Why Wait for Retirement? Don’t Squander Your Time

There are twenty-four hours available in any given day. Is it just me or do those hours seem to pass in the blink of an eye? One minute you are rising out of bed and the next you are climbing back into it.

Math has a funny way of playing tricks on our minds. Twenty-four hours doesn’t seem like very much time, but 1440 minutes seems like a decent chunk, doesn’t it?

So let’s forget about hours and focus on those precious minutes. If you sleep for eight hours a day you can subtract 480 minutes of time from your total. Hopefully all of those minutes are utilized for peaceful slumber.

If you work a 9-to-5 schedule you can subtract another 480 minutes from your total. Suddenly you’ve spent 960 minutes working and sleeping. For most of us that number is dwindling faster than we’d like.

But that still leaves us with a solid eight hours of time (480 minutes) for fun stuff, right? Of course not. We have to account for showers, getting dressed, preparing food, eating, cleaning, commuting, completing household chores and tending to other family members, especially if you have young children.

All of those take time. There’s no doubt about it. In fact, when you add up all of those miscellaneous tasks it seems like we don’t have any time to spend relaxing, taking care of ourselves or working on projects we care about.

Is that what you think? It’s certainly what I’ve thought at various times throughout my life, but it’s simply not true.

According to a 2017 survey completed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the average worker spent over 5 hours per day (300 minutes) engaged in leisure activities. Watching TV occupied the most time at 2.8 hours (168 minutes) per day. Given all of that leisure time one can safely conclude that we have a lot more time on our hands then we think we do.

In fact, I would argue that five hours is an incredible amount of time! But if we have so much time then why does it always seem like we have so little to spare? For many of us its simple: We don’t manage it well.

When my oldest son was a baby I would spend hours putting him to sleep. My first born was never great about falling asleep on his own and one night I started the bedtime process at 7:30 and continued until well after midnight.

When my little bundle of joy finally fell asleep I turned to my husband and said, “What on earth did I do with all of my time before I had children?” If you are anything like me you will find it hard to remember.

In one evening I spent four and a half hours putting one small baby to sleep. That’s all I accomplished and nothing more.

I believe most of us take time for granted. We look at the clock and think we cannot possibly achieve enough in 24 hours. We tell ourselves we must find a way to quit our jobs so we can free up eight hours.

Now don’t get me wrong. I completely understand the desire to spend time on worthy pursuits, but why can’t we pursue our passions in the amount of leisure time reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics?

You know all of those things you want to do after you retire? Well how about keeping your day job and trying them out right now.

Now is the time to exercise, fuel your body with healthy food, strengthen your social connections and feed your mind. Why do we feel the need to wait until we quit our day jobs to pursue our passions? Why wait to take a writing class, learn to paint, train for a race, prepare a five course meal or start a new business?

When I read ESI Money’s latest post What to Do with Your Time in Early Retirement I wanted to shout, “Why are we talking about the lack of structure and purpose after you quit your day job? How about all of the people wandering aimlessly around the planet who go to work each day?”

I’ve written a lot about the importance of acting with intention. If you want to grow your net worth you cannot give in to every impulse. Instead, you must pay careful attention to how much you earn and how much you spend. Your bank accounts will not grow if you wander through life mindlessly.

The same is true for time. There is nothing wrong with choosing to watch television when you come home from work, but you should think twice before mindlessly turning on the boob tube and watching it from the moment you come home until the moment you go to bed. You may want to check in on old friends, but don’t waste three hours of your precious time staring at Facebook and Twitter.

Learn to be intentional with your time or stop whining about the lack of it.

The FIRE community is full of individuals who want to escape the working world in search of freedom from the grind of 9-to-5 work. There are many reasons to quit your job, but before you jump ship ask yourself if you are taking advantage of the time you have right here and now.

If you quit your job would you really spend eight hours enriching your life? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t? Only you can answer that question. My guess is that you don’t need a full eight hours. Perhaps just one or two could change your entire mindset.

As I’ve stated before there are many benefits to a traditional job. You may not be able to change the amount of time you spend in the office, but you can change the way you view the hours you spend outside of work.

Why are you pushing so hard towards retirement? Rather than letting your job feel like drudgery accept the good parts of it and find fulfillment in the time spent after the work day is over.

If you like to track your money now might be the time to track your time as well. I bet you’ll find a lot more leisure time available than you ever suspected. Now is the time to make the most of it!

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