-Justin Wolfers, business & public policy teacher at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania-
I wrote the post you'll soon read below on a sunny day in August, 2009. And it's still one of my favorites.
But, this Thursday morning was a gray, snowy, cold January 5, 2012. I "made" myself get up early in the pitch black predawn darkness--out of a warm cozy bed (thanks to my heated mattress pad!!).
Sure--there are plenty of things I can't do because I choose to eat healthy, cook most of my meals (with the considerable help of "Lab Rat"), work, hang out with my friends, exercise religiously, visit my family every chance I can, and blog. But, we all make choices every day.
My soon-to-be-28-year-old son's (#2) favorite quote is something like, "Gandhi says we all have the same 24 hours in a day. How you spend it is your choice."
Update: Since writing this post in 2009 I've economized on the ways I fit in exercise, shop, cook--and spend my time. Far from perfect--but, I'm always tinkering with the best ways to "fit it all in". If your kids are still "in the nest", you have parents to help take care of, or you're a single parent--I know it's going to take a whole lot of creative time management to fit it all in.
Yesterday after work I planned to go to the gym, but I changed my mind. It was 72 degrees & sunny. I headed home, put on my workout clothes, attached the nifty radio receiver I have for my iPOD Nano & set off for an hour long walk, listening to NPR.
Marketplace Money came on with their series, Econ Fun-01--about what economists do with their free time. Listening to Justin Wolfers talk about the "Time is Money" conundrum is making me do some serious rethinking about how I'm spending my limited "free time".
Look, we only have so much time in a day. I'm at a big disadvantage right from the get-go because I live "way out" in the sticks--about a 45-50 minute commute to work--a 20 minute drive to where I work-out--a 30 minute drive from lots of my friends, my favorite movie theater, and decent shopping.
But I love where I live--it's green and open and quiet and peaceful--and my house is paid-off. Moving is non-negotiable for now.
I've got some other "time-user-uppers" that are also non-negotiable:
1. I need 7-8 hours of sleep
2. I try to exercise at least 5 days a week for 60 minutes
3. Healthy eating takes lots of time to shop & prepare for. I "make" breakfast, lunch & dinner, and I enjoy cooking.
5. Weekend evenings are reserved for socializing
6. If I want a good night's sleep, I need to just do something mindless after 9:00 pm, like TV, magazines, or book skimming
7. I would never say "no" to an important activity or event involving family or friends
Justin's hobby of choice is training for a marathon.
My hobby of choice--reading about health & wellness, and blogging about it--is a huge time-sucker. But I love it. I love learning new things and taking the time to capture them on a computer. I love the positive feedback from readers all over the world. But, I have far too much to write about than I have time for and that creates its own stress.
And frankly, Justin is right! There is an opportunity cost.
1. Less time to do nothing--don't discount that one.
2. Less time to hang out with friends, or take long leisurely walks.
3. Less time to organize & fix up my house.
4. Less time to volunteer.
5. Less time to sit on the couch & read an entire book.
6. Less time to meditate.
7. Less time to spend with my husband.
8. Less time to work in my garden.
9. Less time to switch gears & pick up a new hobby.
10. Less time to clean up my messes, organize my photos, or learn something new.
11. Less time to just talk.
We all have our hobbies.
And we all have our time-wasters. What can we cut out? Or is it possible that some time-wasters are mind-savers because they help us to wind-down & chill-out? Facebook, Twitter, favorite-must-check-daily websites, ESPN, HGTV, sudoku, KenKen, garage sales, computer games, talking on the phone, texting, you-fill-in-the blanks.
If the internet is your time-wasting addiction of choice, you MUST READ a recent article in Slate that shows how it adversely affects our brains, and why it's actually a most unsatisfying activity! Seeking: How the Brain Hard-Wires Us to Love Google, Twitter, and texting. And Why That's Dangerous. by Amy Yoffe. Click here for the article. After reading Amy's article I'm definitely curbing my laptop usage. (Update 1/7/12): Yeah right! Hasn't happened.)
Want to waste some time seeing how Americans spend their day? Check out this interesting interactive graphic. How are we spending our time? (Very cool graphic!)
"The same logic applies to you. Each hour you spend on your hobby you don't spend working harder to get a promotion, studying for a degree, or shopping around for the cheapest groceries."
According to me: "Or, each hour you spend on your hobby you don't spend with your spouse, friends, family, neighbors, getting your house in order, having fun or just plain relaxing."
So, am I going to keep on blogging, or am I going to give it up for more walks, housework, reading, Mahj games, and meditation? Something to think about. "I keep doing an activity only as long as it yields greater benefits than the alternative."
This "not having enough time to do everything" is a running theme for me. It's my "Fighting Entropy" syndrome and I've written about it here and here.
Justin's Marketplace transcript:
JUSTIN WOLFERS: I'm not just an economist, I'm also a runner, training for the Marine Corps Marathon.
Runners World magazine recently argued that marathon running is an incredibly cheap sport. All you need is a pair of shoes, and you're off and running. But they're wrong.
You see, they were emphasizing the out-of-pocket cost, which is small. But the foundation of all economics is something called opportunity cost. It says that the true cost of something is the alternative you have to give up.
So each hour that I spend running is an hour that I don't spend hanging out, working, or sleeping. How do I choose? Following economic theory, I keep doing an activity only as long as it yields greater benefits than the alternative.
And as I spend my hours slugging out the miles, I'm forced to confront my choices. Instead of sweating it out on the trails, I could take on extra teaching and earn a few extra bucks. And so going running costs me good money.
The same logic applies to you. Each hour you spend on your hobby is an hour you don't spend working harder to get a promotion, studying for a degree, or shopping around for the cheapest groceries.
By my calculations my 16-week training program comes at an opportunity cost of several thousand dollars. A quicker runner would have a smaller opportunity cost. It's only because I'm both slow and an economist that I fret that the world's cheapest sport is actually incredibly expensive.
But to an economist, the choice is still a no-brainer. We think you should only do what you love, and pay for it by doing what you are good at.
By sticking to economics, I make time for running. Rather than spend hundreds of dollars worth of time cleaning my house each Sunday, I hire a cleaner, who does a better job, at a better price.
When a friend asks me to help them move, I write them a check to pay professional movers instead. It's just more efficient.
And while it can be hard to forgo extra income for a long run, it is even harder to justify wasting that time on Facebook. And with the time that saves, I'm pulling on my shoes to head out for another run.
Justin Wolfers teaches business and public policy at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.