Book Spotlight: Why You Should Read "Time and How to Spend It"

If your life feels like it's passing you by in a blur - days and nights merging, work and home life more crossed over than ever - it’s time to start spending your time more wisely.
by Uptime Staff / 2021-10-13

The first in our new Book Spotlight Series, this blog post unpacks why you should consider putting ‘Time and How to Spend It' to the top of your to-be-read list.

You’ve probably heard the expression that teaches that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. However, in today's busy, non-stop world, it's possible that you're already so far into your regular, daily routine that you don’t even notice how exactly you’re spending your days anymore.

James Wallman's 2019 title, a Financial Times Book of the Year, is written exactly to combat this feeling that life is passing us by.

How can we spend time alone with ourselves? How can we spend less time on social media? How can we spend our time more productively, to build the lives we want for ourselves?

In this article, we unpack the answers to all these questions, with the aim of getting you thinking about how you spend each day.

Who is James Wallman?

Along with authoring this book and some others, Wallman’s working life consists of journalism, public speaking and trend forecasting.

This book, published in 2019, is one of Wallman’s later works, following the success of 2013's ‘Stuffocation: Living More with Less’; it explores how we can live happier with less stuff, be it clothes, toys, and general clutter in the home.

It would be fair to say, then, that Wallman is a promising go-to author when it comes to living your life more happily, with the hassle of twenty-first century bother.

The book explores how, as 21st-century civilians, we have more free time than we likely ever have done. No longer are we fighting to stay alive, or hunting for our food; our lives consist of a routine job (for the most part), and outside of these hours, we are more or less free to do whatever we desire, be it relax, travel, or socialize. But with such an emphasis on being so productive during our working hours, we can often feel overwhelmed by just how busy we have become, meaning that any free time falls by the wayside. In the wake of COVID-19's wrath, it's harder than ever to achieve a healthy work-life balance.

The narrative of the book focuses on why we feel so ‘time-poor’ and how we can turn this around - how we can increase the quality of our leisure time. 

""Free time is more difficult to enjoy than work.""

- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, psychologist

As ever, Uptime draws upon three key insights in our Hack to give you a taste of the full book before you commit to buying and reading it.

Insight 1 - Turn your life into a story, where you are the main character

Almost any story follows the journey of a main character as he or she learns and develops. The same is true of our lives - if someone were to write a biography of our lives, we would be the main character.

There will almost always be an obstacle or a distraction in the story, and this is true of our lives, but we must learn to overcome this obstacle. In doing so, we become stronger and better off.

quotation marksDon’t worry when things get tough. Answer your call to adventure. Walk your road of trials. Enjoy the obstacles: they’re the way of the hero.

Everybody’s life has its ups and downs, but by embracing the bad times just as much as we embrace the good times, we build resilience.

Take action by taking a step back and observing whatever is happening in your life right now. Whether you’re happy or not, it’s time to appreciate and acknowledge your surroundings.

Insight 2 - Reconsider your definition of happiness

The word happiness has thousands of connotations, and not one of them is wrong. But don’t automatically think that success means happiness. Jobs, possessions, relationships - they’re all at the epi-centre of twenty-first-century happiness. 

Some of the best research instead suggests that we are happiest when having engaging, nourishing experiences. Try to make an effort to spend some time with yourself before work, whether that’s meditating or exercising. The hardest part is showing up; once you’ve done that, it will pay dividends throughout the entire day. 

""People who have ‘emotional health’ or display ‘positive affect’ - that is, people who you and I would just say are happy - are more likely to succeed.""

Take action by appreciating your experiences, and always seeking new ones. Go somewhere different for lunch, talk to someone different.

Insight 3 - Come offline for a more meaningful life

Life revolves around our smartphones, and there’s no escaping that. They serve every purpose we could possibly imagine, from staying in touch with loved ones and capturing memories, to entertainment and work-related productivity. But we are also more inseparable than ever. You could say we are addicted.

We spend between half and three-quarters of our free time using electronic devices, whether that’s a phone, a tablet, a computer or a television. Sometimes, online activities can be enriching, but the little pleasures continue to occupy our minds before hours have been lost.

quotation marksPhones are great for all sorts of reasons. Pictures are great for remembering. Think of them both like alcohol: a little versus a lot, use versus abuse. Use responsibly.

If you want to experience offline life, heading outdoors can do the world of good. Disconnect while reconnecting with what’s important. Natural experiences lower your blood pressure, cortisol levels, and heart rate, allowing you to sleep better and reduce your likelihood of heart problems. 

This doesn’t have to mean booking the day off work to trek for hours in the mountains. It could mean a short walk on your lunch break. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or access to the outdoors, it could be as simple as stepping outside for a breather.

And if you’re keen to learn more about stepping away from your smartphone, you can have a look at our handy how-to guide here.


quotation marksTime is the most valuable asset you possess, and while you probably think you have very little, the stark, shocking truth is that you have loads.

In this article, we explored some of the key insights from James Wallman’s book ‘Time and How to Spend It.’ 

We started by taking a step back and observing our lives as if we were someone else. By doing this, we can remember that we are the main characters of our own lives. Then, we can re-train our mind which has been pre-programmed by society to strive for success. Work out what happiness means for you. If all else fails, this book suggests that we could disconnect from online activities, and instead spend more time outside. 

If you’ve found yourself stuck in a rut between work and play, with productivity levels at an all-time low and no spare time, then this book is certainly one to read. And if it's inspired you to think about how you can use your time a little more efficiently, have a look at our guides for better planning out your week, using the Pomodoro technique for your work, study, and focus, and even starting your own bullet journal.

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