How to Find 5 Extra Hours a Day (without losing sleep, skipping meals, multitasking or abandoning your family)

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” ~Harvey MacKay

When was the last time you complained there just weren’t enough hours in the day for all you wanted to accomplish? If you’re like me, it was recently. And if like me, you regularly run out of day at the end of your to-do list.

But what if by some mutant change to my DNA, I evolved the power to manipulate time and could pass that power to you so that you could add nearly 5 more hours to your day? How much would you pay for that? (don’t worry, I’m not charging!)

More importantly, what would you do with those additional 5 hours a day?

Would you spend them pursuing a dream? Working toward a goal? Doing something you love?

Well, the good news is that if you’re much like the national average, I can actually add another 4.8 hours to your life every single day. For free. And it won’t require DNA replacement therapy, magic, or becoming mentally ambidextrous.

That’s 34 hours a week, or 136 hours most months and 1,768 hours a year. That’s a whopping 8,840 hours in just 5 years’ time and 17,680 hours in a decade. And those of you on the downward slope of the average lifespan understand just how short a decade truly is!

The Value of Time

Sometimes comparing something we merely have a vague conception of to something we know much more intimately helps us conceptualize it better. So let’s try this:

A college semester lasts 200 days. Most college courses require 3 dedicated hours a week. That’s 600 hours of class time for the semester. Double it for study time and you’ll have spent 1,200 hours learning something you didn’t know from a college professor, which is still significantly shy of the 5 hours a day I’m suggesting I can give anyone who is like the average Joe.

Put another way, reports that it takes anywhere from 5 months to a year to build your own house from the ground up. Taking the average of 8.5 months, that’s 255 days of 9-5 work, or 2,040 hours to build your dream home.

So you see how valuable the extra hours can be? They can translate directly into tangible changes to your life, into expertise in an industry and money in your pocket … if, that is, they’re used wisely.

How would you Spend 5 Extra Hours a Day?

Just imagine what you could do with an annual sum of 1,768 extra hours to spend developing your passion, honing a skill, developing a talent, building a business, working on a project, overcoming a flaw, fixing a relationship or reaching for a lofty goal!

Imagine the improvement, the personal growth, the impact, the change, the expertise, the service, the love, the quality of life that can be added with a daily 5-hour investment strategy!

So what specifically would you do with the extra time?

1. Write a book?
2. Launch a business?
3. Build your dream home or a custom car?
4. Travel?
5. Learn to paint, crochet or read Chinese?
6. Teach yourself guitar or piano?
7. Write poetry or songs or short stories?
8. Train for a marathon or for the Olympics?
9. Develop a new talent or trait?
10. Earn a black belt in your favorite martial art?
11. Design a board game or app or website?
12. Invent something, improve something, discover something?
13. Get physically fit or emotionally healthy or spiritually in tune?
14. Read a mountain of books?
15. Fix a relationship?
16. Learn to ballroom dance or break dance or tap dance?
17. Memorize The Declaration of Independence or MLK’s I Have a Dream speech?
18. Start a service organization or take a college course online?
19. Feed the hungry, save the whales or focus on changing the life of one underprivileged child?
20. Do a wide variety of smaller activities that add moments of meaning and happiness to your life?

The options are limitless. What would you do with the extra time? What calls to you? What do you lay awake at night thinking about? Or what would you simply find fun and enjoyable? Or perhaps nothing more than curious about?

Why 5 Hours?

So why did I choose 5 hours a day or 34 hours a week as the starting point of this exercise?

Well, because the average American watches that much TV. If you’re nearing middle age, it’s less. If you’re young, it’s more. If you’re in your golden years, it’s the most.

The average is 34 precious hours that forever seeps into the soil of things not done, of procrastinated dreams, of potential left to rot on the vine.

Even if you only freed up one additional hour a day, it could quite literally change your life. If at age 20, you spent an hour every day working toward some goal and continued until your 60th birthday, you would have logged an additional 14,600 hours honing a skill, gaining experience and doing what you love.

The secret to excellence isn’t doing what no one else does. It’s doing what most people already do, only doing it better. And that difference lives in the extra time devoted to the goal. It’s Michael Jordan’s commitment to be the first on the court and last to leave. It’s the small percentage of extra time spent developing the talent that makes the difference.

Obviously the hours watching TV are not always opportune times for climbing mountains or constructing houses. And other goals, like travel, can’t be done in one-hour increments at the end of a workday. Besides, there are legitimate reasons to watch some TV from time to time as well.

But minutes become hours that become days and weeks and months and years and a life that was never optimized, never fully experienced, filled with too many “if-only”s and “what-if”s turning stale in the dark and dusty unopened cupboard of your life.

Monitor the Moments

Have you ever monitored the time you spend watching television? Try it this week. Every time you turn the TV on, record the time you spend watching. Count the minutes and hours over the course of the week—a month if you really want to know how much time you’re spending glued to the tube.

Keep in mind, however, that we often change our behavior for no other reason than that we’re monitoring it. But you can still pick up some valuable insight into the amount of time you likely spend brain-numb, passively watching life flit by … one episode at a time.

The TV, however, is not the only devourer of dreams. By the time the average American is 21 years old, he has played 10,000 hours worth of computer games. And who knows how much time on Facebook and Youtube.

The Bathroom Theory of Time Management

Okay, I’m going to reveal too much information here, but it’s the best personal example I have of what I’m talking about:

I keep a couple books in the bathroom so that when I sit, I pick one up and read. I’m often surprised at how relatively quickly I go through books while just sitting down doing my business! Mind you, I don’t remove the books from the John. They stay. I only read them behind locked door.

But even though it’s usually brief (pay attention, this is key), it’s daily. Time simply adds up and pages get turned and before I know it, I’ve consumed yet another author’s thoughts, learned something new, gained insight and understanding, wisdom, inspiration and knowledge, better armed to do what I do here at M2bH.

Not too bad for a few minutes on the porcelain throne each day! The point here is not the multitasking behavior. It’s the value of the small moments of time filled with something other than passivity. In the end, the more value we fill our moments with, the more satisfying our lives will be.

Life is but a series of moments, filled or left empty. You already know which one sounds obviously more meaningful and rewarding.

Would You Hire You?

Here’s an interesting way to think about the use of your time: If you were hired as the steward of your life, would the boss let you keep your job? If so, would you give yourself a promotion for the amazing work you’re doing optimizing your life? If not, maybe it’s time to make some changes to your use of it.

If you are addictively spacing out on tons of TV, my advice is to start small, maybe just an hour less for now. Don’t try to go cold turkey; grant yourself some space-out time.

Then fill those precious moments with precious moments. Make the time irresistible because you’re doing what you love to do. The TV will become increasingly an annoyance than a temptation or habit.

Think of what it would mean to you if you turned the TV off and began reading, or playing with your kids or talking with your spouse, or building something or overcoming something or writing something or learning something!

Your time is yours. Your use of it is yours. But I have the power to give you more of it. Turn off the TV. There. You have an extra 5 hours tonight. Use it well.

“With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.” ~Dr. Seuss

Your turn …

Please share your thoughts in the comments!