The New Year always ushers in that fresh, new-start feel. The turn of the calendar year wipes the slate clean and allows us to turn a blank page and start from scratch. Who doesn’t love a fresh start?
It’s an opportune time to reflect on the previous year’s wins, accomplishments, and lessons learned, set key goals for the upcoming year, assess what’s most important, and get clear on the right action that’ll produce the outcomes we seek most.
One of the key components (and my favorite) of this overall assessment is an audit of time.
Last month, while doing my usual Year-End Review, and reflecting on how I had spent my time in 2020, I had a startling realization. According to my iPhone screen time calculator, I was racking up an average of 4 1/2 hours per day of screen time, most of which consisted of social media.
My jaw hit the floor!
If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. There was no way I was spending a cumulative four and a half hours each day scrolling away, doing practically nothing.
But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Twenty minutes here, an hour there, it adds up quick! And admittedly, it was mostly idle, unstructured, purely unproductive time. In order words, a complete waste.
After my initial shock (and slight self-judgment) wore off, I deleted the apps off my phone and began reflecting objectively.
How much time was wasted? What had this cost me? And most importantly, how will I use this time more productively moving forward?
It goes without saying that the more efficient and focused we become with our time, the more likely we are to reach our target objectives, personally and professionally. The issue, however, is this is often easier said than done. It’s quite common to overlook how quickly little pockets of time add up throughout the day.
When I did the math of what four and a half hours per day turns into over the course of a week, month, year, and five years, I was stunned. Here are the findings:
In one week, 4.5 hours compounds to 31.5 hours. That’s one full day plus seven hours!
Over the course of a month, that number quadruples to 126 hours or a cumulative five days! That’s an entire workweek to put it into perspective.
In one year, it adds up to a cumulative 63 days or a little over two months. Think of what can be accomplished in two months. You can read four new books, start a blog, build a website, pick up an instrument, start an exercise regimen and see significant results.
Over the course of five years, just four and a half hours per day will amount to 315 days! That’s almost an entire year!
Imagine the significant changes that could occur from spending one year on what mattered most.
If how you’re investing your time isn’t paying off in some positive way— helping you grow, heal, improve, evolve, etc.— it’s an unwise use of time.
Those cumulative 63 days over the course of last year were practically entirely wasted on “checking FB” and scrolling IG. Worst yet were the hours at night getting sucked into the black abyss that is this wildly addictive habit. I imagine you can relate.
This had produced no significant positive impact. I had nothing to show for it, except a frayed nervous system, increased stress and worry, and a fragile attention span.
This stark realization that I had been spending my precious time in a way that resulted in little to zero ROI (return on investment), was enough for me to make some big changes.
I had been weaning off of social media since July 2020, and in December I fully pulled the plug, with Instagram being the last thing to go.
The amount of time, energy, and focus I have gotten back by releasing this “time-waste” has been tremendous, and I certainly see and feel the difference!
I now have many more hours in the day (four and a half to be exact) to process, integrate, and digest. I have more space to reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and how I’ll improve next time.
I’ve been able to consistently implement self-enhancing behaviors and habits, like daily meditation, reading, journaling. Self-care rituals, like evening baths and early bed-times, have become the norm, as opposed to once-in-a-while. I’ve been able to write more, work on integral components of my business, and create more. I’ve had more time for friends, family, and fun.
All of this possible because I changed how I was spending just four and a half hours per day. With this time gained back, I can’t imagine returning to the way it used to be.
Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. But why is it that some people are able to accomplish huge feats, while others struggle to accomplish the bare minimum?
It boils down to the difference between intentionally and unintentionally.
I would propose that for the majority of people, most of their time spent on things like social media, television, and other “time-waste activities” (TWA’s) is unintentional. It’s being done without intention, direction, or general awareness. Most often, it’s habitual. We do it without thinking. Like picking up our smartphones at the first indication of boredom, or coming home from work and immediately turning on the TV.
