A Life Measured By Time
How one woman’s life spent accounting for every second led to nothing and everything
My relationship with time is a long and complicated one.
Nearly a decade ago, I went through a period when I measured time as currency. Every 24 hours became the equivalent of 24 pennies. If I wanted those pennies to add up to anything, I needed to allocate them wisely. Soon, making plans felt like accumulating debt. It meant giving away unused hours to a task, event, or person that had yet to occur. Scheduling and using time became so daunting that I would lie for hours in a near catatonic state, pleading with Time to slow down, to stop ticking along, to allow me the space to breathe and live.
What Scrooge was to money, I became to time. I hoarded it, resulting in agenda-free, zombie weekends.
I didn’t have to ask “where did the time go?” because I witnessed it ticking away.
During this same time, I was number two at a boutique agency in Washington, DC with clients located throughout the country. For years, I spent 60% of the month traveling to meet with them. When my (then) husband and I took vacations, I had one condition: no one could acknowledge that I was working during most of it. Taking conference calls from the beach, I reasoned, meant that I wasn’t taking them from the office. One way or another, spending time on work meant accumulating hours and money to spend doing nothing later.
This type of accounting does not add up to a life well-lived; in 2013, to no one’s surprise, business was great and my marriage ended.
At rock bottom, I couldn’t afford to lose anymore. I started leaving the office at 6PM every day to the dismay of my colleagues. I took lunch. Took 80% of the money my ex-husband and I painstakingly saved for worst-case-scenario and bought two bicycles for no reason at all. Moved from the suburbs into the city. Ran around in silly costumes. Traveled to more than six countries. Spent two entire weeks completely off the grid camping along the Pacific Northwest. I finally spent time, and suddenly found myself happier than ever before. By spending time and money, I gained a life worth living.
Every single human alive today gets 8,760 total hours every year, 6,205 of which we are awake for.
Typical American “awake” hours are spent:
- Working: 3,120 (50%)
- Eating: 2,000 (32%)
- “Free” Time: 1,085 (17%)
- On Vacation 80 (1%)
(based on the average American PTO)
That’s all you get. And while you can earn more money, honey, you can’t earn more time. Yet 50% of Americans are only using half of the sad amount of vacation they are allotted. That’s .05% of their annual time indulging in a long, lazy day.
After remarrying and taking on a new partnership at Brllnt three years ago, I’ve learned a thing or two about time. I go offline several times a year, and most weekends. I leave (mostly) before or at 6. I encourage, nay, plead with my team to go away and spend what precious little time they have exploring, enjoying, and living.
Here’s the point: Stop feeling guilty about using 1% of your annual life hour allocation to take a damn break.
Go find yourself. Go explore. Use that “free” time to learn something new, get to know your family, and form stronger friendships.
We don’t get any of it back. And if you are already spending 50% of it working — you’ve done enough. Time doesn’t stand still for anyone, so you shouldn’t either.