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Why are Adults so busy? (debarghyadas.com)
508 points by bemmu on Sept 14, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 472 comments

Well this is clearly written by someone without committments and children. Young adults used to be having children.

With young kids around, the laundry and responsibility for dependents figures become hours daily, not weekly. When they're a bit older there's less cleaning but now you're running them around more and ensuring they meet their commitments.

With more gadgets, chemicals and domestic appliances we've just invented higher standards and hundreds of new things to do. The to do list is 20x longer, but each task takes less time.

Whilst we might not want to return to weekly bathing and keeping a room, only for visitors, "for best" of Victorian times, some rebalance might be a good idea. Might even turn out to be good for skin and gut bacteria and the rise of eczema etc.

What we don't have, as it's been gadgeted away, is downtime. Kids, and many adults, today can not cope with being bored (the normal state for kids in the 70s for perhaps an hour or two daily). I saw that very clearly with my own kids and all their friends over the years. What used to be a trigger for inventing a game, building a den, or making something new with lego is far more filled with minutes on YT. More and more we've filled every second with things to do - by "necessity" and by choice.

In trying to make life easier most of us no longer seem to have time (or often inclination) to just chill watching the world go by for an hour a day.

Seems it all got too fragmented.

What used to be a trigger for inventing a game, building a den, or making something new with lego is far more filled with minutes on YT.

This hurts to read because it really nails it. This very thing has been on my mind quite a bit lately after watching my older kids now as young adults. We managed to keep them away from much of this simply because we never thought it necessary, but apparently not to the extent I wish we would have. Now with complete freedom of how they spend their time I’m not exactly pleased with the results. They still seem to be lacking the inner drive to create, but instead would rather consume.

My desire was for them to know how to be satisfied from within, developed from their own inner source, not coming from the outside, simply fueled by what they are consuming.

To be fair to yourself, kids often disappoint their parents, but this is more on the parents.

An anecdote: My dad was driven nuts by how much time I wasted as a kid and teen on gaming, and how it seemed that I had few productive interests,never built anything, and stopped projects as soon as I got bored.. He wanted me to be obsessed with something, but few teens are obsessed with anything but not being lonely, social interactions more generally, and just following a random walk exploration. Dad never won those fights to make me serious then. But you know what? As an adult, I am quite different. I am now a post doctoral fellow conducting cutting edge neuroscience, having completed numberous complex, long-term research programmes that have required obsession, grit, and a determination to perfect his craft.

If your kids can avoid the usual pitfalls (e.g. a serious drug addiction) Im sure all your efforts will come into fruition when they are ready to committ themselves.

Today I buy my son Rasberry Pie's, laptops with GameMaker installed, etc hoping he too will find an obsessio. But he too resists i.e. stops as soon as he is bored.

C'est la vie

To be fair to yourself, kids often disappoint their parents, but this is more on the parents.

This is true, yes!

But I am concerned about what this does to them as a person. Life will kick them down (and then in the head for good measure), and a time will come when they are truly standing alone. If they are lacking the inner self, will they have the fortitude and the wherewithal to navigate themselves back up, even without any immediate payoff? Or will this constant need to feed be so ingrained they won’t know how to push through a hard time with little hope and almost zero positive gain, and instead gravitate towards what feels good for the moment?

But, your anecdote offers hope anyway. Thanks for sharing.

There's also value in having a shared culture when in social scenarios. Those hours of watching Simpsons episodes over and over give me points of reference and things to discuss with new people. Those social connections and the ability to make new social connections help when thrown into a new situation (going to college, starting a new job, moving to a new state, ending a relationship and rebuilding social connections).

I wonder if it's some innate drive for kids because it comes up in multiple generations; listening to music, watching tv, on facebook or youtube?

My parents really wanted me to find an obsession as a teen. By the time I was in high school, my parents were fretting that I didn't have an obsession except for doing well all-around in school, so, they proceeded to tell me what they believed I couldn't do successfully. This ruled out everything except for computers. Ironically, my dad didn't understand how anybody could be passionate about computers, and considered it an to be easy field for mediocre people without an obsession.

I still don't really have an obsession. Committing to a field feels so restrictive compared to reading about a variety of things. As a result, I haven't done very well professionally, but my dad, who was obsessed, didn't do well, either.

I don't mean to be rude, but would you mind sharing the type of financial situation you grew up in?

I don't remember wasting that much time as a teenager, since if I wanted something, I needed to get a job and work for it. If there was any chance of my bettering the type of situation I grew up on, I had to make sure my grades were amazing. I had to deal with someone else's serious drug addiction in the family, and try to make sense of it, while committing to myself. I don't know if you were ever physically abused as a child because of the lack of drive?

I'm just saying, you may have had the privilege to waste time on someone else's dime, and everything still worked out alright. Not everyone has that. Some of us, if we're not willing to fight from the get-go, we're going nowhere.

Anwyays, congratulations on your post doctoral fellowship.

I grew up in a neighborhood of dirt and chicken coops. My parents made less than 12k $ per year as I grew up. My parents never attended college and did not know the first thing about it. My privileges included a stable family that pushed me to succeed where they had not, and an above average IQ.

I got through college with my family on student loans, stipends, and food stamps.And you know what, my kids will have opportunities I never even dreamed of. There is no better feeling.

You decide for yourself what my anecdote is worth.

> my kids will have opportunities I never even dreamed of

On another hand your kids are more spoiled with the wealth they were born into and potentially may have lower drive than you have.

Hard to tell how they would turn out.

> your kids are more spoiled with the wealth they were born into

An afghan (?) proverb I barely remember went something like this: "The king's father grew up in a tent; he worked hard, built his house, and led the people well. The king lived in a house but remembered the tent he was born in; he worked hard, built his palace, and led the people well. The king's children were born in a palace; they have never seen a tent. They are lazy and will not lead the people at all."

Maybe you're thinking of the famous quote from the Saudi ruler in the 60s:

"My grandfather rode a Pony, my father rode a Pony, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel,"


The English language version is:

    Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations.

My dad always used to tell us this. I am so happy you reminded me of this proverb ;)

I dedicate my professional life to chipping away at the "drive" required to lead a decent life, and I suspect most software engineers on this forum do too. Our greatest accomplishments as engineers, scientists, etc. are lowering the cost (measured in time and effort) of the things people need. The really deep ones, like food, energy, and medicine, get all the style points. Transportation counts too IMO, but even advertising and finance contribute to productivity (rather than making things cheaper, they make labor worth more).

Economists like to mention that just a few hundred years ago, an average worker's daily wages were only worth ten minutes of artificial light. Now they are worth more than 20,000 hours. This is progress. This is what we do.

