Tracking Time

For those who ask about "time-management", a much abused word.

There are two metrics to track time.

Quantity and Quality.

  • Quantity – The number of hours you have for things you want to do
  • Quality – How effectively you use those hours

Time is simply the product of quantity and quality.

You could have ten hours to yourself in a day, but if you don’t feel you can’t do anything in that time, their effectiveness is zero. Ten multiplied by zero equals zero.

I don’t think there’s anything like “quality time” though. Quality isn’t a characteristic of time.

Time just is. It’s indifferent to any of us. It goes by regardless.

Quality depends on you.

Quite obviously, you have two ways to manage time.

  • Increase the quantity – increase number of hours you have
  • Increase the quality- increase how effectively you use those hours

These aren’t really exclusive.

It’s usually when I have a whole day free that I end up doing nothing I wanted to. And often when there’s little time I can do much more.

That’s an intrinsic economic property – scarcity increases the value of anything, including time. Whereas increasing supply reduces its price.

Quantity v/s Quality

It’s easy to say there needs to be a balance between the two.

But that doesn’t take us very far because you can say that for pretty much anything

I don’t think this balance is an equal one. It’s not 50-50.

Quality trumps quantity, so it’d be closer to 80-20 or 90-10.

One reason is because you’d be able to do more with less if you had high quality. So it’s only natural that the more effectively you utilise something, the less you’d need of it.

But more importantly, you’d need a hell lot of quantity to compensate for very low quality.

And all the quantity in the world wouldn’t mean anything without quality.

Many companies that have some sense recognize this – they wouldn’t badger employees about sitting in office for ten hours a day as long as they achieved whatever they had to. And many employees don’t bother raising their work hours because they know that’s not what counts.

But I think it’s true even for leisure and everything else.

It’s like sleeping for 15 hours but feeling tired or spending a week with your family but having nothing more in common than physical proximity. Or playing video games all day and still feeling bored.

Whereas, if you have quality, you wouldn’t care as much about quantity.

That’s because quantity is usually the means to achieving quality.

So even if you sleep 3 or 4 hours but you feel refreshed then that might be better than sleeping 12 hours and feeling tired.

And if you meet your friends once a year but still have a real connection that could be better than meeting them everyday just because you can.

A lot of people still make the mistake of setting a target only for quantity – like “Study ten hours today”.

Bragging about being so busy or studying or working ten hours a day is meaningless by itself; what you did in those ten hours is what counts.

In fact, if someone could get the same or less done in one or two hours only, that would be far more impressive.

Quantity is only a guide; you’d have a rough idea how much time you take but you don’t make it a goal in itself.

Yes or No

The time we have is determined by the things we say yes and no to.

With millions of options, it’s easy to say yes to everything that comes your way. Every new show, every social invite, every obligation – each one of them takes hours from us.

Just because everyone watches a TV show or just because a movie came out this Friday doesn’t mean you need to watch it as well. Just because everyone’s going somewhere doesn’t mean you need to join them if you don’t feel like.

We say “Yes” to a few things, and no to everything else. There is far more of “No” than of “Yes” – we should get good at saying No too.

There’s nothing wrong with saying No – with throwing a book away in the middle if it’s repetitive, with leaving a boring party early – regardless of what people say about trying everything and giving it a chance.

The YOLO and experience everything tripe is just slick marketing, not the profound wisdom of non-materialistic millennials. Take if it suits you, chuck it if it doesn’t – but don’t flex moral superiority over those on the other side.

There are infinite things to try; if you said yes to everything that came your way you’d run out of time before you know it.

Every “Yes” is an outlet that takes away your time. It’s worth asking if it gives anything back.

Every new hobby or interest means there’s less time for the ones you already have. Is that sacrifice acceptable?

That doesn’t mean you do nothing at all – that leaves you with quantity and no quality.

It just means deciding the optimal balance – a lot of time on a few things or a little time on a lot of things.

A master of few or a dilettante of many – and none is better or worse than the other.

Small Hacks

How do you make more hours?

Quantity is usually just a game of math and economics. You use whatever little hacks you can to save a little time.

You can’t go beyond 24 in a day.

Maybe 7 of them go in sleeping.

Take out 2 more hours for necessary chores like bathing, eating, commuting and just downtime.

10 more go in work and you’re left with 5 hours to play with, on average.’ Sometimes more, sometimes less.

The hacks you use can help you add a bit to these 5 hours, but you’ll probably get one hour more, or two if you’re very good; it’s unlikely you’ll substantially get much more than that.

Then it becomes much more a question of what you do with whatever time you have left

None of these are unique to me; many readers probably use some of them.

It’s common sense that whatever matters most gets first dibs at those hours, and subsequent things follow. It’s just a pecking order – you might like tennis, drawing, reading so do them accordingly in those 5 hours. Or rotate them over a week. Or if you really like one or two then stick to them.

This is really where you start. If you don’t have a clue what you want to do, you’ll spend hours just wondering about it. It’s like going to the gym and then thinking about what exercises you want to do that day, starting from scratch every time.

