The Pie Chart Method of Resource Allocation

Part of the perniciousness of the ‘Epic’ epidemic is that people say things like, “I’m just not working enough on my goals,” because gurus of every stripe have persuaded us that if our goals don’t consume our every waking thought, we just aren’t committed enough.

My first question is always, “Well, where are you spending your time?”

And typically I find that it’s a busy time at work, or their car just died and they’re having to take the bus everywhere, or they have some kind of unavoidable stress in their lives.

People aren’t deciding not to further their goals. They just don’t have more time to give. 

Energy is a Finite Resource

It may surprise you to hear this, but your energy is finite. You use it up.

It’s also a renewable resource, but it’s all too common to use it up faster than it replenishes  and you really don’t want to start eating your seed corn, do you?

The point is, I can make a diagram of your resources. It’s like a pie chart, right? Because it’s finite. You eat up all the pie, it’s all gone.

The average person has about 2-4 hours a day of discretionary time. But if you spend more than 8 hours at work, are undergoing some stress, have to take care of kids or adults, want to spend so quality time with a partner, want to date, want to relax, need to study, need to rest, need to go to the dentist, or any of a million bajillion other things, both in and outside of your control, you need to understand this fundamental truth:

You’re Doing The Best You Can At The Moment

If you’re putting in 5 hours a week, you can pat yourself on the back. If you’re putting in 10 hours a week and you also work or go to school, you have no worries. Ego te absolvo.

So. Acknowledge your constraints, because it’s only by acknowledging them that you can learn to make the best use of your time and energy within them. And that includes not doing anything at all.

If you feel like you’re not doing much, or if you’re trying to figure out where all the time goes, track your time. Wear a watch, carry a notebook, and religiously note what you’re doing and for how long. You’ll be surprised, I guarantee it. I, for instance, found I only spent about 15 minutes a day cleaning, but preparing for stuff was an enormous time sink, one I didn’t even know existed.

Find out where your pie is actually going and decide from there whether you really need to change things. But don’t beat yourself up about it.

If nothing else, it’s a waste of pie.

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7 thoughts on “The Pie Chart Method of Resource Allocation”

  1. I think the entire world needs this permission – well said! I’ve only recently started to realize just how much I manage to “overestimate my capacity and underestimate my needs.” This is definitely why all the rhetoric around side-hustling is severely disturbing to me. Love how we always have synergies… 🙂  Oh, and happy birthday!!

    1.  @sarahemily Thank you! I always look at a side-hustle as a low-risk test before I make the leap. But I doubt I would do it for more than three months or so. The idea of doing it for two years or more is appalling. Still, it depends on your risk tolerance and which direction you consider the riskiest.

  2. I’ve hard this problem for months, where I constantly beat myself up over time wasted. I’ve been working on mellowing out and patting myself on the back for my accomplishments, so it’s nice to hear someone else verbalize it.
    Also, I love the idea of checking out where your time sink is. Discovered mine was “sorting things” about a month ago. 

    1.  @gutsygeek I’ve found the football coach approach to be far less helpful than people imagine. Along the lines of punishing bad behaviour instead of rewarding good behaviour– it’s traditional, and it’s probably how your parents did it, but it’s not the most effective method.
      Sorting! Yeah, I have a weakness for ‘organizing’ things.

  3. Makes sense.  I certainly use up way more than I replenish.  I notice a huge time sink when it comes to ‘preparing’.  I HATE that I do that and any suggestion you have would be awesome!  I get sucked into that whole preparation, planning, organizing that I don’t put enough time into the actual thing I’m preparing for!  

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