Fuck the romanticization of poverty and hardship. That our children do not need to pour as much sweat as us into (literally) keeping the lights on is greatest joy of our success. That drive, grit, pain tolerance, and other survival-mode traits are no longer necessary or adaptive is the best thing that could be happening.

I suspect I will never be able to fully empathize with people who are sad about this. Different mindsets, I guess. Still, I think it's useful for us to be exposed to the opposing perspectives.

Yes, but.

We aren't romanticizing poverty, I'm an engineer too and I'm directly involved in the 20k hours of light part, probably my contribution is a very tiny fraction of it but my children have grown up with not only no desire to work but no real desire to put their all into anything. It's not universal but it does seem more polarized than it was forty years ago when I was the age they are now (20-s).

Of course this is all anecdata but it is something that bothers such a large number of people that I feel there must be a kernel of truth in it.

I'm not sad they don't have to struggle to stay alive, warm, and well fed (not that I ever had to actually struggle either, merely plan ahead a little more) what saddens me is the lack of desire to create. Of course if we go far enough back you had to be creative just to live at all so perhaps we are seeing not a change but merely the revealing of what was always there.

Whenever I start to think this way, I remind myself that "a large number" of adults have been lamenting the same exact deterioration of the youth for hundreds of years, but somehow we keep building, inventing, and progressing.

To be a parent is to worry :)

And I wanted to add something else because you make some very good points.

When I first went off to college I failed. I did not know why I was there or how to do things. I dropped out and worked various jobs e.g. graveyard shifts at AMPM for two years, pizza delivery for a year, driver for a repoman repossessing cars..let me tell you that there were some pretty dark years then..

But I did succeed after failing

The point is not so much a libertarian fairy tale though. It was only after I met my wife and started a family did the focus of my life come together with a vengence. It was only because I received a lot of support from a supportive wife, a stable dad and mom, a good graduate advisor,and a minimally sufficient social services system. Without these I would not have succeeded coming from where I did..

do you make it a habit to shit on peoples' achievements as foregone conclusions because of their upbringing? do you realize that this is an extremely transparent projection of your own insecurities?

I find this with myself. I have articles I want to write and large lists of stuff on index cards on my wall that I want to create.

Every time I come to Hackernews or Slashdot or Reddit, I really should be going to my editor and writing or picking a card off the wall and finishing that thing I want to do.

Obviously, right now, I'm failing. :-P

Saved me the trouble of saying exactly the same.


I also wonder how we manage to stay busy given that most home tasks (dishwashing, laundry, cleaning (roombas) and even cooking - see multicooker devices) are already automated, with "doing laundry" meaning merely loading and unloading the washing machine.

I think you have a good point about idle time being gadgeted away.

Also I think there is a tremendous potential in automation of physical labor (including remaining daily tasks). I wonder how much more free time we would have, if only 10% of workforce that currently does web/mobile/game apps (including myself) would apply their skills to automating their daily life with simple robots.

Also, imagine relatively cheap mass-produced robots that have embedded computer vision and motion planning accessible via DOM-like API (with javascript, of course), and what would millions of web developers do with that, with their current javascript/DOM skills directly applicable to manipulating the physical world. Does it sound too good to be true? I don't know.

Laundry - we have an order of magnitude more clothes than in the 1900s, and wash them much more frequently - far beyond what's needed to not be dirty or smelly. Kids have the same amount, and variety, as adults. Any time saved is far more than compensated for by sheer quantity and frequency compared to olden days.

Dishwashers help with the bulk, but you end up with more dishes in the household (not worth firing up the dishwasher til it's full). With the things they can't do, and the baked food they sometimes miss, the rinsing beforehand, the loading and unloading, the saving is marginal. But 20 mins a day with hands in soapy water isn't fun, so...

Cooking -- we make more interesting things with far more ingredients, as the fridge is the size of a 60s house, rather than just keeping milk and cheese fresh. Or order takeout.

So track record says whatever future inventions bring us to save time, work (and chores) will expand to fill time available, and we'll be even more fragmented, with even more stuff.

> So track record says whatever future inventions bring us > to save time, work (and chores) will expand to fill time > available, and we'll be even more fragmented, with even > more stuff.

Well then, just don't buy the stuff! Exercise some self-control.

Self control vs £bns of advertising to give us new hangups and solutions.

How's that working out for obesity?

I think it's important to realize that advertising is mostly lying. Once you realize that, you can be a much more careful purchaser of $stuff. Sure it takes time to figure out what you really need/want, but you've got a lifetime to do so. What is real, what is just some myth you've been following to make sense of the world (which does NOT make sense?) Sometimes you've gotta jump and latch onto another myth.

> How's that working out for obesity?

Personally? I am in tip top shape fellow gentle person. Tip top. I found that things don't make me happy, but experiences do.

Unfortunately, just because you know something is a lie, doesn't mean that that kills its power, especially if it was a very convincing, detailed, life-like lie. Our wetware isn't so advanced (simple?) as that; the consequences of sensory input on the subconscious are varied and complex.

It's pretty easy: if it's too good to be true, it probably is.

Find out where you get your advertising from and then stop going there.

Bye Google.

Doing laundry is still the most time consuming task because it's done sequentially. If there's any build up at all it throw it in the wash, wait, move it to the drier, wait, unload, fold and put away.

Multiple loads means a multi hour time commitment to being on stand by to transfer and continue the process.

The programmer in me actually has resorted to throwing everything in the car and driving to a laundry mat if I have a build up for some life reason. Then I can wash and dry 12 loads concurrently and be done with it all in about 2 hours. Laundry mats are "the cloud" of home chores.

Now if somebody ever manages to automate the process of transitioning from washer, to drier, to sorted and folded in the home then they will rightly make a fortune as the time savings would be off the charts.

Laundry is actually one chore that doesn't bother me, and I don't even have in-home machines. My laundromat is two blocks away, serves food, beer and (if I fail time management and don't finish before it begins) truly, really horribly bad comedy acts.

I load my little wheelie-cart, my laptop for some work or a book if I have time, and do what I'd normally do somewhere else for a couple hours. The only real differences are minimal interactions with humans, a need for quarters, and having to wear pants.

Folding is tedious. I hang everything except T-shirts, and some way to skip folding things simply to hang them at home would be nice, but that would involve a vehicle, which is its own bundle of urban hassle and silly for two blocks.

I've always wondered why someone didn't build a vertical washer-dryer combo, about the size of a fridge, where the clothes in the washer portion at the top simply drop into the dryer portion at the bottom (possibly assisted by a mechanical push) and start the dryer portion automatically. Bonus if you can then push the dry clothes out the side into a waiting basket, but not totally necessary. Perhaps stability is a factor with the washer being on the top, but I'm OK with bolting it to my basement floor if necessary.

There are all-in one units using a single drum. I've never investigated but my understanding is that they're pitched primarily for more space-constrained situations. (Example: http://www.homedepot.com/b/Appliances-Washers-Dryers-All-In-...)

