbles” that add significance & meaning to your life.
    • Work including paid & volunteering, community, friends, hobbies
  3. Allocate a range of hours towards each rock & pebble totaling ~160 hours.
    • Leaving a few spare hours for sand & water is key, otherwise, the 168 budget won’t function in reality. Rigidity will derail new habit adhesion.
  4. Calculate the % of time each line item represents of 168 to check if you are indeed putting enough time towards the rocks, then the pebbles.
  5. Lastly, be kind to yourself if you derail slightly from week to week.
    • Social media, random articles or phone calls will likely steal precious minutes totaling in wasted hours but such is life.
    • Acknowledge, accept and aim to do better but most importantly, forgive yourself and move onwards and upwards!

Here is an example from my life:

  • 168 hours per week; totaling 61 320 hours in 2018.
    • 49 hours / 29% : 7hrs of sleep per night x 7 nights
    • 60 hours / 36% : 10hrs of work + 2 hrs of commute x 5 days
    • 10-20 hours / 6-12% : TEDxMontreal meetings & work
    • 8-20 hours / 5-12% : Time with partner & extended family
    • 10 hours / 6% : “Me time” to relax, read, write & let my mind wander
    • 8-12 hours / 5-7% : hanging out or speaking with friends /colleagues/ networks in person
    • 8-15 hours / 5-9% : conversing with friends online & social media
    • 3-5 hours / 2-3% : exercise (running, biking, other)
  • Cumulating in a range btwn 156 – 191 hours that ebbs & flows depending on the time of year.

The level of precision is up to you. It does not have to be granular down to the minute; the principle behind my 168 Time Budget is that it creates awareness around the time we spend (or don’t spend) on our life priorities. For those who desire precision, you can track Actual versus Budgeted time in a nifty time-tracking app on your phone but I have found this more useful as a high-level mental guide.

With finite time and finite energy during our time here, I hope my 168 idea will help you find time to invest in yourself, your dreams and your worldly ambitions. Each minute, hour and day, when channeled into purposeful actions can spark great change within us and ignite impactful change in others and the world.

So be great, be purposeful and be you, 168 hours at a time!

time flies

Mental rumble-strips. Using the past and the future to stay in the present.

Since returning from paradise, I am slowly re-plugging myself back into the Matrix of everyday life. Fortunately, the Tico magic still lingers, continuing to gift me with profound reflections this week. Akin to fruit ripening after being picked from a tree, many ideas planted during my time in Costa Rica are slowly taking shape. One such idea is the notion of emotions being guideposts to keep our state of mind on the path of joy and contentment. Let me elaborate.

Most of us know that living in the present moment is a tremendous source of joy. The tricky part has always been how to keep the wandering mind in the present. Therein lies the rub.

Let us start by analyzing the moments when we are not joyful. Often it is when we are worried about the future or looking back into our past.  All the mental energy we spend wishing this or that had happened differently or thinking about the future generates stress. And we all know stress is a joy killer.

Since stress is a joy killer, and being present is a way to counter stress, then finding ways to keep us consciously present will connect us to more joy and happiness. “Wonderful!” you say, but how can I be more present? The answer lies in self-awareness. In our ability to catch ourselves mentally drifting.

In addition to experiencing emotions mentally and physically, they can be used as powerful indicators, showing us the state of our mind. When we can ‘step out’ of the emotion itself, we come into meta awareness, which is the difference between being angry and realizing that we are feeling angry. With this awareness, certain emotions can be used as the ‘painted lane lines’ on our happiness highway, helping us to drive within the lane of joy more easily.

On the lane’s left shoulder lies feelings of anger, resentment, inequity, guilt, remorse and regret – these are all emotions generated when the mind thinks about the past. When we mull over the would-have, should-have, could-haves, our minds have veered off the lane of the present onto the shoulder of the past. On the right shoulder are feelings of worry, anxiety, apprehension and fear – these emotions are signs that we are thinking about the future. We contemplate scenarios of which 99.9% will never occur, we roam the land of what-ifs, exploring all possible outcomes – successes and failures – with failures getting the lion’s share of our attention. Whenever we feel uncertain or nervous, this is a sign that we have drifted off the lane of the present, onto the shoulder of the future. And unless you have installed rumble-strips to warn you that you’ve drifted to the left or the right – the past or the future – you will have no awareness cues to get you back on track.

So with this knowledge, let’s install some mental rumble-strips. Let’s use emotions as cues to help us realize that we have veered off the lane of joy. The next time you feel the emotional suites of the past (anger, regret, remorse) or the future (anxiety, fear, worry), take action, grab your steering wheel and bring your mind back into the present, back into the center of the happiness lane.

Using these emotions as guideposts means we understand that the Present lives delicately between the Past and the Future. So don’t sit idly by letting time turn your tomorrows into yesterdays. Make sure you spend quality time on the smooth road of today because life has enough twists and turns in and of itself, that you don’t need to be driving on the bumpy shoulders of the past or the future until the end of days. You deserve to drive in the happiness lane for as much of the journey as possible. And hopefully installing these emotional rumble-strips will increase the amount of joy during the ride!

PastPresentFuture