What is 168 Hours?

Each week you have 168 hours to use. This blog covers my ramblings on how to use them as effectively as possible.

It's not about stuffing as much as you can into the 168 hours. It's about ensuring that you use the 168 hours as best you can to ensure you get to where you want to go in as relaxed a state as possible.


A recent study by Dr Gayle Brewer, senior lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire School of Psychology, lists the major regrets that people have. Findings also show that 2 hours (out of 168) are spent every week dwelling on these regrets – rather than doing anything about them. To quote Dr Brewer ‘There seems to be a certain air of resignation amongst us that living out our dreams may simply not be possible for a variety of reasons.’ More than a third of us blame a lack of cash for preventing us  from fulfilling our dreams, while 25 per cent think loved ones held us back.

Why the blame-storming here? Less than 1 in 3 people put the reason for their regrets down to themselves! Sort yourself out. Get on with doing those things you want to do – and get another 2 hours a week into the bargain!

For the curious amongst you – here are those top 20 lifetime regrets:

1. Not travelling more and seeing more of the world

2. Not keeping in touch with more friends from the past

3. Taking too little exercise

4. Not saving enough money

5. Taking up smoking

6. Not working harder at school

7. Choice of career

8. Wasting years with the wrong partner

9. Eating unhealthily

10. Not asking grandparents more about their lives before they died

11. Not learning to speak a foreign language properly

12. Not spending enough time with family and friends

13. Not telling a relative who’s now dead that I loved them

14. Drinking too much alcohol

15. Not undertaking a once in a lifetime challenge

16. Not learning to play a musical instrument properly

17. Falling out with a friend and not patching things up

18. Choosing the wrong subjects at school or university

19. Not standing up to a bully

20. Not taking a gap year


My boss (back in the days when I had a boss) used to say to me “A person going nowhere, usually gets there”. And now he’s been proved right – scientifically. My boss’ mantra was to encourage me to develop and work a plan. To have some kind of map of the territory. To use the compass, as it were…

In 2009 Jan Souman et al from the Max Planck Institute did some research to see what would happen if they left folks in the middle of an unknown area – with no landmarks and / or couldn’t see the sun – and asked them to walk in a straight line. Guess what happened? They walked around in circles! Or at the very best some wide arcs. Try as they might to walk in a straight line, to get out of either a forest or desert, the volunteers ended up where they started.

This is how important having a compass is to us. We do need to have an idea of where we are going, ideally with a map (plan) of the terrain and a compass. Without we literally do go “nowhere” and end up back at the beginning again and again.

How’s your plan coming along?

I’ve done a few 168hour sessions for friends and associates lately. Basically, it’s given me a chance to try out the material and to find the right approach to putting it all over. It’s confirmed in my mind the disconnect I often see between people’s daily schedule and their longer term plans. It’s almost as if we see our short term activities as being separate – and unconnected – from our longer term intentions. Steven Covey covered similar ground when he talked about the “urgent” vs. the “important” and that for many the urgent is often an excuse for why the important never happens.

Then a thought struck me. It’s like we have different concepts for “planning” based upon the time-scales involved. At one extreme we have “now”. Now is the only place where decisions (or indecision) is taken. At the other extreme we have out legacy – what we leave behind at the end of our lifetimes. Few people really understand (or accept) that the decisions we make in the “now” accumulate and create – over a lifetime – our legacy. In between the “now” and our “legacy” are a range of time management paradigms that are often treated separately, rather than as a continuum. The table below summarises some of these:

  • Now -> Decisions
  • Daily -> To Do List
  • Weekly -> Scheduling
  • Monthly -> Projects
  • Quarterly -> Planning reviews
  • Yearly -> Resolutions
  • Decades -> Goals
  • Generations -> Vision
  • Lifetime -> Legacy

This feeling was confirmed at a recent seminar that I was at that focused on the integration of your personal goals with your financial goals (part led by my IFA, Andrew Stinchcomb).  The seminar focused on seeing if the lifestyle we envisaged after we retired was consistent with our current financial activities. Clearly, there is no point having a vision of retiring on a certain income and having a specific lifestyle, without ensuring that there is a continuum back to the daily decisions you are making. Yet, most in the room had not worked back from their “legacy” to their daily “decisions”.

In between now and your legacy are the annual financial reviews, the projects to assess pensions, the scheduling of weekly expense etc. that lead to the daily shopping lists and informed decision making in the “now” regarding finances. If their is a disconnect between the “now” and the “legacy” then all of the future dreams are more aspirational than perspirational (that is, you have to work at it – not just imagine it)

The 168hours approach is only part of the solution – it needs to be seen in context – but I think it is a very important step in ensuring that we fill our week with actions and activities that, when summed over time, lead directly to our goals / vision and ultimately to our legacy…. that which we wish to leave behind.

(For great insight into the values based financial planning approach take a look at Andrew Stinchcomb’s site)