May 18, 2022–We all like to count the ways we are “too busy.”

“There are not enough hours in the day.”

“I just don’t have time.”

“I wish I could, but…”

So I decided to actually time how long it took me to do each of my myriad regular daily tasks.

The impetus came from reading about cowboys. For the range rider, just preparing a meal was a project. They had to stop at a suitable place that provided access to water, wood, concealment, and shelter.

They scraped away to bare ground, gathered up suitable firwood and kindling, built the fire, then let it burn down to coals.

Meanwhile, someone had to hunt for game, whether a deer, rabbit, or bird.

They killed it, cleaned it, impaled it and roasted it over the fire.

Bring coffee to a boil, and bake those beans.

Ladle it onto their plates, then clean them with sand or creek water.

You’re looking at an hour and a half minimum, assuming they had the game handy.

Today, my frozen meal takes three minutes in a microwave, with an additional minute and a half after stirring the beans. But my real investment in time is less than 10 seconds, including the break for bean stirring. While the breaded Salisbury steak is cooking, I can complete other meaningless tasks.

Not that they take that long to do.

While my frozen meal cooked, I emptied the grounds and rinsed the coffee pot. When I turned back to check the microwave, I realized only eight seconds had passed.

Eight seconds!

A task I put off because of my busy-ness only consumed eight seconds of my life. Over a week, emptying and cleaning out the coffee maker took less than one minute, total.

Here are other tasks I timed:

Doing laundry
I long ago gave up sorting clothes by color or fabric. After all, where did the phrase “all come out in the laundry” come from?

So, throw in a load, drizzle on a bit of detergent, close lid, punch button. That took all of 12 seconds.

I like to hang my laundry on the line, so that takes another three minutes. But I see it as a time to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, so it accrues to the plus side of the time column.

Folding laundry? Hahahahahaha.

Feeding animals
Perceived as drudgery when I ask someone to do it for me, feeding our sheep and chickens took me a total of two and a half minutes, including the walk to and from the pens.

Doing dishes
Here’s where I excel. Everyone hates washing dishes, even if it involves loading a dishwasher. I timed myself and it took about two minutes. My secret? I don’t pre-wash every plate and pan. That is the dishwashing machine’s job. What if they don’t emerge spotless? I have two choices: One, I eat off them anyway–at least the spots have gone through the cycle and are clean spots. Two, I punch the Wash button again. Time lost: 0 seconds.

Fixing lunch
Back to those cowboys. When I hanker for a meal that doesn’t come out of a box, I’m a one-pan man. Throw in a piece of flesh, a starch, a fresh veggie. Clamp on lid and set to simmer. Maybe 60 seconds of work involved up to this point. Then I go away and let it heat for eight minutes, 12 if it started frozen, but always time I can be doing something else. Come back and de-pan it in five seconds, and I’ve invested a total of 65 seconds in the actual hands-on preparation of my fresh-cooked meal. It helps that I don’t have to kill it first.

Surprisingly, the most time-consuming task I do every week is writing this column. It occupies my mind every waking moment of every single day. Writing the best thoughts down takes about 20 minutes, then I rewrite and rewrite it in five-minute bursts over the next several days.

But isn’t that what time is for? Doing the things you most love to do?