This Math is Your Friend.

Trigger warning: This post involves math.

If you’re a regular reader here, you know that I’m more prone to hyperbole than a unicorn is to dancing on double rainbows, but I’m not kidding when I say that this math– this one single formula– can change the way you think about every aspect of your life.

This math solves those questions that seem un-solveable:

  • How much time is appropriate for me to spend on my hobby?
  • How do I know when something is too much of a resource drain?
  • How do I know when I’m not spending enough time on something?
  • Based on action, not on words, what things are most important to me?
  • How much money do I spend on a Christmas gift for my Aunt Sally– the one I barely even talk to ever?

From the answers to those questions, you can keep going back to the formula and tweaking until your life is just right.  It’s important to remember that this math is your friend.  This math believes in you and wants you to achieve your dreams.  Leave judgement and fear at the door.

First, I’ll walk you through it.  Then I’ll use real examples.  If you prefer to skip to the real examples, scroll down till there aren’t any more pictures.  For the rest of you…

Ready?

Let’s go.

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This next picture is just for the math geeks who want to see it written as a formula.  Please skip if math tends to give you a headache:

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So now that we know how it works, let’s solve for 2 very common issues.

How much money should I spend on everyone for Christmas?

Note: The obvious answer to this question is, “Somewhere between nothing and whatever you want.” It really is the thought that counts and perhaps you should consider running this same math equation with time rather than money. Still, when you have a holiday budget, but no idea how to break it down– that’s when overspending or panicking happens. This will help.

Situation: You’re lucky enough to have $500 extra dollars, after subtracting the travel expenses of the holidays, the potluck expenses, the decorating expenses, savings for next Christmas, etc. You want to buy a gift for mom, dad, the girlfriend, and the cat using that sum.

Importance Points: Mom – 7, Dad – 7, Girlfriend – 5, Cat – 6

Importance Sum: 25

500 divided by 25 = 20, so money available per point = $20.

Budget for everyone: Mom – $140, Dad – $140, Girlfriend = $100, Cat = $120

Now let’s say you go shopping and you find a $220 cat scratcher for your cat. You like it, buy it, and feel no real remorse. Keep in mind that you’ve just re-prioritized your cat significantly. Keeping the Importance Sum the same, you’ve made your cat an 11. That makes Mom & Dad into 5’s and your girlfriend into a 4. Consider this meaning of this breakdown. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a cat scratcher on sale– or perhaps it’s a reflection of the fact that you’re just not that into your girlfriend.

How much time is too much to spend on blogging?

Note: The obvious answer to this question is, “Like any hobby, it’s too much time when it’s not fun or when it’s detracting from the rest of your balanced life.” Still, that’s easier said than checked– how do you know if you’re over-prioritizing? This will help.

Situation: You have a blog. This means, writing posts, chatting with blog friends, promoting on social media, and editing posts. You also have real-life friends and books you like to read. You also enjoy goofing off on the internet. After subtracting for things that you can’t avoid– like eating, cooking, sleeping, bathroom breaks, and household events– it turns out you have four hours a week to devote to “free time”. Four hours is 240 minutes.

Importance Points: Writing – 10, Real Life Friends – 8, Blog-friends – 8, Editing – 6, Goofing Off – 5, Social Media – 3.

Importance Sum: 40

240 divided by 40 = 6, so time available per point is 6 minutes.

Budget for everything: Writing – 1 hour, Real Life Friends – 48 minutes, Blog-friends – 48 minutes, Editing – 36, Goofing Off – half an hour, Social Media – 18 minutes.

Now that you’re looking at your data, you can think about it. Is four hours of free time a week enough for you, or do you need to budget more time for yourself? Is social media worth the cost, what about goofing off? What about blogging? If you’re spending 3 hours on writing and editing your blog posts every week, then you’re giving Writing a value of 19 and Editing a value of 11. Those 14 points got pulled from somewhere else. If you spend 3 hours on tweeting about your blog, then you’re giving Social Media a value of 30. Is that a reasonable ratio?

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relax

Okay, I can see your eyes swimming with numbers now, so I’ll stop here.

The truth is, this math problem is less about the math and more about the steps that you took to solve it. The answer to these questions has been in your head all along, but sometimes we need an extra push to help us solve for it.