I'm not sure of the tradeoffs. If you have the space, doing laundry while you're in the house for other reasons and transferring manually is the least of the effort.

The problem with those units is that you can't start a new load in the washer before the previous load finishes in the dryer, because there's only one drum. So if you want to run several loads, it takes twice as long.

But you could have two of them in the same area.

If you've got space for 2 machines, you can increase energy efficiency by using the specialized machines.

You waste a lot of energy heating up and drying the drum, too, compared with a conventional dryer, where you're only drying the actual clothes.

I have one and it's awesome, Europe has smaller homes do they are much more common here I think.

I had one once, an all-in-one combo unit with the ventless dryer. The mechanism it used to dry clothes didn't work very well, and the clothes never actually got fully dry.

Mainly because engineering machines that deal with water plus electronics plus moving parts, and making the whole shebang reliable is really hard.

Yeah, and adding hot air plus a load of flammable material to the mix doesn't make things any easier. Also, I don't think the optimal load sizes for standard-sized washers and driers match up terribly well.

The biggest issue with both that and the single drum units another comment mentioned is that if there's more than one load you still have to be on stand by to put it in, so you're only saving time on the transfer of a single load.

For the single drum units, you lose the ability to wash 1 load while another is drying. The perk is that you can throw a load in when you leave for work and it will be done when you get back home. If you have more than one those, you're extending your total wash time from

wash * loads + (1 dry time)


(wash + dry time) * loads

Though, given how... interesting the reliability is on dryers and especially single-drum washer-dryers, it's probably best not to leave them on while you're out if you want your house to be there when you get back.

Yes my relatives had a house fire caused by an unattended clothes dryer, probably something to do with the exhaust (exact cause couldn't be determined). I wouldn't leave a dryer running when I'm not there.

Full size washer dryer combo units are $1500 and then you still have to pay for water electricity and detergent and have the hookups and space. $1500 goes a long way towards a laundry delivery service.

That's $20/Mo. How much is laundry service?

Washer/dryer combos using a single tub are commercially available.

I have a washer and dryer in one unit, I use its quick wash-dry cycle and if I dont overload I just take it out ans fold it, haven't ironed anything in about 6 months!

laundry is the only thing i outsource and it's worth every penny, because it's shared machines and everyone knows how incredibly miserable that is when things don't go perfectly right, which is to say, all the time.

i am considering replacing my (unused, broken) dishwasher with a small combo washer dryer and continue doing dishes and cleaning by hand. i think that would be the optimal setup in terms of time and effort and money spent.

> I wonder how much more free time we would have, if only 10% of workforce that currently does web/mobile/game apps (including myself) would apply their skills to automating their daily life with simple robots.

The skills for building a robot are quite different from the skills for building "classical" software. For example for classical software one can do correctness proofs/analysis, while for robots one can only do empirical tests or correctness proofs relative to a strongly abstracted world model. So in other words: Applying their (existing) skills into that direction would not have much value. On the other hand: If these people were investing years to develop the skills necessary for robot development, this would probably help; but who of this group is really willing (and can afford) to do so?

>The skills for building a robot are quite different from the skills for building "classical" software.

I'd object that on the contrary, arduino and http://www.espruino.com/ require mostly the same skills (plus some basic maker-tier hardware skills which are easy to gain). For example Espruino is programmed in javascript. I have bought ESP8266 boards for 3.5$ each and with espruino firmware that gives me a wifi-enabled computer for IoT or smart home tasks. I have done some simple smart home projects that provide a web interface (hosted on espruino!) to some functionality.

Of course there are robotics specifics - computer vision, motion planning (also forward, inverse kinematics), but these functions in principle could be hidden behind an opaque DOM-like APIs, while being implemented in a very advanced manner (e.g. trained deep learning models for vision, best SLAM algorithms, best planning algorithms). Just like the browser doesn't require you to draw webpages pixel-by-pixel on raw framebuffer and provides you with fonts, block model, events etc.

>For example for classical software one can do correctness proofs/analysis, while for robots one can only do empirical tests or correctness proofs relative to a strongly abstracted world model.

Objection #1: Almost nobody does correctness proofs in application and even in system software (e.g. the linux kernel), and yet these software projects work quite well, for example it is known that SpaceX uses Linux (with various patches) as a platform for its in Dragon and Falcon. In fact correctness proofs are mostly done by hardware companies, for some functional blocks, and maybe by the military. If you are interested in exploring this question further you can read "How did software get so reliable without proof?" by C.A.R. Hoare [1].

Objection #2: Proofs of correctness in logical or probabilistic sense are being done for various real systems by Cyber-Physical Systems community and by Machine Learning community.

>So in other words: Applying their (existing) skills into that direction would not have much value.

I still think that given good blackbox abstractions and familiar API much could be done. We can see beginning of it with maker community, arduinos and espruinos. More should be possible.

>but who of this group is really willing (and can afford) to do so?

Myself !

I think programmers, investors and customers should be less averse to hardware. We could live much more pleasantly if it were true. Underautomated status-quo is daunting.

1. https://www.gwern.net/docs/math/1996-hoare.pdf

As soon as you have to buy something that takes up physical space, the "skills", or maybe better put the "mindset", becomes quite different. I don't think I can explain it very well. In principle someone who can understand a flow diagram (which is, to only mildly exaggerate, all a circuit diagram is) and master the complexity of getting a web application published online should be able to do what you did with the $3.50 board. They almost certainly could do everything in a short amount of time at a workshop with all the hardware provided and a printout of instructions. But once they're home, without a similar set of instructions for "buy this here, do this, do that, to accomplish this" it's unlikely you're going to see much robotic/smart-home creativity even after a workshop. Meanwhile unlimited complexity and creation can be had in the web app realm without having to leave the comfort of your keyboard, or even having to buy anything.

I just remembered this post which I think helps better capture some of what I'm talking about: https://plusbryan.com/its-just-wood But I think there's something else besides avoiding things that are mysterious. I think it has something to do with the physicality of the thing. At least something else is needed to understand the weird reluctance with working with hardware that a lot of software-only people have, who differently from the general public (who can't even use their computers) are sharp enough to battle with mind blowing complexity and solving mysteries of bugs or how new languages or APIs work every day behind their screens.

Abstraction for robots isn't a unique idea(see ROS.org) . And i think it's part of the reason we see growth in robots sold for businesses. But The constraints(cost/size/safety/envirnment complexity) are so much bigger in the home - so probably the tech isn't yet mature enough.

Dishwashers only save a little time. Most dishes still have to be rinsed in the sink first or else the leftover food plugs up the machine. And then putting away dishes takes just as much time.

