Tim Urban, who blogs at waitbutwhy.com, wrote up this short but thought-provoking blog post on time scarcity. In brief, he estimates that most people sleep about seven or eight hours a night, which leaves 16 to 17 awake hours each day, or about 1,000 minutes per day on average. Next, instead of dividing the day into hours (or 60-minute increments), Mr Urban divides those 1,000 minutes into 100 separate ten-minute blocks, and he asks us to imagine these blocks laid out on a 10 by 10 grid (pictured below). Mr Urban then asks the following question: “What if you had to label each [ten-minute block of time] with a purpose?” He goes on to explain:
“You’d have to think about everything you might spend your time doing in the context of its worth in blocks. Cooking dinner requires three blocks, while ordering in requires zero—is cooking dinner worth three blocks to you? Is 10 minutes of meditation a day important enough to dedicate a block to it? Reading 20 minutes a night allows you to read 15 additional books a year—is that worth two blocks? If your favorite recreation is playing video games, you’d have to consider the value you place on fun before deciding how many blocks it warrants. Getting a drink with a friend after work takes up about 10 blocks. How often do you want to use 10 blocks for that purpose, and on which friends? Which blocks should be treated as non-negotiable in their labeled purpose and which should be more flexible? Which blocks should be left blank, with no assigned purpose at all?”
Mr Urban concludes his post with the following thought-experiment: “Now imagine a similar grid, but one where each block is labeled exactly how you spent it yesterday. The question to ask is: How are the two grids different from each other, and why?”
There is one potential practical pitfall with Mr Urban’s method, however. The problem is that it would take us several 10-minute blocks just to label all 100 time blocks!