A Reflection on Time
AUG 20 2018
“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”
- Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
Time. It’s life’s most finite and valuable commodity, yet I am not always the best at using it wisely. For me, to waste time is to spend it on things that don’t add any value, either to myself or to others. Among the things I’m most guilty of — Insta-stalking Gigi Hadid on Instagram; conducting “research” on the best Spongebob memes; speed-watching Welsh grandmas proof sourdough on The Great British Baking Show instead of studying for an impending final exam. The list goes on.
In the past, whenever I had indulged in moments of time squandering, I usually dismissed the swirling feeling of regret using my tried-and-true strategy of pretending it never happened and making a vague resolve to do “better.” Inevitably, though, I would revert back to bouts of mindlessness, restarting the cycle of my bad habits all over again.
So when Six Things asked me to track my activities for 168 hours, I was kind of terrified. The activity required that I label, color-code, and log every minute of my week. It would effectively transform time from an abstract idea to a very visible and very unavoidable thing, hard-coded onto a spreadsheet and forcing me to confront my own decisions in a new and uncomfortable way.
Not knowing what to expect but open to whatever this exercise would reveal, I carefully recorded 168 hours of my life in early February. Here were the main takeaways:
Being conscientious of your time prevents you from wasting it.
I ended up wasting very few hours this week, and frankly this was due to a self-conscious desire not to end up with a spreadsheet with huge chunks of time dedicated to Netflix. This made me realize that if I always used time as if I would be held accountable for reporting it, I would be strongly deterred from wasting it.
Where your heart is, there your time will be also.
When I was looked back on my 168 hours, I noticed that I had dedicated nearly 30% of my time to extracurricular activities and friends. I had been in the middle of organizing a discussion for a women’s empowerment group, and I had also been spent a lot of quality time with my friends, hanging out at a local brewery and grabbing meals. These activities were not “productive” in the academic or professional sense, but I viewed these hours as time very well spent because they were dedicated to people and causes that I cherished.
Your time is your responsibility.
Whenever I observed myself idling, I’d often justify this by saying that it was out of my control or due to situational factors. For example, I’d say to myself, “I had a long day, so I deserve to be on Instagram,” or “My brain is fried, so I can’t help it when I watch three hours of TV.” But framing periods of rest this way made it easier to indulge in unnecessarily long and wasteful breaks because it made me feel as though I didn’t have to face the consequences of squandered time. For me to use my time more wisely, it was crucial that I take full responsibility for it.
The 168 hours activity is not a panacea for laziness, procrastination, or lacking motivation, but you may be surprised with how much you learn about yourself.