Doing laundry is a lot more than loading and unloading. If you have small children then you have to check everywhere for stains and apply something like Spray 'n Wash first. And then folding takes a lot of time. (There is a folding machine launching soon but it's expensive and might not be reliable https://www.foldimate.com/ .)

I've tried a couple of different Roombas. They simply don't work very well. The rollers get tangled on rug fringes. They get stuck under furniture. The suction is weak. They require frequent cleaning. In the end it's less hassle just to use a regular vacuum.

> Dishwashers only save a little time. Most dishes still have to be rinsed in the sink first or else the leftover food plugs up the machine. And then putting away dishes takes just as much time.

If this is the case your dishwasher sucks. Other than knocking big chunks (bones, cobs, etc...) into the trash there's no need to pre-rinse dishes on a competent machine.

I do agree that dishwashers don't save as much time as you would hope, but they do help. Handwashing and drying is slow.

The laundry machine is absolutely faster than beating your clothes against the washboard, but yes, it doesn't check for stains and it is still a big time sink.

Roombas suck. No argument there. Vacuuming a room is actually pretty quick, it's picking up all of the stuff first that takes forever when you have kids.

Drying takes no time for me because I don't do it. All the plates that are in daily use are on a rack beside the sink.

I think the problems you described could be solved if we made tiny adjustments to our lifestyles and environments to make it much easier for automated systems to navigate and interact with it. For example make a choice of not having rugs, having QR codes in rooms, having a track on the ladder in your home, etc. The clothing and dishes could be customized to faciliate handling as well.

It seems to me that western people have become too entrenched in their familiar lifestyle and it is too hard for current technology to adapt to it as is. And so we live in a status quo where a tiny rich minority can afford to hire human servants to do their chores while middle class can neither hire human servants nor buy robotic ones.

I don't want to live in a world without rugs.

Maybe it is possible to design a robot-friendly rug or a rug-friendly robot locomotion mechanics!

Don't forget turning out the pockets of all kids clothes. You don't want that 1/2 pack of bubble gum going through the wash :(

>I've tried a couple of different Roombas. They simply don't work very well.

Your experience is much different from mine. I bought a Roomba, then bought another Roomba, because I realized I needed Roomba redundancy.

Could not imagine life without Roomba!

I don't have carpet and no rugs. On hard surfaces I find Roomba does a better job then manually sweeping. But maybe different with carpet.

Don't rinse dishes before loading the dishwasher: http://www.consumerreports.org/video/view/home-garden/energy...

Does that apply when the dishwasher takes 4 days to fill?

My dishwasher drains into the garbage disposal, so chunks of food that come off are easily dispatched. Every once in awhile I have to run the same plate through twice.

Interesting you mention that. I am currently obsessed with building a robot with great vision. I.e it sees things in 3D space rather than just pixels. This things can be queried like a Dom API.

I'm studying up on udacity about ML and CV. Reading papers and just exploring the domain.

I think the future is amazing.

The rise of single-parent homes wipes out a lot of idle time despite the savings of automation.

I am glad you touched on gadgets. I feel like the central culprit right now is our smart phones. Digital media so easily accessible than any other time before because of the smart phone. We also get more distracted because of the constant notifications. My dad came back from work and there was no email to ask him for status updates after work. I also see my gym workouts taking longer than usual because I am constantly checking emails and replying to them because somebody's hair is on fire.

That doesn't sound healthy. The gym is one place you can relax your mind and not focus on daily worries. To be expecting a call from work ruins that. I'd turn the phone off if politically and practically tenable.

With young kids around, the laundry and responsibility for dependents figures become hours daily, not weekly.

I started dropping off our laundry at my local laundromat about 6 years ago, it immediately improved my quality of life. Now if only they would put it away for me.

So they wash, dry, and fold your clothes for you? I've only seen/heard of places where you throw in coins and return for your things later.

In New York City, "Wash and Fold" is incredibly common. Most places will even pick up/drop off from where you live.

Yes, I pay $1 a pound, and I pick it up the next day folded nicely or on hangers.

> Now if only they would put it away for me.

Sounds like an opportunity for a startup!

</joke> ... or so I thought.

I keep catching myself thinking or using the excuse I have no time, but I mostly spend my time on the internet or watching TV. Some nights I do the dishes or actually go for a walk, go grocery shopping, but mostly I'm just hanging on, making sure I'm ready for he next day. I'm freaking addicted to information and the internet, which leave me feeling frantic. I forgo sleeping for the internet and it brings me little pleasure. I wish I could stop, but like this morning I was sitting on the couch with nothing to do and I had to go get my phone which I've probably wasted 20 minutes on. It doesn't seem like much time but I could have gone to get toilet paper from the store which I sort of could use right now. I'd like to hear this lost from someone older, who was in the 80s or 90s and hear their perspective. I know my parents at least are hooked into the internet entertainment machine like I am and they didn't use to be. Was there more time? Was it better?

> from someone older, who was in the 80s

There was the same amount of time, but it was allocated differently.

There were phone calls. If somebody calls you on the phone, you stop doing what you're doing and talk to them.

Apart from that, time was scheduled in larger chunks, with fever context switches. You watch a movie start to finish, not a bunch of 2 minute Youtube videos. You spend an evening printing photos in the dark room rather than two seconds on Instagram. You go to a chess club and play with somebody sitting across the table.

So generally you do one thing at a time for longer stretches, and have to plan those activities in advance.

Yes to all your points. With respect to watching TVs and movies, you also had to basically be in front of the TV at the right time for at least part of that period--I don't think I had a VCR until 1988 or so. I tried to watch the evening news as I didn't get a daily newspaper.

Shopping was mostly physical shopping other than a few catalogs. I remember going into the city once a month or so to go to bookstores etc.

Bills were all a matter of writing physical checks once a week or so.

I also had a shareware software business during that period. So one of my weekly tasks was stuffing floppies into floppy mailer envelopes. (They could choose 3.5" or 5.25" formats with or without printed docs.)

ADDED: I should say that I spent a fair amount of time on BBS's prior to Usenet/Web.


What wouldn't I give to have such attention span! I can't even watch a movie these days (months? um, years?). Yesterday I alt-tabbed to chrome and opened HN while hearing the movie that I was in the middle of watching. Yes, I have a PC connected to my TV! What is wrong with me?!

I want to be able to read a non-technical book fully and I can't and I'm very unhappy about this whole situation.

>> What wouldn't I give to have such attention span!

It's surprisingly easy when forced. I moved apartment a few years ago to a small seaside town (mostly retirees and a few locally run shops). We had an old CRT style TV with very few channels. For the first two weeks we had no internet. It was pretty interesting how our differently we would spend the day. My friend and I would take walks around town or the beach, go surfing for a few hours, cook instead of ordering takeout, and then spend the rest of the time hanging out in the living room. The TV was on but we were mostly just chatting. Switch to two weeks later when we got internet. We spent much more time in our rooms on our computers playing video games or watching Netflix. We would still surf a couple of times a week but besides that we would only hangout for an hour or two in the evening if there was a good movie on TV. As frustrating as it was at times not having internet access I would say I was much happier during those first 2 weeks and with so few options for things to do my attention span was automatically much better.

