One of the most common questions I am asked about running is how in the world do I have that much time in a week to run. For the past several months, I average between 10-12 hours per week running. I recognize that’s a lot of time. And when looking at it from the outside, it could be overwhelming to think about.
I am an ultrarunner. But being an ultrarunner does not mean that every run is going to be a 20 mile run. It does mean that in order to establish a strong running foundation, I probably put in a few more miles a week than those training for shorter distances. But regardless of the distances I am training for, or the distances you may be training for, we both have the same limitation.
Over the years, I have embraced a fundamental truth about time. That truth shapes so much of how I accomplish personal goals in my life. Whether it is hours of running, investing in relationships, work, or any other goals I have.
I also believe that until you embrace this same fundamental truth, you will struggle to accomplish your goals. It is why we may set out to get in shape, but only stick with it for a couple of weeks. It is why we are unable to add various activities in our lives. Perhaps it is setting a consistent date night with your loved one, starting a new hobby, consistently exercising, getting more sleep, or whatever. You will struggle building any goals or disciplines into your life until you get this one thing.
First though, let me let you in on a little secret. There are only 24 hours in a day. And currently, you are using all 24 of them.. Some people may be more effective at using their 24 hours than others, but we are all using them up. None of us have rollover minutes from one 24 hour period to the next. You don’t have the luxury of stockpiling time from one day to carry it over to the next. You have 24 and that is it.
The playing field is equal. We are all on the same clock. Those around you that seem to get so much more done than you are playing with the same rules as you. And that is the good news.
Here is the fundamental truth you have been waiting for.
To add, you must first subtract.
It is that simple.
The catch is this. We are all trying to add things to our lives. We want to incorporate new habits, new disciplines, new goals, whatever it is. We want to add it in. That’s the easy part. The hard part, and the reason we struggle so often in adding them in, is that we don’t do the first part of the process.
Let’s keep this about running. If you told me that you want to run a marathon, or a half marathon, or even train to do your first 5k, the first thing you would need to do is to identify what you are willing to give up (to subtract) in order to accomplish that goal. Obviously, some goals have bigger time commitments than others, but the simple truth doesn’t change. You still have to subtract something out if you want to successfully meet that goal.
If adding is the easy part, then subtracting is the hard part. That 24 hours that you are already using up has to give up something.
Making the right choice to subtract
This is where it gets tricky. Because you have to pay attention to your priorities and know that if you want to maintain a healthy supportive environment around you, it would not be a good idea to start subtracting those hours from those that are closest to you. That would set you up for conflict in other areas of your life.
As I mentioned earlier, I run 10-12 hours a week. What I have subtracted from my 24 hours may be different than what you can subtract. I have subtracted sleep. While many people aim to get 8 hours of sleep a night, I operate well on 6. Most of my runs come in the early morning when my family is sleeping. I am up most mornings between 4 and 4:30. This means that my running time has less impact on them than it would if I got up at the same time as my wife and kids and went out the door to go do my own thing.
The cool thing about it though is that my family is supportive of it. Because they are also aware of how hard I work to keep it from impacting them on a daily basis. And, as your supportive environment sees the personal sacrifices you make while minimizing possible negative impacts on them, they become even more supportive. The key though is that I can’t sacrifice sleep and then be a total jerk the rest of the day. That isn’t fair to anyone in my family. So, if less sleep is not something you can do without making everyone else miserable, then that may not be the best thing for you to subtract.
Find Your Wasted Time
Odds are you have a lot of other wasted time in your day. We all do. We just don’t like to acknowledge it as “wasted” time. Be it time you spend on your phone, watching TV, or whatever, there is downtime for all of us. We have to just consciously choose to subtract some other area of our life in order to add in the thing we want to do. Our inability to subtract those things is what results in the struggle. We think of time management in terms of how we can continue doing everything we have always been doing and also add in this new thing we want to do. Well, we can’t. And that is the truth.
To add, you must first subtract.
Take a few minutes. Get out a piece of paper and draw a single line down the center of the page. On the top of left side, write down the word “Subtract” and on the right side write down the word “Add”. For “Subtract,” begin to make a list of all the things you could give up, or that you are willing to subtract. And, for “Add”, write down all the things you can begin to do if you would just subtract those things out. It is that simple. You have 24 hours a day. Get to work.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What would you like to do consistently but are struggling to keep up with? Have you taken time to be specific about what you are willing to give up in order to add them in? Feel free to drop a comment below or reach out to me through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or my Instagram @winchesterjeff.