Was part of the discussion recently where person was complaining about lack of time for hobbies. While he was very successful professionally, he was still carrying false guilt of not able to complete what he really liked. We all often carry such guilt of missing what we really liked to do since we have committed our time to other priorities.

Priorities drive us as we wade through the working day. Sometime they are defined by others or by yourselves. Guilt comes when there is mismatch between priorities and time available during the day.


There are two interesting facts coming out of that conversation.

  • Time is finite resource.
  • It is allocated as per priorities(expectations).

Elizabeth Saunders provides mathematical formula to handle  this in HBR article.

As she mentions,

Effective time investment begins with accepting the reality that time is a finite resource. This acknowledgement frees you to make choices about what you will and won’t do so you can invest more in what’s most important, feel good about what you do and don’t get done, and still have disposable time left to relax and enjoy yourself.

You start with 24-Hour time budget every day. It is typically consumed by three components.

  • Self-care
  • Internal Expectations
  • External Expectations

Self-care includes basic wellness activities such as getting enough sleep, eating, personal grooming etc.

For example, sleeping takes 7 hours, eating one hour and grooming takes two hours. So, out of fixed 24 Hour time budget, self-care takes in total of 10 hours.

That leaves 14 hours for you to meet external as well as internal expectations.

External expectations include commitments to others, such as spending a certain amount of time at work or attending family events; internal expectations are commitments to yourself, such as wanting to exercise or read or finishing your personal project. 

Typical External expectations can be:

  • Work
  • Commute
  • Relationships
  • Pet care
  • School/training
  • Recurring meetings

Internal expectations can be:

  • Personal development
  • Hobbies, side projects
  • Travel
  • Finances
  • Prayer, meditation

Typically, internal + external expectations should consume your rest of the time budget.

False guilt occurs when –

(External expectations) + (Internal expectations) > 24 hours — (Self-care)

Means, that you are simply committing more time than its available in a day.

Idea is to arrive at optimized mix of internal as well as external expectations, so that you do not get overwhelmed by demands during the day. It also means that you should cut down some of external expectations, if you really want to spend time on your hobbies or side projects(internal expectations).

Then, you can keep on adjusting expectations that ‘Time Equation’ till you are able to manage –

(External expectations) + (Internal expectations) < 24 hours — (Self-care).

When you achieve it, you will find ample time for yourself, to smell the roses’ , while achieving your personal and professionals goals.