You can't focus on a task probably because they're all rubbish. The movie you're watching is rubbish, the website on your chrome only mildly interesting and HN the usual predictable progressive groupthink. They're all mildly entertaining: not anywhere near interesting. Find something more interesting and it will keep you hooked. Book suggestion btw, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinker_Tailor_Soldier_Spy

Good suggestion!

If you can, try reading The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. It's not perfect, but it will get you thinking about how and why your attention span got to be the way it is. It will also give you hope, because you'll realize that it's totally within your power to change it (and rather quickly, too).

Your message started with "What wouldn't I give to have such attention span!", and it turns out that you don't need to give all that much. Getting started is difficult, though.

If you do start down this path, consider reading Deep Work by Cal Newport to give you some ideas about how you can use the focus and concentration abilities you're building. Again, it's not perfect, but if you take the book as a list of suggestions rather than a strict prescription of what you should do, you'll probably find that you can adapt its lessons to make your life better.

Realize that it is a skill that can be trained. The current environment does encourages short attention spans. Working on your attention span needs to be deliberately. First understand your current ability. What is the longest show you can watch without feeling the need to engage in a different activity? How many pages you can read in a book before becoming distracted?

Work on engaging in those activities a little bit longer then you currently can, and slowly increase the duration. Use a timer to set a limit. This would need to be done with regularity and focus.

I started listening to books, fiction, while I worked. It was the best choice I made it a long time. The only time I can't listen and work is when I am planning or doing architectural work where I need an inner monologue.

I can't do movies either. 2 hours is way too long to focus on a single thing.

I think a more representative answer is that people used to slump in front of the TV for long[er] periods whereas now people fiddle with their phones.

...and people wonder why ADHD diagnoses have been on the rise.

I've known that I've had an internet addiction for years. I've tried to break it multiple times but always relapse. Something that makes it hard is that there are real, tangible benefits to spending time online, even just aimless browsing and stumbling into things. I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for certain random links I clicked on at certain times.

The important thing is that I need to always remember that it's an addiction and I need to get it under control. I think limiting myself to a half hour or hour a day would be best.

I've tried to break it multiple times but always relapse.

Possible there is some positive there as well, and it keeps drawing you in. Instead of thinking of it as an addiction, think of it as something you do, that is part positive and part empty. Identify those parts that are positive, and praise yourself for them. Then over time, identify those parts that are empty, and realize, "oh, I can eliminate this."

That is excellent advice for many lifestyle sorts of things :)

> I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for certain random links I clicked on at certain times.

I have to imagine you'd say the same thing about whatever hobby you could use to fill this time with. Perhaps your hobby leads to new friends, business opportunities, skills, or other general improvements in your daily life.

Interesting you bring this up. I also felt that maybe <5% of the links I've clicked on have really changed the way I think or led me down a path that ended up changing my path in life. How do you put a price on that? You can't, really.

I was about in the 70s and 80s. Still the same number of hours in the day and internet was largely replaced by reading and TV. I don't know if it was better or worse. I think I prefer the internet. At least you can type stuff into it unlike books and TV.

I tell my kids about how much TV I watched in the 70's and 80's. I loved TV! I still do.

My kids (14 and 13) don't watch any TV. They don't even particularly like movies.

What do your kids do instead of TV?

They have a lot of school homework. Far, far more than I ever had.

They do a lot of arts and crafts, they play games (board games and video games), and one spends quite a bit of time playing the piano. They both are spending more and more time talking with friends either in person or on Facetime or IM.

The video that they do watch is pretty much exclusively on YouTube.

I remember my grandparents trying to make sure they got all their evening chores done so they could sit down age watch Wheel of Fortune when it came on. They didn't have a lot of free time on weeknights, but it was because of how they chose to spend it.

I'm guessing that many people who are now alive would have just sat in front of the TV instead if there were no Internet.

The internet on your phone is kind of uniquely addictive. You can basically replace any downtime with playing on your phone.

The sad thing is it can jump into the middle of any activity. Getting lunch, wait one second text message which you need to respond to right now.

I think it's rarely that you actually need to respond to any text message immediately.

In theory you're right. However, the expectation is someone will respond with ~"Thx, in meeting" unlike a phone where you may just let it go to voicemail, there is no message failed to get though feedback.

So, you get sent a text and people will generally assume you are ignoring them unless you respond.

I don't know anybody that assumes that unless you let it go for days. Texting is asynchronous just like email, for a reason.

It's possible you two just hang out in social groups with different norms.

What I meant was that while I'm sure some people do think that, it's unreasonable. That's the same person who send multiple text messages "are you there?" "where are you?" "I need you" "call me" etc minutes or seconds apart. It hasn't occurred to them that the phone is off or silent or in another room or notifications are off or they've been explicitly muted.

You are both right, it just depends on the situation.

> However, the expectation is someone will respond with ~"Thx, in meeting"

If you check your phone in a meeting, and you don't have a family member in the hospital, you're wrong. It's discourteous in the extreme to check a smartphone (or noodle around on a laptop!) when meeting with others.

We have a rather family friendly attitude at work so the norms are probably a little different. There is no way to know ahead of time if someone is in the hospital. Now someone is stilling there holding the phone and looking at it, taking an extra ~15 seconds to respond is not a big deal. Now, if someone is going to respond in depth the expectation is they will leave.

Also, there are more and less formal meetings, but in a technical meeting checking some point online with a laptop or phone occurs on a regular basis. It seems much more productive than having people just say random things that don't match up with reality.

> Now someone is stilling there holding the phone and looking at it, taking an extra ~15 seconds to respond is not a big deal.

Meetings should be short and to the point: 15-30 minutes should be normal, an hour abnormal. 'I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention' is rude, and so is wasting every other participant's time while context switching back to the meeting.

> Also, there are more and less formal meetings, but in a technical meeting checking some point online with a laptop or phone occurs on a regular basis.

Sure, but people shouldn't be programming, working on their personal blogs, reading reddit, checking HN, catching up on the latest Wikipedia articles, browsing Google News or whatever when they're in a meeting.

Participants in a meeting owe one another their attention.

OK, in a theoretical world where meetings aren't hours long with no agenda and tons of circular, pointless discussion, I agree.

> OK, in a theoretical world where meetings aren't hours long with no agenda and tons of circular, pointless discussion, I agree.

Well, an agenda is part of the courtesy the meeting convener owes the participants, and a well-run meeting is part of the courtesy the chairman owes the participants.

Meetings are incredibly expensive: everyone owes it to their organisation, one another and themselves to make that expense worth it.

Or we can get work done during the parts of the meeting that sent relevant to us, drastically decreasing the meeting cost.

If you shouldn't be in the meeting, leave. If you should be, stay. If the meeting should be split up, then advocate for it to be split up. If it should be structured differently, then advocate for it to be structured differently.

You owe attention to your fellow participants.

Yeah, that would be nice, but I'm not going to change the world just by thinking so.

> Yeah, that would be nice, but I'm not going to change the world just by thinking so.

Then take action! You are not a passive victim of circumstances: you are an active participant in, among other things, meetings; demand that your fellow-participants behave politely.

Take responsibility for your destiny.

I'm frankly shocked that so many people seem to disagree so strongly with my belief that texting in a meeting is rude, discourteous and unprofessional.

Many people believe that what is important is getting stuff done, not social status grooming with shows of allegiance in meetings.

Is there any practical reason, that makes texting rude, discourteous, and unprofessional, besides that it unflatters someone's ego?

I'd like to draw a distinction here between unflattering someone's ego and being disrespectful to that person.

I, personally, don't think I'd be affected by "unflattering". In many circumstances, though, noodling around on a laptop in a meeting is communicating to the presenter that their presentation is unworthy of your time or attention - that is to say, you are disrespecting the presenter.

I think it's a moving scale, though, dependent on the importance of the subject of the meeting and the relationship of the attendees. In a casual meeting between friends, with low-importance subject matter, I would consider undivided attention unnecessary (and therefore exceptionally respectful if given). In a business environment, where the subject is business related, I would consider it necessary (and therefore the opposite is exceptionally disrespectful).

> Many people believe that what is important is getting stuff done, not social status grooming with shows of allegiance in meetings.

It's not about shows of allegiance: it's about being present for your fellow-participants.

> Is there any practical reason, that makes texting rude, discourteous, and unprofessional, besides that it unflatters someone's ego?

Human beings can't multitask: every second you're texting is a second of meeting content you're missing. It is rude, because it says to those speaking, 'what you are saying is not as important as what I am reading or typing.' It is discourteous, because it wastes their time. It is unprofessional, because a professional would do others the politeness of turning down the meeting if he doesn't believe his presence is needed, rather than attending and ignoring.

To a certain degree. When the Chuck Norris infomercial came on after midnight, you knew it was time to go to bed. With the internet there's always something interesting. And around midnight, the people in Europe are up, so you could start chatting with them.

Are you saying you've never wasted your time online looking at the digital equivalent to a juicer informercial?

Reading the newspaper and magazines was basically the equivalent before the internet, I think. With the paper you'd eventually run out of stuff to read in a day, but if you had enough magazine subscriptions, you could find something marginally interesting.

I think one difference other than the never-ending aspect of the internet is that when you're reading a newspaper or book you get sleepy when you're supposed to, whereas if you're looking at a screen the blue light keeps you awake longer and all your chores take longer the next day because you have less energy.

Newspapers and magazines used to be unbelievably huge.

Weekend newspapers would kill you if dropped on your head from a modest height. Magazines had hundreds of ad pages.

Non-ad content used to be much longer. Many features and columns were equivalent to a long-read feature today.

This issue of Byte from 1981 (about Smalltalk) is a 312MB PDF with nearly 500 pages:


I think the blue light issue may be overstated. I used to read paper into the early hours, even after I was tired and sleepy. I still get a "must sleep now" cut off, even when surrounded by screens. It just happens later.

What isn't overstated is information volume. Hacker News and Reddit literally give you more links/features in 24 hours than Byte used to offer once a month. Each item may be shorter - sometimes - but there are many, many more things to read.

When I was programming on my Apple ][ during the 80s, my mom would joke that computer minutes must be a lot longer than real minutes, because when she would call me for dinner, I'd tell her I'd be there in five minutes but instead would lose track of time for twenty minutes.

Now, because of smartphones, it seems everyone is caught in this same time distortion field.

As a result I purposefully try to look at my phone as little as possible.

Think of it this way, if through some sort of Matrix like situation our first experience of the outside world was through a small touchscreen, and then suddenly you took the red pill and were put into a world where you could touch, smell and see in full 360 degrees and feel wind and water and move and climb over things and interact with animals etc...it would blow your mind.

So why are we allowing ourselves to limit our experiences in this way?

>>I'm freaking addicted to information and the internet, which leave me feeling frantic.

You just need to understand you are not missing out on anything by not doing so.

This sort of internet addiction isn't just destroying productivity for grown up adults but studying habits of teenagers and school going kids too.

Try to take it 15 minutes at a time. Try staying away from internet 15 minutes at a time, then the next 15 and so on, I think it should work out perfect well.

You'd probably enjoy Clay Shirky's book "Cognitive Surplus", which really put into perspective for me what this apparent glut of time I had on my hands meant.

There's an excerpt at: http://mentalfloss.com/article/18670/gin-sitcoms-and-cogniti...

I know the feeling. In the last few months, I've wanted to play though some video games so I can "review" them on my blog... but there's not much point since I haven't gotten around to setting up my web server since I reformatted it last month with the new Ubuntu LTS and encrypted it.

What have I been doing instead? Riding my bike around town. Hanging out with friends. Not bad, but I've also taken up watching Youtube for hours every night.

Not bad, but I've also taken up watching Youtube for hours every night.

The key is to not overwhelm yourself and to do something towards your goal. For example, don't try to set up the entire blog in one night, instead do a micro-portion, "oh, I better start downloading the webserver before I watch youtube." Or even, "oh, I better plug my server in and turn it on."

The key is to do something every night, and cut it into pieces small enough that it's doable. If you find yourself putting it off, that means you need to cut it into an even smaller portion.

I prefer to just get a large chunk done for most stuff, because personally the hard part is getting (re)started at all and figuring out where I got to.

I tried to do it all last night: got it installed, db set up, and even a certificate. It didn't feel that overwhelming, and it started to be kind of fun after a while, but something went wrong somewhere just shy of it actually working. I'll try it again sometime.

This could be the story of just about any tech-related project I try to undertake on weekends and evenings. I've found I'm happier just paying money to make some of the problems I was trying to solve go away, giving up on a bunch of others, and just focusing my effort on the handful that remain—which still tend to linger for months or years with many stops and starts before being finished.

Too much effort all at once. Really, just set your goal to spend five minutes looking at it.

It's incredible how much time you can blow on the internet or TV, vs what you can do with it in the real world.

I went for a run last week, and got to marveling how I had run from my front door into the mountains & back, how gradually the time had passed, and how those two hours would have zwip vanished in a forgettable blink had I been online.

but like this morning I was sitting on the couch with nothing to do and I had to go get my phone which I've probably wasted 20 minutes on.

It's amazing how fast the time can slip by.

I tend to try to think of time as I think of space. If I clutter my space with a bunch of small things, I find that I think myself to be cluttered, and the disorder causes me unease. But if all the small things have their own places, and I keep putting them back when I take them out, it feels orderly, and there is no unease. It's really the same for me with time. If I clutter my time with a bunch of small, meaningless tasks (check facebook, check email, read that article that takes maybe 2 minutes, ..., loop), I find that that, too, causes me unease. But if I set aside time for those things, and only those things, there is no problem. I build things into a routine, as much as possible, and for the rest, I try to schedule the time I think I'll need, so that I can say "I don't need to think about X right now, because I will have time for it later."

I even try to schedule in periods where I do allow myself shallow work, like checking a bunch of things, or sating the information addiction that you and I most certainly share. Right now, I have maybe 50 tabs open between a bunch of aggregated tech/science news sites, and I'll spend maybe 1 minute at most on each one. If I did that just any time of day that I had a period of empty time, it would be just like if I left clutter anywhere that I had empty space. But since I've devoted this time to this task, it's kind of like putting everything you need for a project out on a table, then packing it up neatly when you're done with the project for the day. I know an end to the clutter is in sight, so it doesn't bother me so much.

The hardest part is always trying not to fill empty time meaninglessly. That takes skill, but it can be learned. I find I'm better at it when I've been keeping up with daily meditation in the morning and evening. But even if meditation isn't your thing, you can practice in other ways. For instance, when you are eating dinner, try to only be eating dinner. It seems awkward at first, to sit in silence (especially with a partner present) and just eat, but that fairly quickly goes away. Or, in the mornings, if you have coffee or tea, just drink coffee or tea and sit in silence. I tend to keep a notebook handy, and if something particularly strikes me during the silence, I write it down and let myself come back to it after I've finished my coffee.

I don't think it was any different before the popularity and ease of access of the internet. People assume that others were focusing on longer sessions of focus, but I don't think that's the entire truth. I think as a species, we've always struggled with this anxious itch to move on to the next thing, mere moments after starting the current thing. I think that's why (as you note) a lot of the older generations are turning to using the internet in much the same way as the younger generations.

If I clutter my space with a bunch of small things, I find that I think myself to be cluttered, and the disorder causes me unease

My problem with that is that the mess in my room matches the mess inside my head. Do I feel bad that there are things all over the floor? Nope, it is really comfortable because it matches who I am.

I don't know how to solve this problem.

I can understand this - I've been there, and I know plenty of people who are still there. I think you've got your answer in what you've said, though. Your room matches your mind. But it's not just an input/output thing, there's a feedback loop that makes both worse, as either gets worse. Start by making your environment match what you want your mental state to be. Just hold on to that idea for a while. Say, a couple weeks of keeping everything orderly. Then reevaluate your mental state, and see if there's anything that feels like the next natural step. Don't worry about what that will be right now. You might find it's buying an agenda book, and scheduling everything, or you might find that you need to fix your sleep schedule. You may even find that you need to treat your free time as extremely high value, and only do things that you feel genuine ecstatic desire to do. What works for you might be different from any of these things, and you can look at what others do, but what comes next will usually arise naturally from doing what's right now.

When I look at my 4 yr old son, what really strikes me is the way he lives in the moment. He does not care about the future one single bit. He does what he wants to do (or has to do) and that is his entire world at that moment. No worries, no planning, no "I have to save some energy because I still have to do X in 2 hours and then Y, and when am I finally going to finish Z?" He just goes until he drops. When he comes home from a camping trip, which seemed quite intensive, activity packed, he runs into the garden and starts to jump on the trampoline. The he cries because he doesn't want to go to bed but is asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow... Until he jumps out again to play with his cars. There is only now.

I feel the answer is in there. Live more in the now and experience the calmness, even though you may be just as busy as ever. Busyness is just a label you put on your activities yourself. I'm sure my son does not understand being busy and if he would he would label it as a positive feeling. Busyness is a feeling caused by thinking of all the things you still have to do. Some people feel it when they have to do shopping and cook on 1 day, some people seem to never feel it even though they shop, cook, visit friends, work and do sports on 1 day. It's very subjective and there are techniques (mindfulness?) to feel it less than you do now.

To be fair, it's a lot easier to live in the moment when the planning is someone else's responsibility, i.e. Your son can live in the moment because you're the one buying the food, paying the bills


That is of course true, but do you have to think about the shopping now, when you know you will do it at 20:00?

This is why I like having a good todo-list and note-taking system, I can offload those concerns and not think about them until they're needed.

I then have plenty of spare capacity for both generalised planning and chilling out.

Any tips on not obsessing over how detailed/well-planned your notes need to be?

For me, note-taking just ends up being something else to worry about. Particularly when it comes to work.

I chose a system with super fast capture and sort, and I have reminders scheduled to view and re-sort everything I've captured at specific intervals. This is working for me, for the first time ever.

Which system did you choose?

Emacs org-mode. You can write capture templates that populate the file of your choice with boilerplate of your specification, and you fill in the rest, and it's all tied to the keystroke of your choice. Then another keystroke of your choice pulls up lists of any or all of your captures, sorted chronologically or by category or both, and it's single keypresses to sort/resort into new categories. As with all things Emacs, it's a learning curve, but feels like magic once you have it set up the way you like it. I have capture templates for work for Right Now, Today, This Week, Coming Up, Ongoing, Pending, Done, Daily Log, and Meeting Notes; I also have capture templates and another file set up for my personal diary. All entries automatically tagged and timestamped.

I had been using org-mode for years before I started using custom capture templates and agenda views, and now it's clear to me that they're the magic that makes org-mode worth learning.

Compromises: no pictures, no phone. Other people make these things work, but it hasn't been worth it for me.

Oh and for reminders: Apple Reminders at 9:00, 12:45, and 16:00.

Any chance you could share some of those templates / views, if possible? I've been learning Spacemacs, coming from Sublime + Vintageous, and it's been a blast, but I haven't cracked the org-mode nut quite yet. Email's in profile if you'd rather not be public about it. :)

My new technique is put many more items than possible on the todo list then get comfortable with the Swiss cheese appearance. Life is irregular so keep a pool of tasks in mind, not a rigid series.

Well, to do it at 20:00 may involve a chain-reaction of related decisions that affect your behavior "now".

- When should I leave to get there by 20:00?

- Can I do something else along the way?

- What can I get done before then?

etc. etc.

But if you can manage to not think about it until say 19:50, you will feel less busy. Working on your current task with 100% dedication, spending your breaks looking out the window just watching the birds land on the branches of the cherry tree will make you feel less busy, I guarantee it.

