Taking Care of Yourself Is Not Being Selfish: A 3-Hour Challenge

Brian FishbachAdvice, Challenge

“Can you spare 3 hours today?”

If someone asked you for 3 hours of your time today, what would you say? Probably, “hell no,” or a well-worded excuse.

But what would you say if you asked yourself for 3 hours of productivity today? We’d all say yes. But how many of us will actually give ourselves that time?

Much of your satisfaction at the end of each day can be attributed to balancing great relationships with how much time you spend focusing on yourself. And as Neil said last week, “taking care of yourself is not the same thing as being selfish.”

Family, friends, and work can bring us joy and have many life-fulfilling  benefits—but too much time spent with any of those while ignoring your own needs will make you feel less satisfied. And if you repeat this mistake without taking care of yourself for a couple of weeks, years or decades, you will etch a permanent scowl of resentment on your face.

But how do we fit in time for ME?

Let’s assume an average day of obligations:

  • 8 hours sleeping
  • 8 hours working
  • 1 hour eating
  • .5 hours doing a daily routine of showering, brushing teeth, picking out clothes, making a daily to-do list
  • .5 hours commuting (add 1.5 hours if you live in a city like Los Angeles)

That adds up to 18 hours, which leaves 6 hours left in the day for you to do other activities.

The problem is that many of us fall prey to all the time-sucking temptations out there:  fatigue, Netflix binges, frivolous Amazon shopping, long phone calls complaining about life, restaurant queuing, social media validation, TV news stress, and simply the over-scheduling of activities we don’t really care to be at.

When we indulge in those activities, we tend to put the much more important little must-do things on the back burner: grocery shopping, car maintenance, doctors appointments, trash bagging, home-cooking, and quick catch-ups with close friends and family. If you ignore any of those for a while, you will start to see a decline in your overall health.

So with an average of 6 hours per day to focus on you, how can you fit in 3 hours for your own personal maintenance and productivity?  The answer is visualization of the three categories: creation, learning, and moving.

You absolutely can do this. You just have to visualize what you want to do to fill these 3 categories with something meaningful. After you visualize them, DO THEM.

If you spend exactly one hour on creation, learning, and moving, you still have 3 hours left in your day to spend on important errands, and maybe even have some cheat time to spend on some of those sweet sweet time-suck temptations.

So take a week, and push aside 3 hours a day for each of these three activities. See how much more you crave doing them after seven days.


Creation can mean many things, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the arts.

It could be writing a journal, playing a musical instrument, taking photos and editing them, filming a how-to video of something you’re good at, writing a thoughtful greeting card to a family member or friend, or cooking something you’ve never made before.

This is also a great time to work on creating something that you can even start selling to people some day—this is the hour where entrepreneurs thrive, though most will commit more than just one hour per day. And it certainly can be done even when you have a day job.


Learning doesn’t always involve a classroom and tuition. It can be as inexpensive as reading a book from the library (which is free, by the way.)

Learning can be listening to a podcast on a subject you want to learn more about (but remember not to steer too far into the realm of news).

It can be taking a continuing education class for adults at a local school, learning a new language with a foreign language speakers Meetup, or watching a renowned documentary.

And you will be amazed what you will learn about humanity by tutoring school children and volunteering at an elderly home.


Routine physical activity doesn’t cost a thing and it doesn’t need to be grandiose. You don’t necessarily need a gym membership, and you don’t need to join the office softball team (while they can be pricey or time-consuming, they can be quite helpful.)

Find one hour to go running or swimming, become a regular at a yoga class, spinning class, or join a rock climbing or biking club.

You can do pushups/crunches/jumping jacks, stretching, dancing, or just briskly walking with the dog or sharing a walk & talk with a friend.

With ample planning and comfortable headphones, you can even conquer the 1 hour of learning and the 1 hour of moving at the same time.  But when you do, really make it count.


  • Don’t read the news or social media while eating.
  • Plan ahead—plan your meals and outfits on one day of the week—stick to that plan.
  • Automate what can be automated—bills, laundry, reminders of important meetings.
  • If you use an iPhone, go to Settings—>Battery, and scroll down to see how much time you have spent on your various apps. If any of them is over 10 minutes, you really need to rethink how you are spending your time.
  • Get a paper notebook and keep a log of how you are spending your time. Use the same notebook to write lists of goals.
  • Don’t binge watch more than two episodes of your favorite Netflix or Hulu series in a row. Spread the joy you get from this entertainment into other days.
  • Remember, 3 hours is 180 minutes, or 10,800 seconds (That’s roughly the length of the movie Braveheart or Titanic, and three episodes of Game of Thrones.) Make every moment count while completing this daily challenge.


  • Find good books to read.
  • Listen to a new podcast.
  • Spend time with spouses, children, and/or friends.
  • Add 3 more hours of creation, learning, or moving.
  • Do .33 hours of silent meditation (that’s 20 minutes)
  • Do rapid, short responses to the insignificant emails and texts that you have put on the back burner for the past day.
  • Talk to someone once a week who will keep you accountable for your goals. Make sure that there is a consequence if you haven’t accomplished it (example: Give your friend $1,000 in cash. Tell them, “I need to have 20 more pages of this book completed this week, and every week for the next 10 weeks. If I don’t hit my goal each week, you can keep $50.” Repeat this, and try to earn your $1,000 back.)


The 3 Hour Balanced-Life Challenge

CREATION:  Write, compose, cook, draw, or create something you can someday sell.

LEARNING:  Read, listen, or watch something thoughtful and enlightening. Attend a class or tutor someone in need.

MOVING:  Be physically active, and find ways to combine moving with learning at some point to save time.

If you can do all three of these categories for exactly one hour, you will go to bed happier, sleep better, and be even more energized and motivated to be a superstar when you wake up in the morning. And if you repeat this process for a few weeks, years, or decades, that’s a pretty fulfilling life.

And in full disclosure, this thought isn’t original. It’s adapted from a touching speech by the basketball coach Jimmy Valvano at the 1993 ESPY awards—at the time, he was suffering from terminal cancer.

If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special. -Jimmy Valvano

While Neil is writing books, Brian Fishbach is assisting Neil with his work. These are some of the tips Brian has learned from working closely with Neil. If you want to be on the inside, and learn the latest tools and techniques we are using here to improve our lives and the lives of others, then you’ll want to be part of this limited email distribution list. Click here while we’re still doing this.