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.

The 168 System

Earlier this week I ran a 168 hours session for a networking group that I belong to: Good Vibrations. I prepared far more material than I needed to for the two hour session – but isn’t that always the way when you do something for the first time? It was interesting delivering the material in a workshop style, with a group of people, rather than the 1-2-1 approach I have taken in the past.

It seemed to work, and the feedback was constructive and positive. So it looks like this might be something I could expand on in the future. I think I got the ‘scene setting’ stuff at the beginning right but felt the energy in the room dropping when I was going through the specifics of how I put the system into practice (or perhaps folks were starting to think about dinner?) So this is an area I need to work on in the future. Either to allow people an opportunity of developing their own techniques, or going more slowly / more simply with how I work.

Here are the slides I used on the evening – some will make more sense than others – few will understand the tennis slide!


Overall a useful experience but still a work in progress.

For the last 168 Hours (or so) I have been on holiday in Cornwall. Whilst walking along the coastal path just south of St Ives, I started thinking about 168 hours and how / if it applies to what some may consider the “downtime” of being on holiday. For example, is your holiday a time to set aside the philosophy of Compass / Clock and just switch off for a while or do you get more out of a holiday if things are planned somewhat in advance? Is there (or should there be) any difference in the way we behave during holiday and non-holiday time?

So I thought about my behaviour prior to the holiday and thought about how much was planned in advance (Compass / Clock) vs. unplanned (Unstructured but open to Opportunities) and came to the conclusion that I had planned most of my holiday out subconsciously using the 168 philosophy. That’s not to say every hour was accounted for, scheduled for and planned for in detail. Some aspects of the holiday were planned in advance to take into account local activities that only occurred on certain days. But some aspects of the holiday were left open to be spontaneous: that is there were no specific activities planned other than to relax and have fun.

The idea of planned spontaneity appeals to me. It feels right not to have an effectiveness system like 168 hours that focuses on ensuring that productivity is the main driver. Planned spontaneity allows us the mental freedom to explore, to respond to opportunities and external events. And this is just as important in non-vacation time as well. There needs to be time in our weekly schedule, regardless of whether we are at work, home or on vacation, to have some planned spontaneity and creativity.

That’s my view anyway – what’s yours?

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)