Over a Beer: Time Is Our Single Greatest Limitation

Time is our single greatest limitation but if we choose to spend our time wisely, if we choose to prioritize the things that matter, even the time that's left over after the most basic of tasks required to survive can be used to do and achieve great things.

Photo: Alec Cervenka

Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

Time is the greatest limiting factor in all of life. It is the ultimate non-renewable resource. As each moment greets us, it is instantaneously gone forever.


One moment gone.


Are you sure you want to spend your precious time reading this?


But the number of meaningless things that we spend our time on is mind-boggling, so spending less than 5 minutes to read this article is nothing.


What am I doing with my life?

The average time required to commute to work in the United States is 26.1 minutes, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau reported in the Wall Street Journal. That equates to 52.2 minutes per day, 4.35 hours per week, and 226.2 hours per 52-week year. Put another way, Americans spend 5.7 work weeks just getting to their job.

Photo: Pixabay

While some politicians assert that Americans need to work harder to increase their income, according to CNN Money the average American that’s employed full-time reports working 47 hours per week. Not only that, “nearly four in 10 workers report logging 50+ hours [per week] on the job,” according to CNN.

Including commuting time and work time, we’ve arrived at roughly 51 hours per week invested in work, on average. Now, consider all of the other daily tasks that are required just to stay alive: food (purchasing, preparing, and consuming), sleep (that’s a big one), hygiene, bodily functions, and more.

According to Gallup, the average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep per night, although the recommendation is 7-9 hours. Let’s say you get 8 hours of sleep per night, for a total of 56 hours per week.

While numbers vary pretty widely, some studies show the average American spends 37 minutes per day preparing food and 67 minutes per day eating food and drinking beverages (Source). According to the Washington Post, we spend roughly 40 minutes per day on hygiene. Food preparation, consumption, and hygiene activities collectively account for 16.8 hours per week.

There are 168 hours in every week, and we’ve just determined that 124 of them are burned up doing the things we have to do. That drops our total amount of time available down to about 44 hours.

43.85 Hours

So where does mountain biking fit into this picture?

Time–or rather, a lack of it–is often used as the biggest excuse for not mountain biking more. “Oh, I would love to bike more, but I just don’t have time for it,” we hear. Sometimes, those of us who prioritize our biking over other activities are even made to feel guilty–or lucky, or an outlier–for doing just that. But is this truly the case?

Rider: Matt Oneill. Photo: Mike C.

Since work, food, sleep, and hygiene account for our most basic of needs in order to survive, we have 43.85 hours per week to work with–or rather, play with. While on the outset this sounds depressing–51.35 hours have been dedicated to our occupations, after all–if we take these 43.85 hours and use them wisely, we can accomplish a great deal–a great deal of mountain biking, that is.

So how fast is the average mountain biker? According to a report on Singletracks way back in 2007, the average Singletracks member rides trails at just under 7 miles per hour. If you could someway maximize all 43.85 hours of your free time and channel it into riding, you could cover some 307 miles of singletrack trails every single week. That would be an astonishing 15,961.4 miles of singletrack per year–an absolutely massive amount by any standard.

And, if you’re riding that frequently, presumably, your speed would increase too. Could you eventually achieve a 10mph average? Faster? If you could average 10mph for 43.85 hours per week, suddenly we’re talking about 22,802 miles of singletrack per year.

Alright, we’re getting a little number-crazed now, aren’t we? Real life doesn’t work like that, does it?

Time Wasters

Photo: Pixabay

None of us ride 22,802 miles per year, so where does all of our free time go? Well, we waste a large percentage of it.

The New York Times reports that the average American watches 5 hours and 4 minutes of television per day. That’s 35.47 hours of TV per week, or more than 1,844 hours per year. (Note: there’s some disagreement on these statistics, with the Washington Post reporting 20 hours per week spent watching TV. However, the Post article is a few years older and cites a different survey.)

If you’re an average American, based on these statistics, watching TV takes up nearly 81% of your 43.85 hours of free time per week, leaving just over 8 hours open for the week.

We haven’t even gotten to social time, time with family, time with pets, time reading books, time spent mindlessly browsing social media, time focused on spiritual pursuits, time spent fixing the house or mowing the lawn… any of the hundreds of other ways that you could spend your time, wasteful or not.

The Point

We’ve moved from the life-suck that is commuting all the way to the life-suck that is watching TV, and covered most everything in between. So what’s the point of sharing all of these numbers?

The point is this: we get to choose. Even when we don’t think we have a choice–for instance, the 4.35 hours per week spent commuting–we do have a choice. We can switch jobs. We can move closer to our job. We can always make a change.

But when we focus our gaze on time wasters, realizing that the average American spends somewhere between 20 and 35 hours per week (or even more) watching TV, the choice becomes that much clearer.

What will you spend your precious time on? What will you invest your energy in?

Time is ticking away.

Go ride your bike today.

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