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It Takes 60 Hours to Work 40 Hours Per Week

Personal Improvement

Always feel like you don't have enough time in the week? Well, guess whose fault that is: your old pal Math.

I rarely write about time management because it’s not something I think about. I know how long stuff takes and I make sure I have enough time for it. I show up on time when I have an appointment and I know that the Google-estimated 15 minute walk to work actually takes closer to 25 minutes because you have to put on your shoes and look for your keys and lock the door and wait for the elevator.

You may like me a little less now. It's okay, punctual people aren’t the ones with all the friends.

But punctuality is rarely the problem in and of itself. Always being late for timed events is often a symptom of a much larger issue: cramming too much stuff into our lives.

Put another way: don't say no enough and everything suffers.

The suitcase

Think of your week like your suitcase. You can cram it full, rolling up everything and stuffing underwear into socks and using all sorts of organizational gadgets to keep it under control.

Or you can bring less stuff.

If you ditch a sweater here and a shirt there and only carry a single change of pants, your suitcase will zip-up easily. It’s not even an issue. And as a bonus, your clothes won't be extra-wrinkled when you arrive.

Then, on day 2 of your trip, you don't have to put on a wrinkled shirt and convince yourself that, “It's fine, no one will notice and my body heat will smooth it out.”


Your time is the same. You can have a full-time job and add a hobby or two and cram in a few extra dinners with friends and maybe have some volunteer work spilling out of the side pocket and, well, maybe you’ll just carry your family in your hands.

Or you can commit to less stuff.

A stress-free life, like a roomy suitcase, means making the hard cuts.

Let’s do the math

Working 40 hours per week seems reasonable on the surface. That’s 8 hours per day, which leaves 8 hours for sleep and 8 hours for yourself. Add in weekends and that means that there is much more You Time then Work Time.

But wait. There’s a lunch break in there. You aren’t going to go skiing on your lunch break. Or during the hour getting ready in the morning. Or during the commute time. Add that all up and it’s easily an extra 2 hours per day. So, we’re at 50 hours per week.

We also have to add house chores just so you can maintain a job. Doing laundry so you don’t smell, buying deodorant so you don’t smell, washing your lunchbox so it doesn’t smell. Really, there’s an extra 10 hours per week in smell control alone.

So that’s 60 hours per week just to maintain a job. And you still don’t have any friends yet.

60 ain't so bad, right?

So 60 hours of your week are accounted for. But what's the total?

There are 168 hours in a week. (True story.) If you sleep 8 hours per night, that leaves 112. But hold on. It takes more than 8 hours to sleep 8 hours per night and a lot of us require more than 8 hours. Anywhere from 6-10 is normal. For argument's sake, let’s say you only need 8 hours of solid sleep. But you still need 30 mins to get ready for bed and fall asleep, and another 30 to snooze a few times. Oh and you have to wash your sheets and account for insomnia and middle-of-the-night pee breaks. I’d say you’re lucky if you need less than 9 hours every day to cover all of those things. 10 sounds more correct to me, but we’ll go with 9.

That leaves 105 hours left in your week after we remove sleeping. After we take out the 60 from work, that leaves only 45 hours.

Not bad. 45 pure, all-overhead-accounted-for hours to do with whatever you please.

Except we're not done with overhead. We forgot about dinner and dishes and food shopping. So, 1 hour per day for prepping, eating and cleaning, plus another 2 hours spread over the week to do the shopping.

We're down to 36.

Do you talk to your mother every week? You should.


I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. There are a ton of little things that eat up your time. And of your waking hours, you certainly don’t want to spend every single one of them actively doing things. You need some chill time. Some sitting time. Some time to literally do nothing.


The point here is this: unless you want to live like an overpacked suitcase for your entire life, you have to be very picky choosing where to spend your time. You have a lot less than you think.

But. Once you learn to commit to fewer things and accept that time is finite and you can’t do everything, suddenly your life will clarify. You won’t waste your time doing those things which don't matter. Those friends you don’t really know that well will naturally fall away from your life. You'll use that time to get more sleep so you can have more energy when you're with your family.

Being selective with your time doesn’t make you a bad person.

But then again, maybe you don't want to listen to me. I'm the guy washing a shirt in the hotel shower because he spilled a drink on one and didn't bring an extra.