The High Cost of Wasting Time

Mike Vardy’s blog post Keeping Up vs. Keeping Tabs stopped me cold with this realization: There is a high cost of wasting time. We’ve all heard that saying, “time is money.” When is the last time you thought about where you were spending your time and how much wasting time costs?

How Much Time do You Really Have?

Every Monday a new week begins. (Yes, Monday is the correct first day of the week. We all get the exact same number of hours to spend each week: 168. That is where the similarities between everyone’s lives ends. Look at this chart:

This is what my week looks like. The areas shaded in black represent: Sleeping, Work, Exercise, Church, and Miscellaneous Household Chores (laundry, cleaning, errands, etc). The white area represents my “unstructured time”.

Every Monday I wake up with 168 hours ahead of me, but 123 of those hours have already been spent. I’m left with 45 hours of unstructured time for friends, television, movies, social media, naps, blogging, hobbies, and other self determined activities.

45 hours a week. That’s it. There is a high cost of wasting time when you only have 45 hours a week.

Keeping Up vs. Keeping Tabs

In Mike’s post he mentions this concept of Keeping Up vs. Keeping Tabs. His main example is baseball. Mike loves baseball and I love baseball. Baseball fans know that the season is 162 games long. (That’s just the regular season.) As Mike puts it: “That’s a lot of baseball — and a lot of time.”

Allow me to do the math. The average game is around 3 hours. That means you would watch 486 hours of baseball if you watched every single game. We already know you only have 45 hours in a week, so that would me almost 11 weeks of your year just to keep up with your favorite team.

Now let’s add basketball (205 hours) and football (56 hours). That’s a total of 747 hours or just over 16.5 weeks of your year to keep up with three sports teams. There are only 52 weeks in a year so sports alone would take almost 33% of your entire unstructured time for the year.

Mike’s point is that “keeping up” with something takes a lot of time and energy. This is especially true, as he says, for “things that I have no control over — things that move on whether I’m with them or not.”

His idea of “keeping tabs” on these things really resonated with me. As much as I love baseball, I can’t watch every single game, but I can pick a few games to watch here and there. I can “keeps tabs” on my team by spending a few minutes reading some news about them.

What It Really Costs to Waste Time

When I sat down to chart this out, I realized that there is a HUGE cost to wasting time and not only monetarily. First let’s look at the cost of common things we all do from time to time:

  • Watching a Movie costs 4.44% of my unstructured time for the week
  • Watching an hour long television show costs 2.22% of my unstructured time for the week
  • Playing Golf costs me 11.11% of my unstructured time for the week
  • Binge watching an entire season of a comedy show costs me 28.89% of my unstructured time for the week

None of these things is a waste of time in and of themselves. The cost is when we don’t affirmatively choose to do them. The cost of wasting time is a life that is less fulfilling because we didn’t choose how we spent our time. We merely left it up to the whim of the moment.

I absolutely love watching football, especially the playoffs. So during the month of January I watch every single NFL football game that comes on TV. That is much different than what my life looks like in October or November. I’ll “keep up” with the Falcons during the season by having the game on the background while I’m doing chores or waiting until the 4th quarter to turn the game on.

I have 45 hours a week of time that I can control. The high cost of wasting time is 1/4 of your very life.

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