I work less than I thought I did and that's OK
January 5, 2021 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Turns out my top three activities of the year are sleeping (7h 45min on average per day and I'm very proud of this), working (6h 20 min on average per day) and socialising (3h 25 min on average per day). It is mostly what I would expect except that it always scares me how much time we actually spend unconscious. I can't decide whether 1h 20 min spent on human function (eating and showering etc) is a lot or not.
All through 2020, Ala Szalapak logged her daily activities at 15 minute intervals. She collected over 35,000 data points.
posted by Vesihiisi (55 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, but even he might think this is a bit much.
posted by PhineasGage at 11:27 AM on January 5 [16 favorites]


Very cool to have this level of granularity on a single person (and during Covid!). For a global perspective, I was fascinated by this visualization on time use by country published by Our World in Data.
posted by little onion at 11:28 AM on January 5 [7 favorites]


I would pay a lot of money for an average of 7 hours and 45 minutes of unbroken sleep a night, and even more for more.

Relevant The Good Place clip: "You guys are always either sleeping or chewing something."
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:31 AM on January 5 [9 favorites]


As a parent, the 1 hr 20 min on "human function" makes me want to cry.

To be honest though, even as a single person I'm pretty sure I spent more on that on average because I really enjoy cooking and eating meals. I'm not sure why she wants to shrink that down even further. Slow down, chew your breakfast properly!
posted by peacheater at 11:41 AM on January 5 [9 favorites]


As somebody who finally started journaling on a (mostly) daily basis this past year, I'm incredibly envious of people who can consistently do this kind of tracking.
posted by KGMoney at 12:03 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


When I'm doing focused work I there is a lot of window gazing included. That is when my processor is working, so it counts.
posted by waving at 12:11 PM on January 5 [9 favorites]


I'm reminded of a story my husband tells about his sister on her first day of school. All summer long the parents had been talking up how awesome it was going to be when she would get to go school, how she would make friends, what a good time it would be, how much she would like it, etc., and indeed the day was very exciting and fun for her when she finally got to go to school!

The second day, however, when they woke her up to get dressed for school, she was grouchy and unamused, because like, "what, again?!"

This is very much how I feel about some things in my life -- usually washing, (sometimes cooking), cleaning, restocking, repairing, replacing, tidying, alllll the Marie Kondo stuff, like getting rid of junk that is no longer useful and just psychic weight, etc, etc.

Every time, I feel like, "what, again?!" And it's the one thing that I don't really see in the data: all the time that simply struggling against entropy seems takes up!

But this was a fun and fascinating thing to view, and I'm beyond impressed with such a sustained and careful effort ... and also super jealous of the sleeping time! I and pretty much all my family, friends and colleagues have terrible sleeping problems these days (well, it's been some years for me, now).
posted by taz at 12:14 PM on January 5 [23 favorites]


I went to a seminar given by the late Watts Humphreys who was a software process researcher who devised CMM and the Personal Software Process which is a system where you do all your work with a timer and log every activity during the day. Before he started the talk, he opened his laptop and logged the time that the talk was going to take into a spreadsheet and said that he had records of his activities going back decades.
posted by octothorpe at 12:14 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


I'm not seeing the "time spent logging my activities" category, and I'd be quite curious how many minutes per day it required.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:19 PM on January 5 [35 favorites]


I received a smart watch for my birthday/Christmas so it's been telling me how much sleep I've been getting every night as well as whether its quality was poor, moderate or good. By and large I haven't been getting enough sleep but at the same time those nights where I did get enough were when my kids tricked me into falling asleep with them and I really wanted to stay up for a few hours more watching a show, reading, or playing a game. Don't get me wrong, I love sleep, but when I'm awake I want to be awake because there's so much to do.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:29 PM on January 5


I got a lot of extra sleep thanks to lockdown. Especially when it gets dark at 6 and you have nowhere to go, might as well go to bed at 9
posted by emjaybee at 12:47 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


It is mostly what I would expect except that it always scares me how much time we actually spend unconscious.