Get better at this and front-load this “thinking what to do”. So it’s not simply that I know I’ll read something for a little while a day – I’ll sit for a couple of hours every few months and compile a list of at least a dozen books. Now I’m set for a long time; I can add anything I find to the list. No interruptions in wondering what to read after finishing one book.

Bundling – combine tasks. Especially those that don’t require high commitment from you. Like meeting friends over meals or reading while eating or doing chores while talking on the phone. Doesn’t apply if you like eating or talking – if you like it, you’ll give it higher commitment and focus on it.

Cut out Downtime – Use commuting for the things that don’t require effort but have to be done, like routine calls. Or catch up on sleep. If you’re caught up in a boring meeting or social event or class, you can try doing something else – maybe read on your phone or nap. If nothing is possible, you can still use that time to think or just recharge. No one can ever stop you from doing that. Essentially, there’s no “downtime” when you can’t do anything.

Standardize – no point putting time and energy in things that you don’t want to think about. If you’re indifferent to food or clothes, a standard template removes the effort of thinking what to wear or eat.

Mark Zuckerberg takes it to an extreme by wearing the same outfit everyday, but a simple rotating queue also does the trick. Pick clothes from the top of the queue and put them back at the bottom. A standard template for each meal for the week.

You just have to figure it out once and then coast on auto-pilot.

This is essentially what SIPs are. Set them up once and forget about them. Front-load the work.

Invest. Sometimes you sacrifice some quantity to gain quality. That’s what we call sleep, basically recharging our batteries.

If you slept only 2 hours, you’d have 10 hours instead of 5 based on the calculations above – but those 10 would probably be worth little.

Instead, sleep more if you have to. If 7 hours isn’t enough, go for 8 or 9 if that’s what you need, without feeling guilty.

This is nearly always a good idea. Quality trumps quantity, and 2 good hours are worth more than 5 average ones. Even on busy days, naps can help get more done.

A lot of people do the opposite though, and sleep less to gain quantity. Unless you have a deadline, it’s just cutting down on quality.

Sometimes, for some things, you want uninterrupted hours. These are usually creative works like coding, writing and so on. You can’t’ usually get much done in short intervals.

That doesn’t mean just letting small breaks go by though. Use them to get rid of chores and other tasks. The point is to free up the rest of your time for those things.

And if you can’t find uninterrupted time, you probably shouldn’t let that be your excuse.

It’s about compounding. Either you give up and stay at zero. Or you snatch three 20-minute intervals a day and write or draw. Make do with whatever you can. After a year, when the little intervals compound, the difference between both situations is tremendous.

Finally, it’s not about squeezing the last drop out of every second. That only impacts quality without adding much to the quantity.

It’s only about having an idea that you want more quantity and quality from your time; and you can come up with ways to get it.



Excellent pratyush…..


Interesting theory and implementable suggestions instead of platitudes. Good.


This article make me to think about my quality of using time. I am now going to work on improving quality time. Thanks a lot Sir .


Another valuable content!


“We say “Yes” to a few things, and no to everything else. There is far more of “No” than of “Yes” – we should get good at saying No too.” – looks like this sentence needs a correction

prasun roy

brilliant as usual..i think this is the best one since ” What I Learnt in the Gym ”.. all your posts are good anyway since you cover different topics..

Sanya Singhania

What about tracking the subjective time which Einstein puts as time that is relative. Mental time travel more than qualitative or quantitative forms the psyche , which in turn makes (my)one’s quantity and quality in terms of present and past, and which perhaps is present in the future too, different than others (yours).

Just saying what Woolf and T S Elliot said. :))


Thank you very much pratyush. You are going great. Keep inspiring 😊

Rohan Kumar



Sir ..a request… If you are not irked by it….write something on your months at the academy (lbsnaa)

Navin Kumar

Excellent and quite helpful

Aparajita Singh

Every blog of yours constitute economic theory, undoubtedly economics is your favorite subject, anyways , that was a good synopsis of basic theory. It’s fun to read your blogs , there’s always something different.

Sukriti Pandey

I really like reading your blogs .They are very interesting and add value most of the time.Could you share your thoughts about inferiority complexes and decision making


This was very thought provoking.

Shivam Yadav

Pratyush, I just want to thank you for writing so uncoventional blogs. I’m the kinda “non-materialistic millennial” but without moral supperiority I guess. I just apply cost benefit formula for anything that’s tagged cool and to my surprise and pleasure both, 80% of them are simply useless. Just to mention one more Thing that I really wanted to share, It’s scientifically proven that retention of semen helps in brain efficiency. Now it’s our choice to use it for material desire or simply advance in spiritual journey (specifically dhyan/meditation). With help of your blog “convenience” I am able to retain it for 40 days now. Thank-you you so much. You give very pragmatic approach to your readers to understand complexities. For me, it is to add logic to yogic philosophies.

Sweta Tripathi

Time is money and we have to use that money for our necessity not on every trendy or random stuff .
Thanks for being so generous to us .