What Will You Do With Your Two Hours?

How Will You Spend Your $1765 Tax Refund?
What’s With All the Garbage?

Old-TV-Two-HoursDoes this sound familiar? You’re finally home from work. You’re absolutely exhausted from the daily grind. You’ve been sitting or standing all day. Customers, bosses, and coworkers have been very demanding. Rush hour traffic sucks. You’ve done your best to avoid the parking police while you raced into the school to pick up your kids from the after-school program. It’s all you can do to muster the energy to put dinner on the table, help the kids with any homework, take them to extracurricular activities, and then get them to bed at some semi-reasonable hour.

Then you collapse on the couch to watch TV (sorry – play on your phone or tablet) for two hours until it’s your own bedtime.

Is that the best way to spend those two hours?

Time is our most precious resource. Let’s look into how we can make the most of it!

A Typical Urbaniak Family Evening-ish

Our schedules do frequently move around by a half-hour or so, but this is a pretty typical timeline for a late afternoon and evening in the Urbaniak household:

Evening Timeline

I’m usually home from work around 4 or 4:15. Andrea is a stay-at-home mom with a growing side hustle. She usually returns sometime between 3:30 and 4 after picking up the kids from the bus stop and the school, depending on whether the weather is nice enough for them to hang out at the playground. (We’re looking forward to next year when both kids will go to the same school.) If I’m off work early for any reason, I enjoy also taking the opportunity to walk or bike to the bus stop and the school.

After changing, grabbing a snack, unwinding a bit, and catching up on a few personal and volunteer emails, I’m usually able to hang out with the rest of family until suppertime. We eat as a family around 5:30 for 30-45mins, and then read, practice piano and hang out together until it’s time to get ready for bed around 7:30.

Once the kids are down, the clock starts ticking on our “two hours” until our own lunch-prep and bedtime routine starts around 10. Truthfully our free time does fluctuate from two to 2.5 or sometimes even three hours, but let’s go with two for simplicity’s sake. Besides, it’s not about the two hours, but rather about the limited time available in a typical evening.

How to Use Your Two Hours

Now that we’ve established my scientifically lose definition of “two hours” and why we only have two or so, let’s brainstorm what we can do with them:

  • Save the world
  • Volunteer
  • Build your business or side hustle to hit FI (financial independence) sooner
  • Exercise
  • Take a class or learn something new on your own
  • Have “relations” with your spouse (hey, it is kid-free time…)
  • Games night (funny how this idea came after the previous one…)
  • Veg out (this includes most social-media use, TV, web browsing)
  • Read (for recreation or knowledge or both – best if it’s dual-purpose!)
  • Prepare a weeks’ worth of meals or baking
  • Hang out with friends
  • Play sports
  • Shopping
  • Running errands
  • Chores
  • Gaming
  • Hobbies

If that seems like a lengthy list, it is. And I’m sure there are many, many other things than what I’ve jotted down. Think of that list up there as a starting point to get your creative juices flowing. Then be purposeful with what you want to do.

What I’ve realized is that there is no way that I can get everything done that I want to within my two hours. So let’s figure out how we can get the most out of them instead.

Room for Expansion

First off, you may notice a fair amount of float or wishy-washy-ness in our evening timeline. That’s deliberate. We don’t hold to a hard-and-fast schedule most evenings. Rather, we try to build in margin. We can go with the flow and take advantage of other opportunities that arise such as playing longer outside on nice evenings or joining neighbours in ad-hoc activities.

Go with the Flow

We can also crank out far more than two hours on any given evening if required. This is feasible by temporarily cutting out the family time, redistributing the dinner, cleanup, reading and piano activities, or staying up later. My wife and I work as a team and have built in flexibility to handle what we need to, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.

In general, though, we have made a clear choice to spend lots of time as a family, including eating dinner together daily. This time could of course be spent doing other things, and it sometimes is, but then I feel sad about not being present with my wife and kids.

Productivity Payoff

It’s important to mention that by the time we arrive at our two hours, we’re often quite tired. These two hours come at the end of the day, and much of our mental and physical energy has already been distributed to other stakeholders! And thus our two hours becomes unproductive, and we veg out in front of a screen like so many other people do.

But perhaps equally as often, we are very motivated by the projects we have on the go. This could be Andrea’s graphics design side-hustle and Etsy store, or my volunteer work on the swimming pool’s board of directors or providing hope and practical advice for people with financial difficulties.

And then we find that our two hours isn’t enough. This results in later bedtimes, which in turn results in a more tired and less productive two hours over the following days.

Sleeping-Cat

One of the best ways I’ve found to consistently increase productivity is to stay healthy. That means eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleeping. I can’t emphasize that last point enough! I am super-guilty of cutting out sleep for the sake of other things. Then I feel terrible and grumpy and unproductive for the next day or two.

I’m fortunate enough to be one of those people who’s asleep before his head hits the pillow. But one night this week, I just could not get to sleep. After catching only 2-3 hours of shut-eye all night, my next several days were wrecked. I couldn’t focus or concentrate on anything. I’m not sure how I handled those all-nighters back in university. Maybe it’s a sign of aging? Thankfully I’m all caught up now as I write this, but it was not easy trying to get here.

Pencil with ShadowYour Turn Now!

So do you think I’m wasting my two hours and could spend them more wisely? What do you do with your two hours? How does that compare with what you want to do with your time? How will you expand your two hours or make better use of your time?

How Will You Spend Your $1765 Tax Refund?
What’s With All the Garbage?

Comments

  1. That’s not a lot of time to unwind. When I was young, I used to watch TV, listen to music, and other leisure activities. Once I started blogging (and still working full time), it was all spent on the blog. Now that I don’t have a full time job anymore, it’s easier again. I can be flexible and use my extra time as needed. It’s mostly spent with family these days. I blog when the kid is in school and after he’s in bed.

    • Chris Urbaniak says:

      “That’s not a lot of time to unwind.” Agreed, Joe. And that’s exactly why I think a lot of people (self included) often end up converting our two hours into additional time to unwind.

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