Designing Time

What do our lives look like when broken down to numbers?

Have you ever thought to yourself "where did the day go?". It isn't such a mystery. When using your time effectively, there is a lot more time in the day for yourself than you may believe. For a long time, I've been fascinated with time, and how it can be used to our advantage with the way it is perceived. This design study is a look at visualizing how much of our time is spent on our work life, and self-development in a given week.

In order to construct these visualizations, I had to take some liberties with imagining what a "typical" work day, and week is like for the average American. The numbers presented work on a 40-hour work week, made up of 5 working days (Monday-Friday). Using myself as a "subject", I broke down each day according to 5 categories.

Each color is representing 1 of 5 categories, randomized on a plot.

When visualizing these numbers, each was used according to my approximate daily calculations with 6 1/2 hours of sleep per night, 45 minutes at the gym each day, around 30 minutes of daily travel, and working 8 hours a day. Not surprising, a lot of the time I had to myself was spent staring into a screen on my iPhone.

In this talk, Adam Alter explains that the rise of our personal time, or what I call "development time" is being taken up by staring at screens. This isn't always a bad thing, as somebody could very well be developing who they are by being on a screen doing things like reading, studying, or communicating with others. However, it is the excess amounts of staring at screens that is of concern.

"...That space is incredibly important to us. That's the space where we do things that make us individuals. That's where hobbies happen, where we have close relationships, where we really think about our lives, where we get creative, where we zoom back and try to work out whether our lives have been meaningful. We get some of that from work as well, but when people look back on their lives and wonder what their lives have been like at the end of their lives, you look at the last things they say -- they are talking about those moments that happen in that white personal space. So it's sacred; it's important to us."

Removing the time spent in our "development" time using screens, and mindlessly scrolling through social media sites that, as Alter explains, make us unhappy, our time is cut dramatically short. Designing our time should be centered around development, in any sense of the word that one wants to apply it. From anything like meditation, to spending time with loved ones, maximizing that time is ultimately the best path to designing a productive, and happy schedule.

How are you designing your time?