I personally use this formula to solve for very tight budget situations, and on days that I feel my work/life/passion balance is not producing the results I want. That’s just one of many symptoms of a wonky balance.

It’s easy to justify a few hours playing Farmville, but if you’re unhappy at the end of your week with the results of your life– then you should look back at it and consider it by the numbers. It’s human nature to want to buy your loved ones the shiniest and brightest things– but at what cost to another loved one, or yourself?

This math is just a tool to combat justification. We often tell ourselves that we’re working towards something– true love, great friendships, a career we’re passionate about, a healthy life– but our budgets reflect a truer and different story.

Justification is a difficult thing to overcome, especially for the creative and imaginative amongst us– after all, for any given situation, we can create a reason.

It is our gift, and sometimes, our curse.

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A test of your justification capabilities: Margot, the brown goat, just kicked over a fence and ran towards the sunset. You know she isn’t some rogue goat criminal. It was perfectly reasonable for her to take such action. … why?

(I’m betting we can come up with at least 10 very different justifications, hence the usefulness of a math equation that can stand up against such creativity.)

64 Comments

    1. My hope is that this post is one of those types of posts that you come back to when you need it, 🙂 I didn’t know if any non-math-geeks would even make it through! 😀 Gold stars make headaches go away, I hear… hope this helps, you earned it!

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      1. hahaha…I seriously have this thing bookmarked….I am soooo going to need it. Trying to organize my time, money, and life right now. Just posted about being R.A.P.E.’d by the insurance company…great timing.

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  1. Margot the brown goat? Well, maybe there was a grass fire spreading into her pasture. Or maybe some wild dogs slipped under the fence and started harassing her. Or maybe a gentle breeze carried the aroma of something or other that’s the goat version of catnip. (Well, that’s sort of being a rogue goat, but not from the goatish point of view.) Or she noticed the most handsome billy goat in the whole world two fields to the west. (Same objection and justification as the previous one.) Or her negligent owner hasn’t provided any water, she’s been stuck in the pasture all day in the hot sun, and she knows there’s a nice cool wet creek nearby.

    Give me another few minutes and I’ll dream up more…let’s see, a flying saucer crewed by goats that walk on their hind legs just landed in Margot’s field, and she’s totally freaked out. (Or else it landed in the field to the west, and she’s really really curious.) Or the darling little girl who raised Margot since they were both kids is standing in the west field calling her.

    This is fun, Rara. 😉

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    1. You’re amazing, haha! Now I want to play this game all day. 😀 And I want to read ALL THE STORIES. 😀 Margot’s life is a fascinating one! 🙂

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    1. Yay! Your mind is an amazing place, so I’m honored that we share a link of math-crazy, haha. 🙂 It absolutely annoys people, but on the other hand– I’m rarely disappointed with my life and I almost always I have the time I need for the stuff I want to do. To me, that’s a win. 🙂 I even converted the hubby over to this system, and even though he’s not a math person at all– he’s been swayed. 🙂 Thanks for reading! 😀

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  2. The problem that is insurmountable when you have high priority $$$ needs and 0 dollars to allocate. Time? I’ve got lots of that, or would if I stopped blogging (allocated to blog: all time not allocated to taking and processing photographs, talking to husband, eating, cooking, sleepiing, medical stuff, arguing with customer service, or watching a movie). No problem. But if you start with no money, the allocation issue gets either very complicated or very simple. I go with very simple. Use the resource for whatever is necessary (in this order) to 1) keep me and Garry alive, 2) keep a roof over our heads, 3) keep food on the table, and 4) keep the car running. IF there’s anything left over? I already owe it to somebody. Possibly more than one somebody.

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    1. It’s true. As you know, we’ve been in similar financial situations ourselves, but I started to allocate a good deal of time to the concentrated production of income. That way, the other side of my equation could get a little more complicated again. 🙂 Of course, that’s easy to say because we were at least fairly healthy at the time– when we weren’t, no amount of time can be turned to dollars, it’s like straw to gold when you’re not at 100%. I guess my point is, I get how hugely frustrating it all is. *hugs*

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  3. Hi Rara, maths was my favorite subject but what one is taught in schools/ collages is not for solving life’s problems. Your maths is what we need.

