Stop Measuring Your Time in Beyoncé Hours

Stop Measuring Your Time in Beyoncé Hours

Let’s debunk a shitty motivational platitude, shall we?

“We all have the same 24 hours in a day.”

This trite adage is meant to motivate the lazy. It’s meant to erase the excuse “I don’t have time,” to convince us that the only thing separating us from the most successful people in the world is how we spend our allotted twenty-four hours every day.

The result, at least for this Bitch, is that I sometimes find myself frustrated and cranky because I couldn’t complete all my goals in a single day.

I begin my twenty-four hours with the goal to finish three major projects at work, read fifty pages of a novel before bed, get a workout in, walk the dog, weed the garden, write an article for the blog, edit a chapter of a freelance project, mop the kitchen floor, schedule dinner and hanging out with three other couples, paint a bookshelf for my friend’s nursery, and call United Airlines in the vain hope that for once in their miserable existence they’ll treat a customer with reasonable compassion.

And when I’ve failed to complete all these goals in a single day, I beat myself up for not being efficient enough. For clearly there are successful people out there achieving all of their goals in the same amount of time, right? We all have the same twenty-four hours, after all!

To be successful, you just need to optimize your time! Work smarter, not harder! Stop wasting time and use your twenty-four hours just like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk! Sort out your priorities and get shit done! If Sheryl Sandberg can do it in twenty-four hours, then by all that’s holy, so can you!

Which is, of course, complete and utter bullshit.

The measure of a Beyoncé Hour

We do not all have the same twenty-four hours to work with every day. Full stop.

To illustrate this point, let us turn to a perfect human. Let us turn, of course, to Queen Bey.

You think Beyoncé scrubs her own damn toilet? You think she waits on hold with Comcast customer service when her Internet is down? Does she schedule her own doctor’s appointments and pick her kids up from daycare?

A resounding “hell no.”

For she is Beyoncé, Golden Goddess of Goodness, Muse of the Modern Age, our queen, long may she reign.

Beyoncé has people for all that shit! She has attained a level of success and wealth at which she doesn’t have to waste her precious time managing the tedium of everyday life. She farms all that shit out to hired help so that she can focus her considerable talents and energy on what she does best: creating the next global musical phenomenon. And looking flawless while doing it.

Incidentally, Beyoncé also has people for that too. She has hair and makeup people, a personal trainer, nannies, personal assistants, drivers, maids, publicists, stylists, fixers (I just assume), nutritionists, and someone to hold her purse at events.

As a result, Beyoncé has shed the petty concerns of the average person. She need not waste time on literally anything. Her full twenty-four hours are devoted to creativity and brilliance and personal betterment. (Just kidding. It’s impossible to get better than Beyoncé.)

A Beyoncé Hour is therefore worth at least 144 standard Earth hours.

Beyoncé can achieve in one hour what it takes mere mortals six days to achieve. And on the seventh day she fucking rests.

You are not Beyoncé

You’re not Beyoncé.

You do not have people for that shit.

Alone, you must toil at the management of your life and finances. You, a plebeian struggling on this ball of mud, have boring and time-consuming responsibilities that prevent you from operating at Beyoncé levels of perfection.

Only you are responsible for scheduling your life, making enough money to support yourself, tidying your home, and taking care of your body. If you don’t feed yourself, Beyoncé’s personal chef is not going to show up and feed you farm-fresh, nutritionally balanced meals so you can focus on a more important goal at dinnertime.

You can’t do or have it all. Or at least not all at once.

You can’t hole up in a swanky hotel for a month finishing the Great American Novel, waited on by staff who provide you with room service, laundry, and a goddamn mint on your pillow while you stretch the creative muscles of your brain to the point of utter brilliance. (Note: this is literally how J. K. Rowling finished the Harry Potter series. While not quite Beyoncé, Rowling also has more time in her twenty-four hours than do you. Way more.)

You can’t take a break from every other responsibility in your life to work on a singular ambitious goal. In fact, it’s pretty hard to farm out your other responsibilities for any length of time. And if you can, the opportunity is rare and shouldn’t be squandered.

