If you’re ever hunting for party conversation fodder, try asking a group of busy people what they’d do with an extra hour in the day. You’ll get all sorts of elaborate answers. People say they’d exercise. They’d cook gourmet meals. They’d get around to writing that novel. Whatever it is, it’s pretty clear that a 25-hour day would enable a far more fantastic life than they are currently living.
So what would happen if a fairy waved her magic wand and made that extra hour appear?
Well, on Sunday she did, as she does every year in early November in regions that observe Daylight Saving Time. With the clocks falling back, yesterday was a 25-hour day.
And yet, if you’re like most people, chances are you didn’t do anything particularly fabulous with that extra hour. Because the truth is that most of us don’t lack time. What keeps us from living our best lives is a failure to seize the hours we already have.
In my years of asking people how they spend the 24 hours that make up a normal day, I’ve found that few folks set out to waste any of those 1,440 minutes. It’s just that time passes whether you choose how to spend it or not.
So it’s easy to spend time mindlessly on unchosen things. A meeting has long outlived its usefulness, and yet no one cancels it. You get sucked into something in your inbox and lose 45 minutes chasing down an old message. Then you get to the end of the day and you’re too exhausted to devote time to anything of consequence.
So you claim there aren’t enough hours in the day, even though that's not the case. Real Simple magazine ran a feature a few years ago that invited readers to share what they’d do with an extra 15 minutes per day. One woman wrote that "Fifteen minutes of uninterrupted writing time would be a priceless gift," which left me wondering that if she had such little time in her day where she found the time to read Real Simple, and write in a letter about her elusive dream.
Fortunately, learning to use time better is no more difficult than finding an hour to flip through a magazine. It starts by taking an honest look at where the time is going now. I keep a time log every few months to keep me accountable. A day is good; a week (168 hours) is better. I like to think I’m pretty efficient, yet I still find holes all over the place.
On some level, that’s depressing. But on another, it’s an opportunity. Holes give you permission to brainstorm all those things you claim you’d do if you had an extra hour in the day without actually waiting for that extra hour to appear.
If I know I spend 10 mindless minutes flipping through catalogs, maybe I can consciously choose to use those same minutes to read a book instead. If I know I easily lose an hour to puttering on weekend mornings, I can make a choice in that fallow time to get out the door for a run.
Do this regularly, and you’ll find you won’t need an extra hour in the day. After all, the most amazing, accomplished people any of us will meet have the exact same amount of time as the rest of us: 24 hours daily, most of the time.
They just use it differently.