It’s a bit disappointing that my last post was over 5 months ago on a project I have yet to complete. Disappointing not in the sense that I have accomplished nothing in those 5 months. The reality is the opposite, in that time span I’ve solved countless problems, using all sorts of new tricks and consumed an abominable amount of esoteric technical literature. The problem I’m tackling today however is the cop-out of being “Too busy to blog about it”. We really do live in an age where everyone always just seems “Too busy” for anything and unable to this or that. Yet here we are with the highest standards of living and greatest amounts of “leisure time” ever in the history of man. It’s a personal paradox that I intend to debug and resolve.
The first question to answer is “Why am I busy?”. That’s an easy one. I work a full-time engineering job and pursue a master’s in computer engineering on the side. On top of that I must be an adult by supporting my biological needs of food and shelter. Further, I need to keep up social relationships and entertain a significant other. Seems like a lot of obligations so it’s a wonder I can get anything done. However, let’s run the numbers just to be sure. There are 16 waking hours to each day. Over 7 days, that’s 112 hours to live each week down from an initial total of 168. Let’s say 42 of those hours is spent in the office and another 5 hours commuting each week, that leaves 67 hours. For graduate school I take one class with 4 hours of lecture and 8 hours of assignment; that leaves 55 hours. It’s safe to say that my 1.5 hour morning routine of hygiene, breakfast, and exercise is dedicated entirely to biology each day. Tack on another 10 hours for food related activities each week, I cook most of my meals so it does take a bit of my time. That leaves about 35 hours after biology. Now let’s apply an engineering assumption and say I lose 25% (9 hours) of that time due to inefficiencies. Inefficiencies can be anything from travel time, sloth due to ego exhaustion, small bits of dead time, environmental factors, adult responsibilities, or any number of reasons. That leaves me with 26 hours or 15% of the week to schedule for my own personal use or activities with other people.
26 hours doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but it’s more than a whole day every week of useful time to do anything my heart desires. The hard question to ask then is “Why do I think I’m busy?” (when I’m really not). To put it another way, why can’t I account for these 26 extra hours in my week when I supposedly can’t find the time to even run these calculations. Thinking about it now, the answer to the latter is that I can only account for budgeted hours each week. Those tasks have a number or one can be easily teased out. All my budgeted time falls into the categories of either the “mandatory” or “mundane”. Of course plans are made for the other 26 hours here and there, but it’s never set in stone from week to week and they almost certainly won’t fill up the full 26. What happens then is that when I find myself without a plan for these hours they are consumed with whatever activity my mind automatically drifts to. That of course is almost never an ideal use of time.
What is the solution then? I now know that I have 26 free hours each week that I can use to enrich my life. Ironically, the only I can see to it that those 26 hours are used up effectively is to make that number as close to 0 as possible. What I mean by that is to devote time to my hobbies or aspirations each week, add it to the budget, and make it mandatory. A recent example of this was how I managed to add regular exercise to my life by simply waking up early and going to the gym before work every week. Only with the mindful act of setting aside time that must be consumed on a specific task can I make regular progress towards my goals/hobbies. Otherwise, I will be doomed to the lack of ambition that comes from running on autopilot. Anyways, this has been an eye-opening introspection of how I spend my time and I very much look forward to writing future posts and making progress on my projects.