I graduated from Utah Valley University exactly 2 months ago. For the last few years of my life I struggled to jam a full-time job, classes, homework, house keeping, hobbies, family, friends, and sleep into my weekly schedule. Like most college students struggling to make it to graduation I dreamed of a day when I would be free from classes, homework, and projects. I imagined the many ways I would spend my new-found hours in a more productive and lucrative way. I fantasied about my gloriously optimized time the way some people dream about fame. As a full-time student and full-time employee I couldn’t imagine wasting a luxury like “free-time”. I was used to making every second of my work-breaks count. It didn’t occur to me that after graduation I would have a similar problem.
I have to learn how to manage excess time.
Here’s the funny thing about time: it’s lot like money. I mean you hear the expression “time is money” all the time, but it’s not until you really try managing it that you realize how true that phrase is on many levels. For example, no matter how much time or money you have, you never feel like you have enough. With both time and money you plan all the productive and smart ways you can invest with them, but you end up wasting the excess. In both cases of time and money, the best thing you can do for yourself is to create a detailed plan, and create a system to keep you accountable. This is easier said than done. I had a plan when I graduated; I was going to work on my writing, but without a professor to give me due dates and grades I found it too easy to slack off and watch YouTube instead. I found that I’m the kind of person who needs more structure.
So what’s my plan B?
For starters, I have a full-time job that I can use as my framing structure. Right off the bat I have 40 hours accounted for, but what about the time before and after work? That’s harder for me, because frankly, I’m lazy when there’s no one to call me out. I decided to take on a few structured “side hustles” to supplement my wallet as well as my calendar. I am meeting with a friend next weekend to discuss taking over the marketing for her online start-up (more on those details after our meeting). My boss from my internship last summer also asked if I might be interested in taking on some part-time paid work. I”m also exploring some other free-lance options on the side. Obviously, I couldn’t take on all of this at once, but I am interesting in looking into my options and exploring the possibility on taking on 1 or 2 of these ventures. The key point here is that each of these options would include another person keeping me in line: a partner, boss, or agent respectively. Personally, I am much more comfortable wasting my own time, but I can’t stand the idea of wasting someone else’s.
How will I manage?:
Right now my excesses time is being wasted in the same manner that a lottery winner blows through millions in a few years. Despite rationally knowing that it should be invested, part of me feels like this windfall is limitless. By giving myself more to do, and by creating some level of accountability, I am creating a sort of “time-budget” that will be harder to cheat on. Like any good financial budget bills come first. In the comparison of time and money, the “bills” are my job, as I can’t keep a roof over my head without it. Next we have my “investments”, or my side gigs. Then I’ll add in the “necessities” category that would be spent on food, gas, and hygiene items in a budget, but in my time budget will be my “self-improvement” time for things like reading, writing, and hobbies. Finally, like any good budget, you designate a small percentage to the “fun stuff”. In your financial life this might be a few dollars a week for fancy coffee or a nice meal out on the town. For me the “fun stuff” will be the time I waste on Netflix or YouTube. Maybe treating my hours like dollars will make me less reluctant to waste.
To sum it all up
Time is valuable, but it’s also a pain to manage. We all have different priorities, preferences, and strategies when it comes to budgeting out 24 hours a day. Personally, I want to make every second count. I like feeling that I am making an effort to improve myself and my life, while still setting aside the much needed “me time” that keeps us all sane. At the end of the day, what you do with your time becomes a big part of who you are as a person, so make sure you are doing both what you need to do, but also what you want to do. Time, like money, is meant to be spent productively, so decide what is productive to you.