Leveraging Memorial Day: How We Spend Our Precious Time

As we enter an extended U.S. holiday weekend to honor those whose lives were cut short in defense of their nation, we needn't dwell upon the politics of war, but rather the value of life. Let's also set aside the metaphysical and spiritual components and take a more strategic and quantitative approach to our life ROI - one that fits neatly with our daily business practice.

One of my very close friends, Harry, and I get together about two times a month without a specific agenda over coffee, wine or a light meal. Our conversation typically segues from work and family to philosophy and how to live life meaningfully and to the fullest. Harry is 30, and while I'm twice his age, our relationship and discussions transcend our very different life experiences and respective chronology - we learn a lot from each other. Recently, Harry mentioned that his life is overly crowded with social obligations and demands from "friends" and family that leave him with far too little down time. Of course this also involved ruminations over the meaning of friendship, not wishing to offend others and ultimately, how we spend our discretionary time and why.

We're rarely quantitative in these sessions, but I decided to grab my antique tape calculator and run some numbers for Harry. I came up with the following, purely rational scenario:

"Harry, consider that between now and the time you have been on the planet for 65 years (approx 295,680 hours) you will have:

  • Worked 101,000 hours (60 hrs X 48 wks/yr) - 34%
  • Slept 86,240 hours (7 hrs/night) - 29%
  • Had 57,120 awake weekend hours - 19%
  • Had 33,600 awake after work evening hours (4 hours/night) - 11 %
  • Had 16,660 awake vacation hours (4 weeks/yr) - 6%
  • Spent 1,060 hours on the toilet (10 minutes/day) - 1%

So the question, my dear friend, is: How do you wish to spend - and with whom - the approximate 1/3 quasi-discretionary time you have available over the coming years (3,068 out of 8,448 hours per year)?

The hours vary but the percentages are more or less true for all of us. Sobering stats as we break out the G&Ts, consume more LDL pattern B cholesterol than usual, and (perhaps) think about using our finite down time more consciously this Memorial Day Weekend.

Or as Virgil famously wrote in 29 BC: "Sed fugit interea, fugit irreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore, ..."But meanwhile it flees: time flees irretrievably, while we wander around, prisoners of our love of detail."

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