The Simple Truth Of Finding More Time

Time. It’s one of the most valuable things we have. The value of time is a lesson that has been told throughout the centuries, with the ancient greeks saying things like “People are frugal 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” or “It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it”.

But why does it feel like we never have enough time for anything?

Time Sinks

There’s a great VSauce video on the subject. Michael Stevens talks about a vacation full of sightseeing but marred by a long delay at the airport. He mentions how when you are actually waiting at the airport, facing the delay, it feels excruciatingly long. But, a year later, the memory will be very brief. “oh yeah, there was a delay” versus the 8 hours stuck in the terminal. However, the sightseeing will have gone by fast during the vacation, maybe only being a few hours long. But, upon reflection a year later, sightseeing will take up a larger chunk of memories than anything else.

Point is, delays at the airport feel super long when they happen, but are hardly remembered. A day full of sightseeing and excitement flies by when it happens, but is remembered as a super long and enjoyable day.

These are the short/long and long/short aspects of time. Something exciting will be experienced quickly, but remembered as very long. Something empty and boring will be experienced as long (waiting in traffic) but will be short in memory.

There is, however, a new and terrifying thing that has come into our lives. The “Short/short” experience. Watching TikTok or YouTube for two hours goes by in a flash. The weird thing, however, is that there is almost no memory of it. Try to recall two hours’ worth of TikToks or YouTube videos a week later. Intuitively, it should NOT be hard. You spent hours taking in content, after all. But, for some reason, it is so difficult to recall the content taken in.

That’s why I called it terrifying. It is in-part why I don’t have social media, and limit my own internet access. Imagine someone giving you a drug that will make a few hours pass, without effort, and you won’t even remember it happening in a week or two. Terrifying!! We are spending trillions of hours as a society hooked into these time-sinking technologies and it doesn’t have to be this way.

“But I’m Bored!”

Yeah, of course! Using social media because we are alone, bored, tired, and even hungry will only hurt us. Spending hours and hours each day sitting still and taking this time-warping substance is so obviously bad for social connection, exercise, well being, and health.

It’s not a minefield. We don’t go through life using social media, one day accidentally “stepping on a mine” and becoming anxious, less social, more depressed, and having less time. It happens each and every time, getting a little bit worse with each Tweet, each Reel, each SnapStory or each TikTok. It’s a continuous process, not a spontaneous one.

You need to look at it from an outsiders’ point of view. Imagine yourself, sitting on the couch or laying in bed, endlessly scrolling your life away. These algorithms are only going to get stronger and better, so it’s not like you will wake up one day no longer using social media. What’s your exit plan? Do you plan to use Instagram until the day you die, wasting years of your life in the process?

A paper towel showing how this works. Over the course of 4 years, a whole year will be spent on a screen.

The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Your Time

Let’s take some time to do some quick calculations. If you haven’t done this before, be prepared. It’s a good thing because seeing these numbers will help empower you to make smarter choices and to find more time! How great is that.

You need to find out, on average, how much time you spend looking at a screen for non-work related purposes. There’s no getting around computers, as I use them not only to attend class but also make a living. But, all of the extra time can be spent doing so much and enjoying what life has to offer.

If you have an iPhone, you can go into settings->Screen Time->See All Activity-> and click the week tab. If it is disabled, enable it. The data is private and secure, and can only help you.

For me, this week, I am at a daily average of 44 minutes. I still spend around 45 minutes per day texting. A growth area for sure, but a definite improvement from my previous 4+ hours per day.

Now that we have that for iPhone (similar processes exist for Android), try to determine how much time is spent watching TV/Netflix/etc on other devices. It’s not too bad, just know if you watch an episode or two of your favorite show per day, determine how long each episode is and bam a good estimate.

The goal here is to find out how much time you spend per day on these things. If it’s exceptionally high or exceptionally low for any reason, adjust accordingly.

You can then divide the minutes by 60 to get a decimal. So 2 hours and 30 minutes is equal to 2.5 hours, 2 hours and 45 minutes is equal to 2.75 hours, etc. Then, use these tables below

Time Per Day into Days Per Year

Time Per DayDays Per Year
10 minutes per day3.8 days per year
30 minutes per day11.4 days per year
45 minutes per day17.1 days per year
1 hour per day22.8 days per year
1 hour and 30 minutes per day34.2 days per year
2 hours per day45.6 days per year
2 hours and 30 minutes per day57 days per year
3 hours per day68.4 days per year
3 hours and 30 minutes per day79.8 days per year
4 hours per day90 days per year (THREE MONTHS!!!)
4 hours and 30 minutes per day102.7 days per year
5 hours per day114.0 days per year
6 hours per day136.9 days per year
7 hours per day159.7 days per year
8 hours per day182.5 days per year
9 hours per day205.3 days per year
10 hours per day228.1 days per year
Time per day, on a screen converted to days per year. Days per year is 16 hours per day, NOT 24. I removed 8 hours/day for sleep, which is MORE accurate than leaving it in.

A Lifetime Of Screen-Time OR A Lifetime of Freedom

This is for a year. It’s unfortunate, but think about the past. How long have you been doing this for? If you’re anything like me or those around me, you got Instagram in middle school. That was almost 10 years ago, so multiply all of the numbers in the table above by 10x. My previous 3 hours and 30 minutes, if stretched over a decade, eroded 800 days from my life.

By making the decision to cut back or remove social media completely, you free yourself from this time-sinking trap. Imagine another 10 or 20 years. Surely, you imagine as responsibilities pile-on that screen-time will be reduced naturally. But it doesn’t. Parents are just as hooked as their teenage children. As a matter of fact, there are responsibilities that you probably could have taken on that are instead being spent on viewing videos or liking celebrity posts. With 50, 90, or even 100 extra days you could accomplish so much.

There’s nothing to lose by deleting your Instagram/Reddit/Twitter/Snapchat/TikTok account. Those “connections” you might lose weren’t even talking to you in the first place. If social media is how you keep in touch, you aren’t keeping in touch. You do, however, have thousands of hours of free time to gain!

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