By Tobias van Schneider Published January 17, 2016
Today I want to take a different perspective on the human lifespan, specifically a human lifespan in today’s world. Doing this helps me zoom out and evaluate if the things I’m doing right now are really important to me, or if I just got stuck in the flow.
It’s easy to get sucked up into things you didn’t want to do in the first place. This could be binge-watching TV for too long. It could be a toxic relationship that took up more years of your life than anticipated. Or it could be working at a job you should have left years ago.
It doesn’t matter what it is and I’m rarely one who regrets. But there is a thought process that helps me get a little more fire under my ass. It helps me to not only MAKE MORE, but also focus more on the things I value.
Let’s say your average life expectancy is 80 years, just for the sake of this thought experiment. I like to break these 80 years down into basic activities. Let’s keep those activities neutral; you can decide which are positive or negative to you.
Of those 80 years, you spend 25 years sleeping, based on a regular eight-hour sleep schedule.
You spend an average of 20 minutes every day in the bathroom. Over the course of 80 years that would be around one year (13 months and one week to be exact).
Then we spend roughly a year being sick throughout our lifetime. This is average, of course — some less, some more.
Based on a study done in the U.S., we spend about an hour every day eating and drinking (not including drinking as a social activity). This ends up being about 32,000 hours or 3.6 years over the course of one lifetime.
Now let’s look at driving, commuting or waiting for the train to come. Based on another study, we spend an average of 1.5 hours every day driving or commuting. That’s about 40,000 hours, assuming you started driving at age 18 all the way to your 80th birthday. So that’s another 4.3 years of our life.
Next, cleaning and body maintenance. In our lifetime, we spend about 1.5 years cleaning our apartment or house. Brushing our teeth comes down to about one month and showering or taking a bath is about six months, for the average person.
And let’s just say another year for getting ready, changing clothes, getting a haircut and all those things. It’s probably a little more than that, but we’ll keep it simple for now.
But let’s take a quick break. All things above together amount to roughly 37 years. Subtracting that from your 80 years, you have 43 years left to fill your life with other things.
Here again, broken up in detail:
- 25y: Sleep
- 1y: Taking a shit
- 1y: Being sick
- 3.6y: Eating and drinking
- 4.3y: Commuting
- 1.5y: Cleaning etc.
- 1y: Getting ready, etc.
= 42.6 years left
I’d categorize all the things above as things you sort of have to do. You could squeeze some hours here and there, but eventually you have to sleep and wash yourself.
So now let’s assume we have a standard 40-hour work week, with two weeks vacation based on the U.S. standard.
For our calculation, we’ll say you work at your full-time job from the age of 20 to age 65. This would mean we spend another roughly 90,000+ hours, or 10.3 years, working in that particular job. A large part of our life.
On top of that, the average American spends about 80,000 hours watching TV, which is roughly 9.1 years. And then another 28,000 hours, or 3.5 years, surfing the Internet. The numbers are probably a little bigger now factoring in Facebook, YouTube and Netflix.
And now let’s say, for the first 10 years of your life you were just figuring it out and didn’t make any decisions for yourself anyway.
- 10.3y: Working
- 9.1y: Watching TV
- 3.5y: Surfing the web
- 10y: Your first 10 years
= 9.7 years left for whatever else there is
So now we’re at 9.7 years left and you’re probably thinking, why the hell is Tobias telling me this?
First of all, all the numbers above are very rough and based on studies I found on the average human being. You can easily go through all this, make the calculations for yourself and end up with fairly similar numbers — maybe off by a few years, but not too much.
“Don’t fear death, fear the un-lived life” ― Natalie Babbitt
The things I listed above aren’t bad. Knowing you spend at least 10 years of your life working isn’t something negative. The question is what are you working on, and how does it affect the other activities in your life? I know that I work a lot, so it’s important for me to know the time I spend working is spent on things I truly love and support.
I love looking at the numbers above. I don’t get obsessed with them, but they serve as a personal guideline. They remind me every day that I have a ton of time, but also that time is limited. It motivates me to do more, experience more, make more — make more of the things that make me happy. On top if it, it helps me prioritize the things I do in my life.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the founder of DESK, nice to meet you!