You’ve got 24 hours. How will you spend it?

Not your last 24 hours, not your perfect 24 hours, but these 24 hours.  Starting now.  What are you going to do with those?  Tomorrow, will you be glad that’s what you swapped your time for? Or wish you’d done it differently? Will you even remember what you did?

I got thinking about this because I watched “In Time”, starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Siegfried, on the flight here to Hong Kong (I’ll talk about my trip in another blog!).   The film is set in a dystopian future, where people stop aging at 25, but then only have one year to live. Extra years can be earned, or indeed stolen, and time is “spent” in the same way that we spend currency.

If every time you had to buy something, whether it’s food or transport or clothes, you had to put your wrist on a device and deduct time from your life, would you do anything differently?  It really made me reflect on how I spend time, not least because I realised that it’s not that dissimilar to our world

Every time we do anything (or nothing), we deduct time from our life.  I am currently swapping an hour of my life for a Coke Zero and the opportunity to write something for you guys.  In fact, in some ways, our world is even more brutal, because there is nothing I can ever do to earn this hour back.  So I hope you like this blog!

When we’re students, we have more control over our time than we’ve ever had before (and some would argue than we’ll ever have again).  That can be pretty difficult to get used to, and it’s really easy for hours and days to roll past and suddenly you’re in final year and haven’t done all the things you’d hoped for.

Now I’m not going to argue that this means you should spend every hour working or even being “productive”, but that it’s useful to keep in your mind that you are swapping your life for whatever you are doing right now.  For example, thinking about today, I didn’t get to the library as early as I planned, because I ended up FaceTiming my boyfriend in France and doing a little yoga before breakfast.  I don’t mind that.  Although it wasn’t what I planned, they both feel like important things to “spend” some of my 24 hours on.

On the other hand, I regularly spend at least as much time in the morning on Buzzfeed.com, exploring things like “33 ways to build a snow fort you’ll want to move into” (Don’t go look til you’ve finished here – seriously people, focus!)  Will I be glad I swapped 15 minutes for that?  Unless it snows tomorrow, and I decide to build one, then probably not.  Will I remember that I read it next year? Definitely not.

I had an interesting chat with a student recently, who is aiming for a first class degree and has high level sporting commitments.  He was finding it difficult to balance the two, and was disappointed to be considering either dropping his sport or his academic standards.  We talked instead about what else he was “spending” his time on, and whether he could prioritise differently.  He realised that were several things that he was spending time on that he really didn’t care about, like watching day time TV, and if he prioritised a little more here, he felt could “buy” himself back quite a bit of spare time.

You might argue that relaxation is important too, and you’d be absolutely right.  But if you’re anything like me, you spend considerable amounts of time doing things that are not only unproductive, but also not particularly rejuvenating either.  I have never ever thought to myself “oh I feel so much better for spending two hours faffing around on Facebook”.  Instead I usually just feel lethargic and frustrated.

Thinking about how you’re “spending” your time is about making mindful decisions about whether you want to give an hour of your life to this activity.  Do I want to give it to reading a good book?  Yes, for me that’s something important that I will be glad I did later.  Exploring the Peak behind Hong Kong? Yes, even if I hiked to the top only to find a Starbucks at the top.  Working on my next research paper? Yes – although it’s hard work, I’ll be proud of the finished product.  Do I want to give an hour of my life to finding out whether Taylor Swift has a belly button and what racist rubbish UKIP has said now?  Really no.  (I’m not even linking to these, to save you from yourselves….)

I’m not good at this yet, but I’m going to try and keep this in mind when I’m making decisions in the future.  I’ll let you know how I get on!

So what are you going to do with your next 24 hours?  As Timberlake’s character says in the film, “You can do a lot in a day”.

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