This brings to mind an old SNL sketch with Christopher Walken being interviewed by a census worker:
"Now, are you currently employed?"
"Yeah, part of the time"
"You work part-time? How many days a week?"
"Every day, but just part of the day. From 9 to 5."
"So, you work a full day."
"I wouldn't say that. There are huge chunks of time at night where I'm just asleep. Hours. Y'know, it's ridiculous."
posted by mhum at 12:49 PM on January 5 [17 favorites]


The time she spends logging her time doesn't actually count, as long as she keeps it to under 7 minutes per 15 minute increment.
posted by KGMoney at 12:54 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


Logging was included:

focused work > admin - answering emails, filling forms etc (btw filling my time tracking spreadsheet was in this category)
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:00 PM on January 5 [13 favorites]


I'm not seeing the "time spent logging my activities" category, and I'd be quite curious how many minutes per day it required.

At one or two points in my life I have considered doing something along these lines, but balked for this reason. As I envisioned it, there’s be finite number of possibilities and every fifteen minutes I’d note which of the eight or ten possibilities applied, then spend a bit of time at the end of the day collating data. It’s slightly lower-res than it might be (start eating a bowl of cereal at 8:28, finish at 8:32 and there’s fifteen minutes).

Part of the reason it never happened is because my insomnia and low-quality sleep are hard to record and more depressing to survey. Sunday night this week I went to bed about 1:45 AM and was still studying the insides of my eyelids when the eastern sky was growing light circa 7:30 AM. Were there any brief periods of unconsciousness in there? Maybe.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:04 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


I have a hard time thinking of any time breakdown that wouldn't make me unhappy, even if I used all my time to the fullest (whatever that means). Too many opportunities to try to min/max your life.

I'm glad that she found it fun and fulfilling but I can sense so many traps I'd fall into.
posted by No One Ever Does at 1:23 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure why she wants to shrink that down even further. Slow down, chew your breakfast properly!

An eye-popper from the Our World In Data graph is that in the US people spend an average of 63 minutes "Eating & Drinking" per day whereas in France it's 133!
posted by little onion at 1:32 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


Life can yield data but life is not data...
posted by jim in austin at 1:51 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


I am staring silently out the window, holding a drink, contemplating the vastness of the universe manifested in human frailty and inescapable ignorance, is that "human function" or "other quality time"?

Or is it maybe "culture" because there is music playing?

What if my roommate is home and also staring silently into space? Would I be "socializing"?

2020 was so weird...
posted by albion moonlight at 2:02 PM on January 5 [9 favorites]


But for this person, apparently, data is life.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:02 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


I'm struggling to understand why the amount of time we spend (or should spend, for more optimal health) sleeping would be scary.
posted by eviemath at 2:03 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


I'm struggling to understand why the amount of time we spend (or should spend, for more optimal health) sleeping would be scary.

‘cause however many years of life you think you can expect, you’ve actually only got two thirds of them!
posted by atoxyl at 2:09 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


I'm struggling to understand why the amount of time we spend (or should spend, for more optimal health) sleeping would be scary.

‘cause however many years of life you think you can expect, you’ve actually only got two thirds of them!


But the other third consists of being a Viking so on the whole, not so bad really.
posted by some loser at 2:14 PM on January 5 [20 favorites]


‘cause however many years of life you think you can expect, you’ve actually only got two thirds of them!

But I have never expected to be awake and alert for 100% of my lifespan, so it's not like I'm losing out on anything. Who reaches a stage in their life where they are capable of the sort of advanced reasoning required to think ahead in that manner, yet is sufficiently unfamiliar with the idea of sleep taking up a portion of each day that they don't automatically factor it in to their expectations?! If anything, humans tend to sleep less per day as we age, as compared to the age at which we might start envisioning our future and setting those sorts of expectations.
posted by eviemath at 2:15 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


It's scary because time in dreams is fluid and there is no way to capture how much dreamtime time you are unable to accurately account for because all of the clocks and pencils in your dream are broken, and how can you possibly be expected to be productive while your toes are being eaten by French Poodles in poodle skirts?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:19 PM on January 5 [7 favorites]


... I certainly can't argue with that, It's Raining Florence Henderson!
posted by eviemath at 2:25 PM on January 5


Who reaches a stage in their life where they are capable of the sort of advanced reasoning required to think ahead in that manner, yet is sufficiently unfamiliar with the idea of sleep taking up a portion of each day that they don't automatically factor it in to their expectations?!

