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I was reading a Design Patterns in Java programming book and came across a new phrase. I'm wondering what does off the top mean in this particular context.

Excerpt from the book:

Keep Learning

Somehow, you had the opportunity, drive, and ambition to acquire and read this book. All we can say is, "Keep it up!" Decide how many hours a week you want to spend on your career. Take 5 hours off the top and pay yourself first. Spend that time away from the office, reading books and magazines or writing software related to any topic that interests you. Make this practice as regular as your office hours. .....

I've heard of the idiom - off the top of your head. But what does off the top exactly mean in this context?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

"off the top" in general and here means the first 5 hours

In "off the top of my head" it means the first idea that came into my mind. Similar principle

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It means "setting aside from the whole before starting to allocate the 24 hours among other priorities". As someone said above, think of it as a budget, or skimming the cream off the top before using what's left over in the pan.

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It means "without giving it too much thought or without precise knowledge".

  • Mary: How much do you think this car would be worth on a trade?
    Fred: Well, right off the top of my head, I'd say about a thousand.
  • Tom: What time does the morning train come in?
    Bill: Off the top of my head, I don't know.
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2  
The question is about a different use of "off the top". –  StoneyB Nov 15 '12 at 13:55

Think of it in the context of money, like a budget. Anything "off the top" is something you set aside first, before you do the rest of the budget plan:

Decide how much per week you want to put into savings. Take 5% off the top and pay yourself first.

That's how I read it, not as a derivation of "off the top of my head"

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I've heard of the idiom - off the top of your head.

It is not related in any way I can think of.

But what does off the top exactly mean in this context?

It means that the time is reserved first, before any other considerations are made.

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"Off the top" can be understood by looking at the preceding sentence:

Decide how many hours a week you want to spend on your career.

Let's use an example. Let's suppose you decided to spend 23 hours a week on your career. When it says "take five hours off the top", it means "out of that 23 hours, use the first five hours to read books and magzines, etc."

Hope that helps.

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