It’s the Little Things that Count

I was struck by something this weekend as I was talking about training for ultra-distance events. The general thought process for ultra-athletes is to put in crazy amounts of distance and time to the point where just going for a 5 mile run seems like a waste of time. This person and I were talking about that mind set, and I said even if I can only get 10-15 minutes in, I do. They laughed like I was making a joke.

I’ve always thought about how these chunks of time add up over weeks, months, and years. If this happens every other week, that’s still 30 minutes per month of training you normally wouldn’t get. That may seem trivial, but that’s 6 hours a year of extra training. Again that may seem trivial but comparing 6 hours vs 0 minutes is pretty significant.

In only a year, you’d see major results. Over years, you could alter the course of your life.

That got me thinking about applying this to work days. Those of us in IT can always learn or perfect a skill. We can learn about something we currently have no experience with or master something like scripting or programming. What it comes down to is time, and the fact that we have none. Is there really no spare time though? I find this hard to believe.

I think we can all find 5 minutes per day at work to do something. We just don’t because it seems pointless. How is 5 minutes of struggling with C# syntax going to help me? It won’t. That’s the thought at least. After breaking down the math, I’m not so sure. Take a look at the chart below. This is assuming 48 weeks of work and dedicating 5 minutes per work day on average to the subject. Over a work year, that adds up to 2.5 work days for the year dedicated to just learning that subject. You want to average 10 minutes per day? Double it to 5 work days per year of learning. A 10 minute per day average gives you equivalent training time to a week long course! This isn’t even counting additional time you can put in on weekends if you’re interested.


With that said, I can admit that finding time every day can be difficult. Even accounting for averages, it may not be realistic during high volume periods. Still let’s say you can only get in two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions during the week. That’s still 24 hours (3 work days) of dedicated training for the year. That’s still very significant. Below is a chart showing how everything breaks down.


This also led me to think about how much time we waste every year on things that really don’t matter. Social media is a big one, and so is watching TV. These things can be combined to make up absolutely staggering periods of time. Take just 5 minutes of browsing Facebook per day. Over a 365 day year, that makes 30+ hours per year looking at posts from people you haven’t seen since high school. That’s almost two 16-hour waking days per year where you’d wake up, browse Facebook all 16 hours, and then go to sleep. And that’s only a 5 minute per day average.

Bump that to an hour of web browsing and TV watching, and we are up to 365 hours (23 waking days) per year. Typical training programs for an Ironman triathlon account for that much time. You could train to swim 2.4 miles, then ride 112 miles, and then run a 26.2 mile marathon back-to-back-to-back in the same time you spend on the internet over the course of a year on only 60 minutes per day.


Combing these two approaches could be powerful. We all need down time, but probably not as much as we use. Maybe take 10 minutes per day from your internet/TV time and put it towards learning a language. Take 5 minutes of your work day and put it towards improving your career skills. In only a year, you’d see major results. Over years, you could alter the course of your life.




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