You still have 20% of your time to pursue creative projects (even with a 9 to 5).

I complain a lot about not having enough time in the day. It annoys my partner to no end. I am a busy guy. I work a day job. I’m developing a podcast studio business in my off hours. I do lots of stuff and I wake up tired all the time. I’m sure you know the feeling.

Sidenote: I’m also be a neurotic mess, so I worry that I’ll die before I get to do all the things I want to do, pretty often. You ever get that? Life is pain.

The last time I was complaining I thought, I’m going to sort this out. Where can I carve out more time? Then I moved some numbers around and had a nice little revelation.

Let’s do some maths…

There are 168 hours in a week.

Let’s say you have a job. Let’s say you work from 9am–5pm Monday to Friday. We’ll be generous and say you have an hour commute both ways. That’s 10 hours a day (or 50 hours per week).

That leaves you with 118 hours in your week after work.

Your health matters (because your body is slowly deteriorating every day and you are only getting older and you’re probably gonna die someday and oh dear jesus — life is pain).

So sleep at least 7 hours a night (another 50 hours per week). Set aside 5 hours per week to exercise. Set aside 10 hours per week to make proper meals. That’s a total of 65 hours per week for your health.

That leaves you happy, healthy and paying your bills with 53 hours left in your week.

As I mention above, life is pain, so let’s allot some time to taxes & dentists & car maintenance & taking out the garbage, etc., etc. (5 hours per week).

You also need to live a little and have some fun, so take 8 hours per week to just relax. Eight hours is a full Sunday or a couple nights during the week dedicated to downtime.

Save another 4 hours per week to call your mother, walk your dog, have a coffee with someone and tell them that you think they are mostly nice.

That leaves you with 36 hours every week.

36 hours per week doesn’t seem like a lot in contrast to the 168 hour total — but do the math. That is over 20% of your week. That’s one whole slice out of a five-slice pizza. That’s a full day and a half without sleeping every week. That’s just a few hours shy of your regular 40 hour work week. It adds up to two and a half full (all day and all night) months out of the year.

As an example, The Guardian says that the average reader ‘snails through prose at a rate of about 250–300 words per minute, which roughly equates to about one page per minute’. In 36 hours you could read 2,160 pages. If you dedicate that amount of time for just 2 weeks, you could read the entire Game Of Thrones series to date (and those are big freakin’ books).

What else could you do in that time?

Keep in mind that this is after you have done everything else mostly right. In our hypothetical situation you are a healthy 9–5er who sleeps right, eats well and calls your mother. If you floss every day and make leftovers for a few nights a week, you could carve out even more time to be creative than time you have to spend at work.

Some of you are saying, “I have kids! You have no idea!”. I get it, kids make this math a lot more difficult. Kids make all math really difficult because they scramble your brains by running around real fast and breaking stuff and throwing up and being adorable. For the time being we’ll leave kids out of it. If you have both kids and creative projects, I tip my hat to you (but you may need to cut into your sleep/exercise/work in order to find creative time with wee ones around).

…And what about TV & trackpants?

I know, I know, we all want to binge some Netflix and refresh our Twitter feed. That’s cool, we aren’t machines, we get lazy now and then. Do whatever gets you through this life (of pain).

The point is that, even after all of the mundane stuff, after taking care of yourself and your loved ones, you could still carve out a big chunk of time for your ‘passion projects’. You obviously may have more responsibilities than I’ve listed. You may have less. Either way, you and I both likely have more time than we think if we are diligent about it.

Block Facebook and build a birdhouse instead. Wake up a little earlier and develop a business plan bit by bit. Cut out Netflix and start up a podcast. Do whatever you like with that time, just know that (at least mathematically) it is there if you want it.

Cheers pals.

EDIT: One week later I need to fess up. This article is optimistic (aside from all the existential crises about life being pain of course). If you aren’t able to carve out that 36 hours right away, don’t feel bad. I tried this week and came up pretty short. It’ll take time to make it a regular part of the schedule. Let me know how you make out and I’ll keep you all posted.