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    1. I agree, Indira! Part of what makes math so frightening to people is that they learn to fear it when it’s an esoteric concept floating above their head– rather than something that solves real issues. Thank you for reading, and for your vote of confidence, 😀

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  4. Margot was obviously running away for a tryst with Herbert, the black goat 🙂 Seriously though, I agree that math works. I have chronic illness and I prioritize the events and people in my life every single day, first thing in the morning. Because my energy is subject to running out earlier than expected at any given moment, I make sure I start with what is most important and work my way down the list. Otherwise, so many days of my life would be minus what really mattered to me.

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    1. “Otherwise, so many days of my life would be minus what really mattered to me.” – Absolutely! Being proactive in our decisions about where to spend our time and money makes all the difference to peace of mind. So many of us, including myself, wait until things get really bad– and then figure out how important it is to know what’s important. I wish they taught it early on in school. 🙂 I love that every one of your days is filled with the stuff you value most– it makes me value your visits here even more. 🙂

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  5. I have goats and I know the answer! Margot, the brown goat, needed to kick down the fence and run towards the sunset in order to see it better! (I’m right, right? 😉 )

    Math and I are not very good friends, but you happen to explain math in a way that doesn’t give me a headache. 🙂 Oh and I laughed out loud that the cat had an importance value higher than the girlfriend!

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    1. Haha, man, we have everything from lover tyrsts and goat-nip to a scientific sounding eyesight-reason… I like it. 😀 If there’s ever a blogger idol type of thing for best readers, I’d like to think Rarasaur readers would take home that prize easy. 😀

      Haha, glad you caught that. 🙂 It’s actually a real life example. A friend of mine asked me to run through his numbers and see if his last two girlfriends had any leg to stand on when they said that he “loved the damn cat more than anyone else”. They were totally right. Nearly 60% of his free time and budget with to his cat. 😀 Maybe his heart was with his girlfriends, but action certainly didn’t show it. When I told him that he said, and I quote, “Yeaah, but look at her furry adorable face.”, haha! 🙂

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    1. Yay! There’s nothing math loves better than being used to solve problems. 🙂 Let me know if you need any help along the way!! I love you, too! 😀

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  6. I need to remember this Rara! It can be so easy to let things get out of whack and then you feel like you are exhausted from giving too much or that your time spent on different things is unequal. Thank you for breaking it down, I will absolutely try this out 🙂

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    1. It’s handy, because once you get the hang of it, you can apply it to everything and develop your own cheats for making it easy. Like, Dave makes all the points add up to 20 no matter what because it’s easier for math’s sake, and makes all his “available resource” an easy round number too. 🙂 So if he has 190 extra, just for ease, he’d pretend it was 180 so the math would be fluid. 🙂

      It really does put what you’re giving in terms of time/money into perspective. I remember when I was knitting as a hobby, I was prioritizing it as a 3, but treating it like a 10. It was weirdly consuming and I didn’t want to spend that sort of time on something that didn’t give me a 10 enjoyment. It made it an easy decision to sort of just drop it. It’s a weird way to think about things, but it grows on you. 🙂

      Does this mean you’re back? *off to check for new posts* 🙂

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      1. I am back! I think this math system is really going to help me manage my blogging with everything else that’s going on in life. It’s important to me but I can give it too much time when I’m trying to read, comment and engage with mine and others blogs.

        I like Dave’s idea of giving everything a score of 20 and working it that way. I shall keep you updated as to how it works for me!

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  7. Yay! Math! (there are people who are into it, ok? And it’s still legal in most states, too 🙂
    I can see how the formulas work, but these priority points are kind of random, as in, are we absolutely sure that spouse with 10 importance points is exactly 2.5 more valuable than the cat with 4 importance points? And what if the perfect present doesn’t fit the points? And what if my cat thinks that she should have 400 importance points? 🙂

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    1. It’s barely legal. I swear if we put out a vote to ban it, it’d be gone by majority vote by next week– shutdown or not. 🙂

      The priority points are totally random, but that’s what makes it customizable to your life. I wouldn’t presume to tell someone that their spouse always has to be a 10.