Typically, unintentional activities lack a significant purpose. They may alleviate feelings of discomfort or stress in the moment, but in the long-run, they yield little to no ROI. We often have nothing to show for it. There’s no positive payoff.
Intentionality, on the other hand, is what happens with conscious awareness at the forefront. When we engage in activities with intentionality, there’s a clear direction, purpose, and positive impact.
Time is one of our most valuable resources. Once it’s spent, there’s no getting it back.
People often say, “When I have time, I’ll do (x),” or, “I’ll have to find the time,” or, “When the time is right, I’ll get around to it.”
We all know what these kinds of phrases mean. The thing we want to do (x) hasn’t been prioritized, and/or we don’t have a plan to implement (x). And then we find ourselves in the same place as years prior. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
This is one of the main topics that come up in my coaching sessions with private clients. Rather than waiting to “have” time, or trying to “find” time, or waiting for the “right” time, aim to create more space to fill your time with what truly matters most.
Guard your time wisely and treat it like the most important asset you have, because it is. Time isn’t going to magically multiply, although that would be nice. You are in charge of this precious resource. Use it well.
With that said, here’s my invitation to you:
Since we all have the same 1,440 minutes in a day, I challenge you to take an honest inventory. Assess how you’re spending your time on a daily basis- without judgement. Then reflect on what could be possible.
Where in your day do you feel as though you might be wasting it?
Hint: If it doesn’t inspire, motivate or elevate your mind/mood/energy, highly likely it’s a TWA (“time-waste activity”). If, on the other hand, it promotes feelings of excitement, expansion and gives you a sense of accomplishment (high ROI), it’s probably a wise use of your time.
For you this might be social media use. Or perhaps it’s watching Netflix, or playing video games. For others it might be watching the news/television.
Anything that is done without clear intentionality or purpose, or you find yourself doing automatically without thinking is a good indication you’ve identified your TWA. Again, make sure you’re doing this without self-judgment.
Now that you’ve pinpointed your TWA (“time-waste activity”), it’s time to assess your ROI.
I recommend you journal the answers to these questions, rather than just passively reading it.
- What positive outcome(s) is this activity providing you? What are you learning from it?
- Taking a 30,000 ft view, what value and benefit is this bringing to your life?
- What’s the downfall? What cost does this have to you, your life, your goals?
- What are you sacrificing by spending your time in this way? Is it worth it? In other words, is this helping you become the person you want to be?
- In an ideal world, how would you love to be spending this time otherwise?
Finally, time to quantify!
Use the following sequence of equations to determine precisely how much time you are spending on a weekly, monthly, yearly, and 5-year basis on your TWA:
- On average, how much time do you spend on this activity daily? Ex: 2 hrs per day.
- Multiply that by 7 (days in a week) to determine how much time you’re spending weekly. Ex: 2 x 7 = 14 hours per week.
- Now, multiple that number by 4 (weeks in a month) to see how much time is spent monthly. Ex: 14 x 4 = 56 hours per month.
- Then, multiply that number by 12 (months in a year) to calculate time spent yearly. Ex: 56 x 12= 672 hours per year.
- Next, divide that number by 24 (hours in a day) to get the cumulative days over the course of a year. Ex: 672 ÷ 24 = 28 days per year.
- Finally, take that number and multiply by 5 (years) for the cumulative time spent over half a decade. Ex: 28 x 5 = 140 days over the course of 5 years.
What we see here is: Time adds up!
If you spend 2 hours per day on, say television, you’ll end up investing a cumulative 2 days per month, 30 days per year, and half a year every five on essentially nothing. Not to be bleak, but this is the reality. Every little bit counts and adds up big over the long run. The small, subtle changes you make today will affect your life for years to come.
How I want to hear from you! In the comments below, share:
1. What insights have you discovered?
2. In what ways will you change how you invest your time moving forward?
Ahhhh. I was wondering what happened to you on instagram. I was loving all your posts. Glad to know nothing bad happened.
You are white to point out the time suck it has. I miss your stephanie isms
Will be following you here. thanks for always including me in your journey