The Inconvenient Truth of the 168-hour Week

“I do care about global warming, but I’m too busy to (fill in the blank)”. I hear this cry often in one form or another. The blank can be many things: buying local produce, changing light bulbs to compact fluorescents, using public transit, using a clothesline instead of the dryer.

Feeling too busy to do things we know in our guts are the right things to do is like a modern epidemic. I sometimes fall into the too-busy trap, too. It can be a form of excited misery. . . . also of self-importance. But my freshman English professor in 1979 gave me a tool I still steadily use to unhinge the trap.

“You have 168 hours in your week,” Mr. Wenzl said. “Write down how you spend them. Add it all up: sleeping, eating, classwork your job if you have one, socializing, exercising, everything. Then tell me you don’t have time to study.”

My classmates and I were appropriately humbled.

I use an Excel spreadsheet these days (it saves time). Bingo — the 168-hour reality check. With all the many things I do, including periodically relaxing and doing nothing, I am clearly still able to take the bus, buy local, deal with the clothesline and do other things to minimize my carbon footprint. So I do.

I would extend a friendly challenge to everyone in the U.S. to add up how they use their 168 hours. And then write in and tell me it isn’t possible for you to take action on global warming. I bet taking action makes you happier, too.

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4 Responses to “The Inconvenient Truth of the 168-hour Week”


  1. 1 Fnord November 19, 2007 at 1:00 am

    Interesting point… I’ve never thought of it like that before.

  2. 2 thorhinckley November 19, 2007 at 2:23 am

    While a “Time Spending Plan” in Excel to spell out the use of every hour is definately carring things to an extreme, your point is well taken about America’s addiction to conveniance.

  3. 3 Libby Fleming November 19, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    I don’t think the point was to necessarily document every hour of the day on an ongoing basis, rather to wake up to the fact that we prioritize what is convenient. Bravo!

  4. 4 Jean Baumann November 19, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    You are right on point! A proactive response to the inconvenient truth that human activity is escalating Global Warming is for each of us to examine our own contribution to it. And more importantly, to make new choices that may be inconvenient to our well-worn patterns of unconscious behavior. Thanks for the reminder to “study” my 168 hours a week, and to examine what more I can do to lessen the impact of my footprint.


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