      For example, if Dave prioritized me more than a 1 when it comes to dollars, I wouldn’t have married the guy– what a waste. I couldn’t care less about Christmas presents or birthday gifts. Now, time, on the other hand. I need ALL the time. Everyone has their priorities. Being a 1 on his number scale doesn’t make me a 1 in real life– it just means I’m not a financial priority to Dave. But if I was also a 1 on the time scale, too– then you have to start asking yourself why. Most people when they do these numbers show pretty quickly that they end up giving better holiday presents to their office and spending all their time planting fake crops or stalking celebrities. It’s something you’d know if you sat and thought about it, but the math makes you come face to face with the truth. Can’t fix something if you don’t realize it’s broken!

      And all cats think they should have 400 importance points. The trick is giving them 1 and making them feel like it’s 400, haha. 😀 I find that shameless bribery and flattery works best when trying to accomplish this. 🙂

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      1. Luckily, you can’t ban math by a majority vote, because you’d still need math to know if it’s a majority.
        I get it that the points can be customized to each person and every situation, but in each of those cases you really assign a rank, which is not the same as a number. While it does help set priorities, it’s only pretend math. Although, it close enough to math to scare people off 🙂
        (Sorry, I was a math major, and still kind of take it seriously 🙂

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        1. 🙂 I took all the math classes offered at any of the various colleges I went to (and aced ’em), but just didn’t wrap up those classes into a math degree. 🙂 I take it pretty seriously, too. This math is still math– just not finite, esoteric, higher mathematics. (My father, a veritable math genius, would call it pretend math, too– but I say, whatever gets people looking at numbers and how they related to their life, and problem solving using the number tools at hand is alright by me.)

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  8. Thanks for the trigger warning. High school Math 12 (which I took only because they said I needed it for university… LIES!!!) got me onto a dangerous Advil addiction.

    My husband and I did something along these lines when we had to decide on whether or not to put in a fourth year in Japan. The trouble came when we had totally different scores – but alas, we’re still here!

    As for Margot, I have great difficulty believing she wasn’t a rogue criminal. I worked on a ranch in my past life, and I never met a goat that wasn’t full of grand schemes and evil (often poorly-designed) plots. Maybe the fence tasted bad? Or maybe that’s what she wants you to think…

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  9. I’m glad I’m not the only one who still uses a calculator. Hubby always reminds me there is one on the computer! I even use my “dumb” phone. Calculator is the first thing which comes up on the “Right button”. I don’t suppose most people can even remember setting up their right buttons! Great post! Sue

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  10. You should marry my husband, this is his idea of a heavenly post. However for his polar opposite it is Maths. I don’t think my way through life I just do as I feel and as I read this I realized he gets through using maths. This would explain a lot. Imagine after over 20 years I didn’t really understand!

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  11. This reminds me of problem/decisions solvers I read of back in the day, which essentially use applied algebra. My father used to love showing them to fellow undergrad students to help them make decisions.

    I think math gets a very bad rap in U.S. culture. I really do. I don’t think it’s taught very effectively to students that aren’t headed towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers. Personally, I struggled with calculations, and I learned after 20 years that I do not have a good mindset for computer programming/coding (which can use a lot of math, but I’m still a Linux user, savvy?). But I *was* a teaching student and I had family who studied math and science and were teachers.

    Apologies for a long comment. I had to trim things back even from this, because I tend to blather on to doctoral dissertation lengths. But I’m disheartened to see people say they are dumb about math (or science, or computers), similar to what’s been commented here. I don’t think it has to be that way.

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  12. Wow…you’re a genius!! O.O
    It’s true, we all do that in our heads while at the same time justifying it but to come up with something that we can SEE and place value to is really very brilliant!!!! Thank you!!

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  13. I’m definitely going to try using this – also I think doing the calculation may make me get on with stuff when I’m feeling creatively blocked – so thank you, Rara! As for Margo – I think she kicked down the fence once she had done the calculation – and realised she was not spending enough time pursuing her main desire – to travel and see the world.

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  14. WOW!!! another wonderful post, and this time such with such a practical, useful tool. MATH is about making sense of and manipulating reality to our ends and you have really gone at it so wonderfully here. LOVED it and thanks 🙂 Sharing this post…

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  15. Am I crazy, or did you basically just boil down the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything into a simple math equation?

