Frightening Math About Time Wasting

Updated: March 5, 2012

Michael Lovan

Share this article

Please allow my friend, Mathematics, to throw you down to the curb, poke you in the eye, and then proudly lift you up and show you off on its numerical shoulders.

Regardless of your memories gritting your teeth through it in high school, making fun of the teacher, and stealing answers from that person in class, my friend will try to make you proud to refer to yourself as an aspiring "Polymath" by the end of the this article.

What are you an expert at?

Which of these apply to you?
  • I'm an expert in my niche.
  • I'm an expert at surfing the internet.
  • I'm an expert at watching television.

You're around 30-years old, right? And you're an average human being? Then I'm pretty sure you made a mistake there. Not about the niche part - I believed you about that. The second and third boxes - you should have checked them.

Don't be embarrassed. Check it. Frame it. Put it up on the wall. You've spent more time in your life devoted to idle usage of technology than you did earning that degree, so why wouldn't you be proud of it?

I'm big on readings about niches, talking about them, flirting with them, and then kind of forgetting about them for the rest of the day. I spend fifteen minutes being productive on the internet, and then I allow myself to indulge - but just for that site. And maybe that one, too! While we're at it, Facebook status updates aren't going to read themselves, right?

The times we give ourself permission to do things that we're going to forget about - how much of that do you actually remember? That time is the longest, daily blink of your life - you don't remember actually closing your eyes, but you did it so many times it's impossible to keep count.

As a reader of sites like Expert Enough, you're ready to assert control over the course of your life. But in order to do so, it's time to face the math on how you're spending your time not becoming an expert.

Face the Math

Each year provides you with a marvelous 8,760 hours to do with as you will. It may not be the 10,000 that's speculated as being necessary to become an expert in a given field of study, but it's a lot, isn't it?

If you're an average human, however, you spend an average of seven hours a day on technology. Meaning that you've likely spent 319 days out of the last three years becoming fluent in the art of browsing the internet and flipping channels. That's 7,665 hours.

That's excluding time sleeping, by the way. Let's assume the average adult sleeps around eight hours a night. Add those hours in, and you've spent well more than two of the last three years in a sleepy haze.

In case those statistics haven't woken you from your slumber yet, please permit me to give you a cup of coffee:

1 hour wasted a day 365 hours a year Every 24 years you've wasted one year
2 hours wasted a day 730 hours a year Every 12 years you've wasted one year
3 hours wasted a day 1,095 hours a year Every 8 years you've wasted one year
6 hours wasted a day 2,190 hours a year Every 4 years you've wasted one year
12 hours wasted a day 4,380 hours a year Every 2 years you've wasted one year
Those numbers will never change, by the way. If you're only spending one hour a day trying to become an expert, then only at the end of 24 years can you say, "I spent one of those years trying to become an expert."

If it's difficult to put in the time to become an expert at something, spend your time not doing that other stuff. Bring down your daily cumulative idleness to 15 minutes. Because it's only then that you can say, at the end of 96 years, that you wasted one year being idle. Math can't change, but your focus and attention to time management can.

To Learn or Not to Learn

If you don't feel like snuggling up alongside some algebra yet, maybe you should take a look at its family history, going way back to ancient Greece, when it was called Manthanein / μαθαίνω. Which means: to learn. It turns out, mathematics has a shared foundation with the heart of expertise. As such, you should call your high school and issue a few apologies.

It's a shame that numbers can't lie to us. It'd be nice to go back and fill in all the time we spent doing that and fill it in with this. But it's definitely not too late to start accumulating hours towards your goals. Start now. Get some gridded paper and make a chart of your days, and then allocate those hours towards your goals. You'll be absolutely amazed at how quickly time adds up when you don't have a mouse or a remote in your hand.

You may be an expert at using the internet and knowing what will happen next on television, but you still have time to add some more skills to your repertoire. And for those of you who want to try something other than "I'm a Jack-of-all-Trades," try this: "I'm a polymath - a person of wide-ranging knowledge or language."


Subscribe to the Expert Enough newsletter.

Get our latest articles sent to your inbox weekly: