We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and for some of us, those 24 hours could not be more limited. Between work, family obligations, personal life, running errands, and even handling basic human needs like sleep and dinnertime, free time is few and far between. Many will give the advice that “there never will truly be a work/life balance,” and to tilt the scale towards one end on some days, and vice versa on the others. But here’s a form of time management that we often overlook: how much of our time is spent wasted?

Now, this doesn’t mean watching trash TV or waiting on hold for two hours with the cable company. This does, however, mean paying attention to where our efforts are fruitless. There should be a clear ROI for every single thing we do during the day. This is hard to conceptualize outside of work and business, because it’s odd to think of something like playing frisbee with your kids or taking an after-dinner stroll as something that has an ‘ROI.’ But both do, if you look closer. If you further your relationship, decompress, or (dare I say) introduce some FUN into your life, it has an ROI. The investment is time — and it’s perhaps the greatest investment you can ever make. You can get your money back… but you can never get your time back. 

Evaluating the ROI On The Time You Spend 

Evaluation should start by breaking down the basics of each hour of the day, and assessing what it’s producing. In a conversation with Oz Konar, business loan broker and seven figure founder of Business Lending Blueprint, he noted that the best advice he had ever received was to assess critically the results of his four simultaneous businesses. “A mentor simply asked me to break down the number of hours I was spending on each business, and how much revenue each was bringing in. I realized that the three businesses that were taking the most time were resulting in the least amount of revenue. It totally changed the way I not only do business, but the way that I live my life.” 

Now, it’s not always going to perfectly align that what you spend the least amount of time on has the highest ROI’s. But, sometimes. What’s important here is to break your life into the categories that matter most to you — work, family, health, personal life, etc. First, evaluate how you’re spending time in each category, and determine how you want to measure your ROI. 

For example, in work, you may spend one hour in a meeting with a client and another hour creating next week’s newsletter. Which had the highest ROI? Can you compare them? 

For family, you may spend one hour driving your daughter to and from soccer practice, and you may spend another hour enjoying a nightcap with your spouse. Which had the highest ROI? 

The idea here is to determine which daily and weekly activities require the most work, but have the lowest ROI. For example, could you outsource someone else to make next week’s newsletter, and instead just spend 20 minutes sending over the required info? Could you set up a carpool arrangement with the other parents on your daughter’s soccer team so you spend less hours driving? 

Making Eliminations

It may take some rearranging and deliberation to start to make eliminations, but the time spent understanding where all your hours go is certainly a worthwhile investment. Start to see where you can afford to hire, outsource, delegate, or even eliminate. Maybe playing tennis with your friends on Sundays actually isn’t filling you up in the way it once did, and you can nix that hour. Maybe you really enjoy monthly game night with your family, and you want to make that a twice-a-month ordeal. 

Then, there are also the common ‘timesucks’ (you know, those things that make you wonder, ‘where did the time go?!’). Social media, for one. There isn’t a single one of us who can easily stay out of that quicksand. A timesuck could even be a really good book or netflix show that you engage with every night. If you have a tendency to take it past your hard and fast bedtime, consider how that’s affecting your next day and your overall happiness. 

And, then there are the good timesucks! You should have moments where the time really flies because you’re enjoying yourself or deep in a creative project. You deserve to have the flexibility in your schedule to ride that wave when you hop on it, without a thousand other responsibilities and meetings waiting for your attention. 

How we spend our time is how we spend our lives. So, it’s necessary to take stock of how each minute of the day is being spent, and if it’s serving us. This isn’t part of ‘hustle culture’ where every hour must be making you money or furthering your business. This is about furthering your life and your satisfaction. That’s too important to leave to chance.