Imagine calling up some unpaid person (with responsibilities and time constraints of their own, I might add) and saying “Hey, can you do my day job, take care of my kids, feed me three meals a day, and answer all my calls and emails for a week?” With enough money, you can probably pay someone to handle all that. But with enough money, we’re edging closer to Beyoncé Hour territory.

And again: you are not Beyoncé.

This is Beyoncé:

You are blessed to breathe the same atmosphere, but you ain’t her.

So why act like you have the same twenty-four hours as Beyoncé?

Understand the limits and give yourself a break

It is the pinnacle of privilege to suggest that we all have the same twenty-four hours to work with. I suspect that anyone peddling such heartless nonsense is standing atop a pyramid of resources and help that most of us simply don’t have.

We don’t often hear about the nannies, the spouses, the dog walkers, the maids, and the assistants of the fabulously successful. I guess it’s not glamorous to admit that every hour of help you pay for affords you one more hour in your day. But that’s how it works. And to ignore that part of the equation is to turn a blind eye to reality.

All of which is to say: go easy on yourself.

Have reasonable expectations of your time. While ambitious goals are great, too ambitious and you run the risk of burning out or self-flagellation.

It has taken me a while to understand that if I don’t achieve all my creative, money-making, and personal maintenance goals in a single day, it’s not a moral failing on my part.

For I don’t have paid help. And so my twenty-four hours are divided in ways Beyoncé hasn’t had to deal with for decades.

I still sometimes fall into the trap of thinking, “But maybe if I powered through the mental exhaustion after 10 p.m., I could’ve finished that project before the end of the day.”

Adjust your expectations to reality. Be kind to your hardworking self and set reasonable goddamn goals!

What’s reasonable, though?

Think of your most productive day. Tabulate every glorious fucking thing you accomplished that day. You were on fire. You were Reaganing like Jack Donaghy in his finest hour. Miraculously, you were able to achieve peak performance and then sleep like a motherfucking baby knowing you didn’t have any lingering to-dos looming over your head.

Now cut the accomplishments of that day in half.

That is a reasonable expectation for yourself every day.

Create your own Beyoncé Hour

I’m not suggesting that you should settle for laziness or give yourself permission to procrastinate. This is not to say you should give up on your ambitions or tell yourself, “Well, I’m not Her Majesty Queen Bey, so why even try?”

The mental burden of striving for Beyoncé levels of perfection on the daily is sure to burn you out. You won’t be able to take pride in what you do accomplish because you’ll be too busy hyperfocusing on what you don’t get done.

The miracle of setting reasonable, attainable daily goals for productivity, is that if you somehow accomplish them all ahead of schedule, you can get more done. And everything you do above and beyond your reasonable goal is icing on the cake. It’s uber-productivity!

Here’s more of what we have to say about productivity and setting goals:

Celebrate your accomplishments above and beyond your rational, reasonable daily goals. You’ve outdone yourself! That’s heckin great for someone who doesn’t have the resources to hire an army of help!

You are only human.

Unlike Beyoncé, who is a fucking gift to the human race sprung fully formed from the mind of God Herself. All shall love Her and rejoice.

33 thoughts to “Stop Measuring Your Time in Beyoncé Hours”

  1. I think this also highlights a big benefit of automation in one’s finances. There is NOTHING more tedious than sitting down to pay bills, write a check/cheque, stuff an envelope, put a forking stamp on the motherfucker, and finding a big blue postal box to dump it into. Shit, I got tired typing that!
    In the same amount of time, one time, you can set up autopay (not autopsy, Autocorrect!!) and free yourself from the monthly obligation of a damn tedious chore. Go read 50 pages of your book instead!

    1. Josh you are SO RIGHT (and also the Beyonce of the personal finance blogosphere). I need to get a lot better at automating shit to increase my personal Beyonce Hour longevity.

  2. Sooooo much truth! I also hate it when people hold up an exceptionally successful person and say, “See, if they can do it, so can you!” It’s survivorship bias, because we don’t see all the people who put in an equal amount of effort but failed. All that’s going to do is guilt-trip people.
    On top of that, people struggle with mental illnesses that are invisible to others, and they should never be judged or looked down upon for being supposedly “lazy” or not living up to the standards of motivational gurus.

