## Blog

# Time Management: 168 Hours a Week

- April 11, 2015
- Posted by: michael@mjprep.com
- Category: Study Skills

No matter what stage of life you’re in, **time management is hard**. We’re all experts at *adding things* to our lives but not as aware when it comes to *subtracting things*. To illustrate, let’s look at a sample math problem:

In the equation X+Y+Z=168, if X is increased by 4 and Y remains unchanged, what must happen to Z?A) Z remains unchanged

B) Z increases by 4

C) Z is doubled

D) Z decreases by 4

E) Cannot be determined from the information given

**What do you think?** In the original equation, X, Y, and Z all add up to 168. We could easily make up numbers to represent the variables (our brains are much more capable of dealing with real numbers rather than unknowns). Let’s let X=100, Y=30, and Z=38, since 100+30+38=168 is a true statement.

Now if we increase our X by 4, leave Y unchanged, and find out what Z is, we’ll have an expression that looks like 104+30+Z=168. After we combine like terms and subtract 134 from both sides, we find out that Z is now 34. Why?

An equation represents, by definition, that two things that are equal. The 168 was set in stone – there’s nothing we could do about it. That means that anything we affect on the left side has to be balanced out by an opposite value. Increasing X by 4 *requires* that something else decreases by 4 for us to still arrive at 168. Our answer has to be D), since Z decreases by 4 to balance out X increasing by 4.

“I’m going to focus more on grades this year.”

“This semester I’m committed to practicing my instrument a lot more.”

“I need to exercise more if I’m going to build my beach body by summer.”

“My last ACT score wasn’t what I wanted; I’m going to study more this time around.”

As a High School teacher and now as a tutor, I’ve always encouraged my students to set personal and professional goals for multiple durations: month, year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc. The *easy* part of setting goals is deciding what you want to add to your life. The *hard* part (that we rarely complete) is deciding what to remove from life. Deciding to focus more on grades is admirable, but it will most certainly require more time out of each week (homework, studying, projects, tutorials, outside reading). Just like in the example problem above, ADDING something requires SUBTRACTING something. This is time management 101.

Without advance planning, the subtraction part we’re talking about still happens naturally, and the results often aren’t great. If you spend four extra hours a week practicing your instrument but still want to enjoy your “down time,” what naturally get subtracted are other important things: studying, exercising, spending time with family, etc. Without planning, **adding important things to life usually results in removing important things from life**.

The wrong formula for adding something to life is “add 4 hours of studying per week, and whatever goes away goes away.” The right formula is “add 4 hours of studying per week, and take away 4 hours of ___________” (Netflix, ENO time, Twitter, COD, My Little Pony, whatever).

We only have 168 hours a week. The fundamental principle of time management is to use them wisely by choosing your addition and subtraction wisely.

Resources:

RescueTime – tracks time spent on programs, apps, and websites on phone and computer to help you understand your daily habits, trends, and productivity levels. You can even set up alerts and/or blocks for specific apps/websites/categories if you spend over a set number of minutes or hours in a day.