I mean, just because I am familiar with the concept of sleep and am forced to surrender myself to the reality that it's unavoidably necessary, doesn't mean I gotta be happy with it. It always feels like a ridiculous waste of time. Sharks had the right idea when they evolved to let half their brains sleep at a time and just keep swimming through each hemispheric sleep cycle. I'd be cool with losing left brain/right brain functions for a few hours each, in turns! I'd at least like to have the option, is all I'm saying.
posted by MiraK at 2:35 PM on January 5 [7 favorites]


in the US people spend an average of 63 minutes "Eating & Drinking" per day whereas in France it's 133!

In France, that probably includes smoking.
posted by gimonca at 2:38 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


I am staring silently out the window, holding a drink, contemplating the vastness of the universe manifested in human frailty and inescapable ignorance, is that "human function" or "other quality time"?

Ennui should be listed as an activity.
posted by waving at 2:40 PM on January 5 [10 favorites]


Only if you're French. And smoking Gauloises.
posted by PhineasGage at 2:45 PM on January 5 [7 favorites]


I am so tired, it would actually require
more energy to stop my heart than I am currently
capable of. Death, you understand, is
too much to expect of me today. Astronauts
caught in the gravity well of my ennui could
travel to distant galaxies and never age a day,
such is the dragging of time in my presence.

I am the flypaper of moments.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:53 PM on January 5 [7 favorites]


Hmm, I see that I have implicitly assumed that unexpectedness or unfamiliarity is necessary for something to be scary. While generally the case for me, I do understand why that is not always the case.

Regardless, disappointment is not the same as either fear or surprise. Also, I learned to use a can opener at a young age, as you can see from my facility with opening and plating these beans.
posted by eviemath at 3:02 PM on January 5


Who reaches a stage in their life where they are capable of the sort of advanced reasoning required to think ahead in that manner, yet is sufficiently unfamiliar with the idea of sleep taking up a portion of each day that they don't automatically factor it in to their expectations?!

I mean of course I’m not unaware of it. But sleep usually just happens, every day, and I do sympathize with the idea that it’s kind of staggering to really contemplate how much of life is spent unconscious.

Perhaps this sense varies with exactly how much sleep is a blank versus a conscious part of your life. I don’t usually remember too much about what happens while I’m asleep.
posted by atoxyl at 3:07 PM on January 5


ridiculous waste of time

Funny I always think of work as the ridiculous waste of time - I'd actually be able to do things and get things done if I didn't need to work. Sleeping is when your body heals and takes out your brain garbage which are net positives for me. Its also when my brain stops focusing so much on the minute detail of my existence. For better or worse, my brain is constantly aware of how much time it spends on things. I don't keep track of it as a spreadsheet (that would lead to madness- tho I do keep track of my media consumption) but my brain is hyper aware of each passing minute. It took many years to calm that ticking down and enjoy each moment but I still know how long I waste on things I find unpleasant which can be frustrating.
posted by Ashwagandha at 3:16 PM on January 5 [19 favorites]


Hmm, I see that I have implicitly assumed that unexpectedness or unfamiliarity is necessary for something to be scary

I would say it’s very specifically the horror of putting something ordinary and innocuous in perspective and confronting oneself with just how much of it there is.

Perhaps this is related to my lifelong assertion that I do not want to die peacefully in my sleep. Of course I have no actual say over that - more accurately I don’t want to think about the possibility of dying in my sleep, because then I would have to consider that going to sleep is a terrifying step into an unknown from which I am not guaranteed safe return, every single time.
posted by atoxyl at 3:16 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


The ultimate horror would be to die at work.

But then my lifelong assertion is that I would prefer to be torn apart and eaten by wild animals. Just seems like an exciting and useful way to go. For certain definitions of "exciting" and "useful".
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:25 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living

How could he know that though? How could anyone ever know that?
posted by aubilenon at 3:52 PM on January 5 [12 favorites]


I would prefer to be torn apart and eaten by wild animals. Just seems like an exciting and useful way to go. For certain definitions of "exciting" and "useful".