    1. VERY important point. That “lazy, unproductive” person is dealing with personal shit beyond your comprehension, even invisible disabilities. So cut the “we all have the same 24 hours” crap and save a goddamn life.

    2. And it’s not just not having to do all that personal stuff. At some time success (or luck) will have paid off and the winners will start using their Beyoncé hours to direct people using their Beyoncé hours (or normal hours), so it’s 144 × 144 hours for them.

  3. The whole “rich people working all the time” thing is also 100% BS. I personally know one guy who is extremely rich (I’m not going to say his name for privacy reasons). He is worth more than $100 million. He is also “self made”. Does he spend 100% of his waking hours focused on making money? No. He spends about 2 hours/day watching TV Shows, 1 hour/day arguing with his girlfriend, 1 hour/day aimlessly going on a walk, and 2 hours/day cooking (he likes to cook). He also sometimes procrastinates, likes to hang out with friends on the weekend, etc… I’m sure that this is the case for other successful people. No one is 100% focused on making money for a prolonged period of time. That is simply impossible to do. Rich people are also well… people. I’m sure Beyonce also takes vacations, watches TV, etc… from time to time. We just don’t see or talk about that part of her life.

    1. Whoa whoa whoa. Are you implying that all Beyonce’s brilliance necessitates she take a BREAK from time to time???? Like the rest of us mud people?!?!

      But absolutely well said. The rest and relaxation component of a successful life is often overlooked. You need time to recharge from your hard work in order to remain so productive and successful!

  4. Oh hi, how did you know that I took a sick day off of work last week to get some fucking shit done (CAN I BE DONE WITH THE AFTERMATH OF MOVING YET??) and ended the day being annoyed with myself because I didn’t get Every Single Thing on my to-do list done and therefore the day was a waste?? And moreover that this is a fairly regular occurrence for me?

    I also appreciate that in between all of the Beyonce gifs in this post there’s also a gem of a 30 Rock reference!

  5. I don’t know how you made this article about lowering expectations feel so incredibly inspiring. But you did. I’m inspired. Please, keep writing like this foooreeevveeer.

  6. A good example of a famous person who had roughly Regular Hours and not Beyonce Hours is Jane Austen. I mean, she was still wealthier than most, and had some help from servants, but she also lived as a spinster aunt with her brother’s household, and was expected to do some chores and childcare.

    Jane Austen wrote in short bursts, on sheets of papers she was supposed to use for letters to her friends, and she always hid the novel pages under the blank pages if someone entered the room. (Sorry, I don’t have a source for this. I got it from a literature lecture at uni, and I’m hoping the teacher didn’t lie to me.) She wasn’t supposed to be writing fiction, she was supposed to be writing letters. She stole time for her novels between other tasks.

    And it took her 20 years before she published her first two novels.

    After she achieved that, and got acclaim for her writing, her family became supportive of her writing, and gave her much more space. She wrote 4 more novels, and it only took her a few years to finish and polish up these. She still had the same 24 hours after Pride and Prejudice became famous. She didn’t suddenly become more skilled or more hardworking. The only thing that changed was that her family allotted her more Beyonce Hours in her day. If this doesn’t illustrate your point, I don’t know what does.

  7. As someone with chronic fatigue, I long ago had to make my peace with not getting as much done as I want. It was that or drive myself insane (which I sort of did anyway). But after much therapy (the therapist literally had to tell me to stop saying I was too lazy to do something instead of too tired or too depressed) I learned to adjust my expectations of myself. And it’s been a glorious transformation.

    Now I take pride in what I’m able to get done. Even if they’re small things I’m doing them consistently which is huge. I may only get one errand and one or two tasks a day done but goddamn it I got those bad boys done!

    The thing about stopping beating yourself up is that it frees up a surprising amount of mental (and sometimes physical, if you’re a depressive especially) energy. So you can actually be more productive simply by accepting that you’ll never be as productive as your ideal. And that extra productivity can further help you stop beating yourself up. It’s a nice little positive feedback loop.

    1. ABIGAIL @IPICKUPPENNIES: Very true, I was recently in a lousy head space with many big projects on my plate including remodeling a kitchen. Disclaimer: there is untreated ADHD here. I’m in my 50s and only recently found out I was diagnosed in the 1970s and left untreated. So I have coping strategies I unconsciously invented along the way.

