Time Vanishing

0215. Where Does Our Time Go? 

Where does our time go? This seems to be one of the most asked questions of our culture today. So much to do, yet so little time. Our lives are just so busy with work and family, that it seems like we do not even have time to breathe. Yet it is not like the number of hours in the day has shrunk over the course of time. So what exactly is it that is causing this perception of a lack of time? Well, let’s track how much time we spend every week and see.

Each individual has 168 hours in one week (seven days times 24 hours a day). Nobody gets any less or any more. In one sense, this is the great equalizer. We have exactly the same amount of time in a week as Stephen Curry or Elon Musk. But what are you spending it on? Let’s actually break that down by activity, and measure the time spent. 

First, let’s start with essential activities required for our lives. We are told we require eight hours of sleep every night, so that is 56 hours a week. We work 40 hours a week, but also need to account for commute time. Adding one hour of commute time to and from work, that’s 45 hours a week. Cooking and eating takes about three hours a day, assuming one hour per meal. And finally, chores will run us about one hour a day, such as vacuuming, showering, laundry, and shopping for groceries. If we total up all of that time we get 129 hours of essential activities. So if we subtract that from 168 hours in a week, that leaves us with 39 hours a week for discretionary activities.

Probably one of the activities that we might think is omitted from the essentials list above is taking care of kids, seniors, pets, and other dependents. However, this time varies widely depending on the individual. For example, a single person might not have the same hours allotted to this as say, a single parent would. Therefore, while important, we will set this essential activity aside for now, but it will become more relevant later on. So we have 39 hours a week to do what we want. But what have we been doing with that time? Consider the following data from 2019:

The typical American spent an average of three hours a day watching television. This is actually down one hour with the advent of streaming and on-demand content when compared to 2000. In addition, the typical American spends an average of 24 hours online a week, doing things like streaming content, posting on social media, and playing video games. This time has exploded since 2000, when the average was only 10 hours a week online, a 240% increase over two decades.

Adding up the totals from these two activities gives us 45 hours a week. Wait a minute, hold on. We only had 39 hours left for discretionary activities to begin with, right? That is correct. This means we are running a minimum time deficit of six hours a week. The reason it is a minimum is because we still have to account for the time allotted to care for dependents, remember? We can now quantify and explain why people are always complaining about not having enough time, because we have literally exceeded the number of hours in a week.  

Now, since we cannot physically increase the number of hours in the week, how do we account for this deficit? The time has to come from somewhere, and it is accounted for by sacrificing the essential activities of our week.  We no longer get eight hours of sleep a night, six or seven is the most adults get anymore. We sacrifice productivity at work so we can surf the internet and text with our friends when the boss isn’t looking. We sacrifice preparing nourishing food for dining out or ordering fast food. We skip our chores until they absolutely need to get done. How many times have we done the laundry only because we ran out of clean clothes, procrastinated about a dentist appointment, or skipped getting our car serviced because we were just too busy? Finally, how much time being on social media and our phones have come at the cost of spending time with other family members (no phones at the dinner table please)?

The truth is that stealing time from essential activities has serious consequences. Getting less sleep, and eating more fast food will lead to more health issues. Working less will result in less of a salary, not to mention less learning on the job. Being less organized by not performing chores will lead to higher stress levels. And how many families are getting ruined because of a lack of quality time spent together? Each one by itself may not be that serious, but a pattern that combines them all? Unfortunately, this is the culture we live in today.

Time Chart

Now what if we were to tell you that we haven’t told you the worst part? During this entire discussion, we have not made any mention of time spent with God. In this God-omitted culture, God is being skunked 45 to 0 by television and online content. And this is not by accident. You see, we complain nearly every day about not having enough time.  But in actuality, the enemy has created so many distractions, that we cannot possibly keep up with all of them. How many books do we want to read, and shows do we want to watch, but can never get to them? You see, it is not about the stories on the news, the politics, or the culture. The enemy’s goal is to keep you distracted with those items. The true deception is the enemy is stealing your time, such that we no longer have time to even acknowledge God anymore.

While we may think that life was much simpler in Biblical times, Jesus understood distraction by the enemy is not a new trick. We learn about this in Luke 10:38-42 (CSB): “While they were traveling, he entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.’ The Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.'” Mary understood the principle of setting time aside and learning from God, while Martha kept getting distracted by other things.

One of the most important things to understand is that we learn the most from the people and information we spend time with. Think about the person that influenced you the most growing up. Regardless of whether it was a parent, a teacher, or a coach, it tended to be the person you spent the most time with. If we think about today’s culture, both parents have to work to maintain their complete lifestyle. Parents are going back to work just six months after taking maternity/paternity leave, leaving the infants in the care of child care providers. Then the kids are being raised by teachers, and now the internet because they spend more time with them than their parents. And because of the time deficit, God is nowhere to be found. So if God and parents are no longer the primary influences in our children’s lives, is it any wonder we are getting deceived by our culture?

The enemy’s math is unforgiving. But fortunately, God is. Now that you realize the numbers, make a change and take back your time, and actually spend it with God by reading the Bible, praying, and finding community. Like Mary and the other disciples found out, it will be time well spent. Ponder that this week.

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