The first of my many, many time-wasting activities takes place each morning with repeated manipulations of the snooze button on my alarm clock, followed by a dilly-dallying shower and an untoward amount of time spent perusing the offerings of my closet. The snooze button alone gains me (according to my rudimentary math skills) roughly 106 more hours of sleep per year, which is great. But I’m also usually late for work and wearing an outfit that, despite the fifteen minutes I spent ruminating about it, is not really all that cute.
And that’s just the morning. If I add up all the time I spend doing one semi-useless thing or another, I’m sure I would be horrified that I have blithely let slip away precious hour upon precious hour of my one and only earthly life. Seize the day, indeed. I’m sure if I had spent that time more constructively, I would have cured cancer, written the great American novel, negotiated peace in the Middle East, and finally gotten caught up on reading my New Yorkers—or at least figured out how Lost will end. Alas, life is simply too full of tantalizing time-sucks.
The Closet Vortex
What girl doesn’t long for a Carrie Bradshaw–style closet, replete with the most fashionable offerings her budget will allow (and then some)? Such closets, and even smaller, simpler ones, are major culprits in terms of lost time. The average American woman spends sixty-one minutes contemplating her outfits during the course of a week. An hour, ladies. An hour. Just think of what you could accomplish if you got even half of those 3,172 minutes per year back. Where would the human race be if we were even slightly more decisive about what to wear?
For the average person, daydreaming consumes 15 to 50 percent of each day. My aforementioned rudimentary math skills prevent me from breaking that down into actual hours and minutes, but even at the lower, 15–20 percent range, we’re still talking about a good chunk of our days’ being spent woolgathering—fantasizing about how we’d spend our imaginary lottery winnings, envisioning the moment when our boyfriends are finally going to pop the long-awaited question. Happily, some studies have suggested that daydreaming is actually a sign of creativity and intelligence, and many psychologists regard it as a healthy mental exercise, much like meditation, so it would seem to be a worthy undertaking. However, that doesn’t remove the necessity of greeting the grindstone for at least part of each day.
It all seems harmless enough: making a quick stop for coffee on your way to the office; grabbing a bite at the salad place and perhaps running an errand at the pharmacy during your lunch hour; doing a little grocery shopping or making other necessary stops after work. Add all that up and mix it in with more discretionary retail outings, and that’s nearly six and half hours per week that the average woman spends buying stuff. (Unsurprisingly, men roll in at a lazy four hours weekly in the shopping category.) And that doesn’t even take into account the immeasurable hours we spend browsing and fondling and mulling over and justifying various buys; this is simply the time we spend making purchases at cash registers. I’ll not touch on the financial implications of this particular statistic—let’s just say it’s a miracle economic recovery is still described as sluggish.
The Idiot Box
Nothing drains our time reserves like the television. We’ve all been guilty of turning on the TV to catch the last quarter of the game or check to see who’s still on the island and who isn’t—and next thing you know, it’s 2 a.m. That seems like an extreme scenario—or maybe not, if you consider that the average American spends three hours a day watching TV. Twenty-four hours in a day have officially become twenty-one—I thought we needed more time, not less.
Facebook seems harmless enough. You pop in, play a little Farmville, write something snarky on your friend’s wall, do some low-grade stalking of your cute neighbor, and so on. But social networks put television to shame when it comes to eating your time alive. A Nielsen survey determined that users spent 13.9 billion minutes on Facebook…in one month. Granted, that’s 13.9 billion divided by Facebook’s three hundred million users, but still. You wonder where the day goes—now you know. Are your virtual crops worth it?
Something to Cry About
You may not have shed many tears in the last few days, but on average, women over the age of nineteen cry for two hours a week. What sets us off? Just about anything, apparently—without even taking into account the usual hormonal fluctuations that often cause us to weep if we look at a puppy from the right angle. The top causes of tearful female outbursts are weepy movies, relationship worries, breaking up, and the death of a loved one—and, of course, plain and simple exhaustion can weaken our tear ducts’ strongholds.
Between the TV, Facebook, deciding what to wear, shopping, daydreaming, and weeping, it’s a wonder we get anything done at all. My rudimentary math skills suggest that the average American woman spends roughly 3,311 hours each year indulging in all of these activities at least to some extent. There are 8,766 hours in a year. That means that almost half our time is “wasted,” sucked into the vortex of our modern world and all of its tempting distractions. Or you could just call it “living.” Tomato, tomahto.
Updated on March 4, 2011