      When I could gather my energy I worked on the kitchen, when I could only power through small tasks I did that. One night at about 2AM unable to sleep well, I was reviewing my list and realized how much progress I had made over the past coupe of months. The kitchen had not progressed much but I had worked past a couple of tasks that seemed monumental but that I simply did not understand well enough to describe as easy. I had however, completed many other small tasks and it showed looking around our house. I felt in that moment a sense of relief and pride. I still have much to do at our house but it doesn’t seem so impossible anymore. Taking off Friday to complete some electrical and water changes while my family are at work/school. Not dreading it at all.

  8. This is perfection! The narrative that we need to be productive 100% of the time only really serves the Capitalist Overlords (trademark) who run the companies that so many of us work for. Mud people (and glorious goddesses like Queen Bey) need to have time to do stupid, silly things that allow us to relax and fuel our creativity.

    1. The overlords don’t run things so much as they simply collect the big paychecks. Its the energetic employees who take ownership of the tasks that need doing – they are the energy of any operation. The overlords simply run interference and create new processes/workflows that are less efficient than what was in place before. 😉

    1. Yep, for us it’s the lawn guy and cleaning lady. Best investment we ever made in our marriage as well, because we no longer fight about who has to do those chores!

    2. Yes! I think the next step in a person’s financial evolution is realizing that your time is actually more valuable than some of the tasks you hate. It took a massive raise for me to realize that spending $30/mo on a dog groomer was worth it, and a promotion to finally give up on torturing myself with landscaping and bring in a professional. It’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent, and it’s given me so many hours back for things that don’t make me miserable.

      1. I’m so on board with this discussion. I genuinely like yard work (mostly because my yard is a giant vegetable garden), but I’m starting to strongly consider outsourcing the cleaning of the house. I don’t think I make quite enough money yet to justify it, but SOME DAY.

  9. Preach! I’m so glad you wrote this. I often think about Beyoncé when people trot out the “we all have 24 hours” trope. No, her 24 hours look very different to mine as you’ve so well explained! This also holds when you compare the upper middle class/middle class to lower middle class and working class folks. When you’ve got a nanny or au pair to look after the kids and prepare dinner, plus a cleaner etc then your time looks pretty different to someone who has to do all the cooking and cleaning themselves, get around by public transport etc. Notice that a lot of these tasks are traditionally “women’s work”. Coincidence? No wonder time is a feminist issue!

    1. Soooo true! I recently heard the same thing come up in a discussion of Brilliant Historical Men(TM). How could they speak three languages, compose for the violin, sculpt the David, AND invent flying machines? None of them ever did a load of laundry in their lives. They all had underpaid and underappreciated women and servants for that shit.

  10. After reading this article, I came up with an exercise for myself. I made a list titled, “Shit Beyonce doesn’t have to do that I do” and it included (but is not limited to): cleaning the litterbox; scheduling appointments; washing dishes; cooking food; cleaning the house; looking up submission criteria for academic journals; and explaining complex problems in small words because these collaborators refuse to listen to an actual scientist who’s job it is to solve their problems. It’s a long list.

    Afterwards, I made a second list, this one called “Shit both Beyonce and I have to do” and includes things like eating food; sleeping; getting pap smears; getting dental work done; our jobs; and use the restroom. I may be iffy on the last one.

    It’s a bit oversimplified, but I found value in looking at and appreciating that even the Queen Herself can’t outsource her pap smears. She has to be there to get that shit done, no one else can get a pap smear for Beyonce. I’d like to use these lists going forward to see what aspects of my life I can automate to bring me just that smidgen closer to Beyonce perfection, but overall, it helped me get a bit of perspective that while the Queen and I lead vastly different lifestyles, we both still need to put our feet in the stirrups.

  11. Great post, Bitches Get Riches

    You are absolutely right! Most people do not have an army of assistants that can balance their life for them, yet they feel the pressure to be just as perfect as those who live the life of fame and luxury. Remembering that we are all human and live on different levels is critical. By having a sense of humility for yourself, and remembering how awesome you are, is essential. Thanks for the read, it definitely was uplifting and a refreshing take!

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