Waste Not Time,
Want Not Time
by Mad Dog
average American worker spends 46 minutes a day commuting to and from
work. That’s 199 hours, or 25 eight-hour days, each year.
This is more time than we spend on vacation, daydreaming about vacation,
and calling in sick because we’ve used up our vacation combined.
||There are only 24 hours in
a day, so why do we waste so many of them?
In many cases we don’t have a choice. We
waste time waiting for the world’s longest traffic light to change. We
waste time while web sites load animations, videos, music, and more ads
than anyone has time to ignore. We waste time standing in the checkout
line at the supermarket, in spite of how hard we try to figure out which
line will move the fastest based on a personal algorithm that factors in
how many people in each line are older than 60, the number of items in
each shopping cart, estimated time it will take people to find their
wallet, and whether the checker is chatty or not. Even then, somehow we
always manage to choose the slowest one. Luckily it’s not a waste if
you consider being able to flip through the tabloids and read about how
many pounds Lindsay Lohan has lost, Kirstie has gained, and Madoff’s
British clients lost to be a good use of your time.
We waste lots of time in airport security
lines, mostly because people are shocked that a liter of water is more
than three ounces, forget that their 4-lb. belt buckle is made of metal,
and act surprised that they have to take their shoes off even though
they’ve had to do it every time they’ve flown during the past eight
years. And we waste lots of time commuting. Boy do we waste time
we’re not waiting in line, commuting, or picking out clothes, we’re
being completely non-productive and wasting our time by sleeping. To the
tune of six to eight hours a day. This is about the same amount of time
we spend at work and nearly twice the time we spend being productive at
According to Gallup's annual Work and Education survey (motto:
“We do the work, you get educated”) the average American worker
spends 46 minutes a day commuting to and from work. That’s 199 hours,
or 25 eight-hour days, each year. This is more time than we spend on
vacation, daydreaming about vacation, and calling in sick because
we’ve used up our vacation combined. If you work for 30 years—hey, a
guy can dream he has a retirement plan, can’t he?—that means
you’ve spent two years’ worth of work days sitting in traffic or on
the subway, wishing you were anywhere but where you were. The good side
is, if you don’t commute, this means you can retire two years earlier.
Let me know how this argument works on your boss.
Then there’s the time we waste—I
mean, spend—picking out our clothes. A survey by the British clothing
company Matalan found that the average woman spends nearly a year of her
life—287 days to be exact—figuring out what to wear. That’s 6,888
hours—or 413,280 minutes—spent deciding what to put on just so a
woman can look in the mirror, turn to her partner, and ask, “Does this
make me look fat?”
Stop laughing men, you aren’t
exempt. While men don’t spend anywhere near as much time deciding what
to wear, they spend at least as long trying to figure out if there could
possibly be a right answer to that question. Face it, if the Sphinx had
asked that question not a single person would ever have walked into
Thebes and the Sphinx would still be alive and guarding the gates today.
In a survey conducted by Westin Hotels, more than half the people polled
said they’d rather have a good night’s sleep than good sex, which
says a lot for sleep. And not much for their sex life.
If we’re not waiting in line, commuting, or picking out
clothes, we’re being completely non-productive and wasting our time by
sleeping. To the tune of six to eight hours a day. This is about the
same amount of time we spend at work and nearly twice the time we spend
being productive at work. But while we may think of sleeping as a waste
of time, experts tell us we actually get too little of it and function
better if we have more. I bet they get tired of hearing snoring whenever
they explain this.
Experts aren’t the only ones who
don’t think sleep is a such a big waste of time. In a survey conducted
by Westin Hotels, more than half the people polled said they’d rather
have a good night’s sleep than good sex, which says a lot for sleep.
And not much for their sex life. As if to prove how much they enjoy
their sleep, 42% said they'd rather have a sleeping pill left on their
pillow than a chocolate, though since 62% say they take sleep medication
when traveling, this might be more about saving money than the desire
for a good night’s sleep.
And how about all the time we waste
online? That too may turn out not to be such a waste, and not because
you managed to uncover the email address of the first girl or boy you
kissed while in third grade so you can write and profess to never having
gotten over them. A study presented at a meeting of the Society for
Neuroscience (motto: “I mean, who’s not for neuroscience?”) found
that online searching is actually a mental exercise that enhances brain
function in older adults. They don’t know if the same holds true for
young people, but it’s hard to believe that YouTube videos of Mario
and Luigi Meet Yoda done with Legos could be anything but brain
One thing you don’t have to worry
about is whether reading this wasted your time. Remember, reading
articles about wasting time is anything but a waste of time. I don’t
have any studies to back this up. You’ll just have to trust me on
©2009 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them when you have some time to waste.