    And as I like to say, “You use hyperbole more than any other person on the planet.”

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  16. Excellent! I like that formula. I’m all about the ratios – I like figuring them out, applying them to other things… and % diff – that’s another fave.

    Magot just likes to kick and run ~ she has no idea that the fence is something constructed by you, at a cost, and has no concept of your need to keep her restrained. Or she’s being chased by a rogue 🙂

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  17. Wow, I really need to apply this to a lot of things.
    I was sad that my school did not have a Mathletics team. Yes, that is the kind of person I still am.

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  18. I laughed so hard at the trigger warning, because I don’t usually get a rise out of what usually triggers folks, but math totally would cause me to have some serious PTSD.
    Despite my initial assumptions, this is actually amazingly helpful. So much so, I have bookmarked this in my browser so I can refer back to it. Thank you! What a great tool!
    As a token of my appreciation (and since you made mention of unicorns and rainbows) I give you this:

    Like

  19. Loved it! Even with the maths. (Actually, I secretly like the maths, just that sometimes my head can’t quite get around all of it. Oh well, I’ll still be the maths’ secret admirer for the time being).

    As for Margot, maybe she finally ran into a good friend who said, “What are you still doing here? All your dreams are within reach if you just start heading toward them. Go on, git!” And kicked her over the fence. I’ve had some good friends give me a good kick when I’m being lazy. So go, Margot! Get those dreams! 😉

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  20. At the word, Math, I tripped and my eyes crossed.
    About the goat, Margot: some handsome goat caught her eye and because she doesn’t do math, she decided to cast all caution to the wind. 😀

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  21. Brilliant and very Geeky post! I may use this formula soon and thank you for it. I’ve been wanting to restructure my days, get rid of some habits and begin a few new ones so your equation may come in handy. As far as the goat is concerned she had been planning this escape for months, finally seeing her opportunity to break free from her jailer and knowing she was the last goat she knew her time was almost up. She made a break for it.

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  22. I’m having a problem with the math on monetary prioritisation. My calculator keeps giving me an error. Something about trying to divide zero dollars ….. 😉
    Oh, the goat one is easy. See, the goat pen overlooks your rear living room window. Through the window, the poor goat has been watching the nonsense in DC on the news. Finally having had enough, she kicks down the fence, which she knows you’ll rush to repair to keep your penguins corralled. Then she runs off to DC to kick some sense into those idiots! Don’t worry, she’ll bring you back your favourite Key Lime pie on the way home. (What do you mean, she doesn’t have money? The penguins loaned the money to her. After all, since killer whales eat penguins, the only way to ensure penguin survival is for the penguins to become loan sharks! 😀 )

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  23. Ok, be honest how many friggin points do you allow for writing posts? Because you are a posting demon, and these aren’t crap posts, they are quality and take….TIME. Where do you get it? Do you sleep? I love math and I love that you relate to the world through numbers because I do as well. But the problem is that the number generated is right out of one’s bottom or pulled from the air. I loved how the cat got more points than the girlfriend. That was honest. But…most people aren’t honest. so really you need to start with a workflow study to see where one’s time is going, because that will tell you what you really find important…or what you have gotten into the habit of and need to quit. Now if you can get a formula for an HONEST numbering system, you will have hit gold. But I think an initial workflow study is crucial for long term success. And of course the estimation of budget. Most people don’t use the “your work will build into the amount of time you give to it” theory. Most people don’t have a clue how much time it takes. And one cant control grandma, who calls and talks for 45 minutes, or the child’s colic that took an hour of walking and rocking. If we were our own gods to our time, then we could manage it better. So building in the soft spots to absorb these unwanted hassles are essential. Sorry so long, this is an interest of mine!

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  24. Thanks for the link! First of all, I spent most of my college years as a math major so I get this. But then, all I longed to do was exercise my creativity and began writing. Based on my personality type, I can justify anything. My dilemma is one of focusing on primary relationships (family and close friends) rather than extraneous ones that I don’t (necessarily) need in my life. I have one of those that I can’t/haven’t let go of yet. That’s what I am working out. This was fun.
    Thanks again,
    Gina

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