Do you have a minute to spare?
I bet you do. I’ll bet you have a lot more minutes to spare than you think.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, about how I spend my time. I mentioned a week ago that I haven’t taken enough time to walk, to read, to write. That’s on me, I know that. I never say things like “I don’t have the time!” because I know I do. I know there are 168 hours in a week. I know that only 48 of those hours are taken by work. I know that another 48 hours are about sleep. I know that. 96 hours of my week are set in stone. I have to work. I have to sleep. Knowing that simplifies things.
I’m a numbers guy. I love calculations. I calculate that if I have 168 hours in 7 days and 96 of them are taken by work or sleep then I have roughly 72 malleable hours left over, every week.
Malleable is a great word. Not only is it fun to say (MAL as in “Malcolm,” E as in “easy,” ABLE as in “a bowl.”) but I love the definition of it:
“Able to be stretched or bent into different shapes.”
“Easily changed or influenced.”
“Capable of being extended or shaped by beating with a hammer.”
I especially like that last one.
That means I have 72 hours – 3 full days when you think about it – every week that I can extend or shape by beating it with a hammer. Malleable time.
I know what you’re thinking. Tom, you’re saying. I have SO many responsibilities outside of work and sleep. How can that be malleable time?
Good question. You’re a smart reader.
The truth about malleable time is that unless it is mandatory that we be present, as with work and sleep, all the rest of the stuff – though necessary – is up to us. We stuff it in where we want to, and spend as much time on it as we wish. Malleable time. Shaped by us.
But it’s not all FREE time, is it? Nope.
We still have to mow lawns and clean the house. We have to run errands and sit down and pay the bills. I get it. A few years ago, right before Robert Downey Jr. became Iron Man, I was reading an article on his life while waiting for my dentist to prep the chair for some excruciating oral activity. He was recovering from a lifetime of addiction (Downey, not the dentist) and learning to finally be an adult at the age of 43. In the article he made the statement that “life is 70% maintenance.” I wrote that quote down. I use it all the time.
I don’t know if that statement was based on scientific inquiry. I suspect not. But it sounds about right, give or take. And if it’s true, and 70% of our lives are spent either working, sleeping, or “getting things done” then I’ve got a bit of good news for you:
30% of your time is YOURS.
In a 168-hour week, that means that somewhere around 50 hours of your week is free time. It’s your choice. You can choose to work more, some do. You can choose to go back to school and study; a good choice. You can choose to watch TV, read a book, spend time with the kids, go to the gym, drink with a friend, take a hike, or write a blog. Some do. You can chase money. You can chase a dream. Your choice.
Obviously, these numbers vary. Some of us have longer mandatory work hours, some of us have less. Some of us need more sleep, some need less. Some of us have kids, and kids eat up malleable hours like nothing else. The equation has only one fixed number, the 168. Subtract your variables – work and sleep. Take out the flexible maintenance stuff and what is left is uniquely yours.
You might have to put in a little effort here to get to the bottom line, but it’s worth it. Especially if you think there aren’t enough hours in a day, or days in a week, to do what you really want to do. There is. There most certainly is.
So go ahead. Run the numbers. Write it down. Do it today.
You have time.