Useful to the animals at least, in terms of calories.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:05 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Unless you’re cremated — or die in outer space — the animals are going to get your calories regardless of how you go. (Well, what isn’t eaten by bacteria, that is.)

Actually, even if you’re cremated, your carbon will eventually make its way to the plants, and then the animals...
posted by darkstar at 4:22 PM on January 5


You could quicken the pace of that consumption with a sky burial if you don't want to be eaten while alive.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:24 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


my first thought to this was "I bet their phone is passively tracking all of these movements collecting data points anyway, should just find a way to query that"
posted by djseafood at 4:58 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Where is cooking and cleaning represented? I didn't read the whole thing but I scanned and searched it and saw no trace. Surely they aren't including all of that in human functioning, and it seems they didn't include it in the work categories either. Do they not cook and clean for themselves at all?
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 5:16 PM on January 5


I just wanna take a moment to appreciate Vesihiisi's choice of title: "I work less than I thought I did and that's okay". When this showed up on Hacker News a couple days ago it had a more prosaic title of "I logged my activities at 15-minute intervals for the whole year" and a huge ton of the discussion ended up being comments slagging off the author for being so! obsessed! with! productivity! despite that sentiment.
posted by egypturnash at 5:19 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


Where is cooking and cleaning represented? I didn't read the whole thing but I scanned and searched it and saw no trace. Surely they aren't including all of that in human functioning, and it seems they didn't include it in the work categories either. Do they not cook and clean for themselves at all?
human function - the boring stuff I need to do to stay alive (showering, making food, eating and things like that
The template also describes the categories more and laundry and groceries are included in here too.

If you're thinking "there's no way they're spending enough time on these things if they only add up to 1 hr 20 min a day" then you are probably not a person that eats cheese sandwiches for lunch every day and dusts once a year...
posted by brook horse at 5:30 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]




I would pay a lot of money for an average of 7 hours and 45 minutes of unbroken sleep a night, and even more for more.

I'd hardly call it "unbroken" if I have to wake up every 15 minutes to log it.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:42 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


I'd hardly call it "unbroken" if I have to wake up every 15 minutes to log it.

I want to know how they categorize the 15... 30... 45... 60... 90 minutes spent lying in bed convincing oneself to get up. Sleep? Human functions? Idling?

Is this just a me problem?
posted by brook horse at 7:35 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Dear god, I wouldn't want to be interrupted every 15 minutes all bloody year.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:11 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


ok but did she log the time she spent measuring time?
posted by wibari at 10:18 PM on January 5


Sleeping is when your body heals and takes out your brain garbage

Also: Viking.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:13 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Sharks had the right idea when they evolved to let half their brains sleep at a time and just keep swimming through each hemispheric sleep cycle.

I don't want to think about what late-stage capitalism would do with people who didn't need time off for sleep.
posted by entity447b at 12:32 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I'm going to start saying "I'm going to take out the brain garbage" instead of "I'm going to take a nap" from now on.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:46 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I'm going to start saying "I'm going to take out the brain garbage"

It comes from my son... We heard a short interview with the host of this Nature of Things documentary, Dr. Jennifer Gardy, on the local CBC radio show charmingly describing how sleep was a time when your "brain took out the garbage" and my son became obsessed with this idea (as kids sometimes do). And for about a year he'd head up to bed and say "Time to take the garbage outta the ol'brain" as if he was some old grandpa (he was 3 or 4 at the time).
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:37 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


In other pandemic liveblogging news Megan Boyle restarted her Tumblr liveblog for a bit (originally kept in 2013 and later published as a book) and some other writers liveblogged in solidarity.
posted by Cezar Golescu at 2:08 PM on January 6


It comes from my son... We heard a short interview with the host of this Nature of Things documentary, Dr. Jennifer Gardy, on the local CBC radio show charmingly describing how sleep was a time when your "brain took out the garbage" and my son became obsessed with this idea (as kids sometimes do).

I loved The Nature of Things as a kid, so this warms my heart.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:23 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


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