Edit: Not that I ever manage that myself of course but the theory is sound.

I can't say that I'm perfect at this, but I've found that to-do lists are a great way tool for helping me not think about things: Knowing that something is on my list and so I won't forget about it allows me to push it out of my head far more effectively.

I concur. I use todo lists aggressively and I've noticed that I often don't remember most of the bullshit/errands I have to do, even on the same day but e.g. after work. I rely on my todo list to remind me, and to inform me when I'm making plans. My head feels much "lighter" than when I had to juggle all responsibilities in it all the time.

That said, there's a caveat here - as they say, "out of sight, out of mind", and I find it too easy to defend from being overworked by simply ignoring the todo list and not looking at it. This is dangerous and leads to failed obligations.

Same. My todo list didn't start working until I started scheduling reminders at fixed times to look at and process the list. I have just barely enough willpower not to dismiss the reminder until I've processed the list.

Agreed - to-do lists help a lot, along with judicious use of reminders (a simple prompt helps a lot).

At least for me the key is to aggressively wean my to-do list, keeping items on it that I'm highly likely to complete in the next few days, as opposed to an ever-growing wish list.

Yep. There's a value to also keeping a maybe someday list but a to do list really does need to be tractable. I've known people who kept these ever-expanding multi-page to do lists and never got anything done.

I'm really not much of a productivity "system" person but David Allen has some good ideas around completing quick tasks, to do lists, breaking things up into manageable chunks, calendars being for events that are tied to a specific time/date, etc.

Regarding ideas from GTD, I can't stress the importance of weekly review enough. I find it to be at the same time the most important and most difficult part of a productivity system. All my attempts of managing my work gave immediate benefits for efficiency and peace of mind, but then quickly fell apart because I didn't do weekly reviews. Now I forced myself to treat them as top priority thing to do (more important than my job, even) - and the system has been stable for many months.

Good point. I don't do it systematically and should. Whenever I do, I realize stuff that I should be working on and stuff that has turned into a bit of a black hole.

Definitely. The appearance of smartwatches which are capable of understanding a command along the lines of "remind me to do $thing at $time/$place" has been excellent for improving my relaxation.

  --> "busy" people
  You shouldn't plan a grocery trip
  --> you
  You shouldn't schedule a grocery trip
  You shouldn't consider your diet in advance (plan meals)
  You shouldn't check if groceries are needed before shopping
  You shouldn't make sure you have money in the bank before shopping
So there isn't much of a difference, you still have considered that you could afford groceries, that you need them, and even have a time planned. Then I wonder, why can't one make a grocery list and then go watch the birds?

As an aside, those living on tight budgets typically have no choice but to think about everything in advance, like you're piloting a dinghy on the high seas.

That's the problem with the whole eastern philosophy(which i like very much) - it's strong in theory, but it's not practical for most people.

A more practical thing might be to do your chores with music - so you'll focus on it and not on your next chore.

Of course, but does that really matter?

If you do your moment stuff, and forget to buy groceries, is that really a problem of not having food for diner? Just skip it, you won't die.

Why doing today what can be done tomorrow?

Then you only need to do planning on the really important stuff.

Yes - that can be a problem. For example, today may be the only day in the next few days I have time to buy groceries. So, not getting it today is more than "not having food for dinner", it's more like "not having breakfast for the next few days". Aight, so now I just buy breakfast on the go for the next few days, which means I've just spent 3x+ the amount of money I would on breakfast as opposed to just planning ahead...

(Yes, this has really happened.)

And that's perfectly OK. Somedays I survive on food from 7-11 (open all the time).

You could also buy food off your neighbour. Since you only care about now, there's no point worrying what they will think in the future.

"I'll give you $10 for that packet of pasta".

What's the difference between $10 in your pocket and theirs?

What is the price of peace and contentment?

I know people that made this their life style and how such occasions as opportunities. Opportunities to eat with friends, eat at your parents or do some rigorous dieting. Moreover, not being prepared by having at least some canned food in your closet has nothing to do with being busy or not.

You have to, for example if the activity that you are deciding to do now will keep you busy past that hour.

Your son lives in the now because that is all he can do. It's not a preference. If everybody were to live in the now, we wouldn't even have agriculture. Of course it's good to relax, but this line of thinking seems pernicious. It's great that adults are constantly harried by life's demands.

Agreed, with conditions. It is still possible to live in the moment and still have all of the tools that the higher brain functions give you, i.e. planning, forecasting.

The key is to plan in the present, then do the next thing and the next thing, each time in the present. Living like this requires adult versions of faith, agility and resourcefulness.

Even with planning, there can still be time for: "when you are hungry, eat. When you are tired, sleep". Not everything needs to be planned. Big things do, but not everything does. Know when to deploy the higher functions and when not to.

Since the article didn't answer the question of why, I'll submit a partial answer. People put a minimal value on their free time and so it gets sucked up with things of minimal value.

One place I've noticed this in that placing a high value on my own time comes off as self-important. As well, wondering why colleagues aren't placing a high value on their time, leave me bewildered.

Just the other day, a friend was showing me how he was playing around with React to create a calculator to show how much money he could save by getting gas over the border. Since we're on a US/Canada border town, we can save 5-10 dollars by filling up over the border. He's made his calculator just to help learn React. I asked him why he went to the US to get gas and he told me it was to save money. $5! It makes the 5 min job of getting gas into a 30 min chore. He's a freelancer which I think my company pays around ~100/hr. He doesn't think this is strange and no one else who was listening did.

Oh my god yes. I generally put a price tag on everything I do. Depending on ones salary it might be anything from 20 to 300 per hour. Then, if I see myself "making a loss" according to that calculation, I start paying for someone else to do the thing. Or, like in your gas example, definitely fill up on my side of the border.

I do the same calculation, but it isn't quite as simple as making sure you save more money than time spent * salary per hour.

For one, you can't just work more hours whenever you want, in however small of chunks you want. If something takes ten minutes, it's not like you could just choose to work for your salary for those ten minutes.

Second, not all work is equal, and you can't do all work for an infinite amount of time. Whether you are a physical or mental laborer, you only have so much productive energy for your job. You can't just work 18 hours a day and pay for everything else with the extra money.

I have a feeling that we're talking about a little different things.

My meaning was that I rigorously try to put a price tag on my free time, just like my minutes are counted and paid for at work. This really helps me to put many priorities straight immediately. Like GP's "oh hey let's fetch gas from 39 mins away to save a penny" example, it is usually very easy for people to give zero value for their own time when making such decisions. Putting a virtual price tag for that extra 25 mins helps to prioritize those things in life that are all lumped under the category of "free time"; family, kids, friends, just relaxing at sauna, whatever.

People are very irrational about gas prices in general. People will often go far out of their way to save an extra five cents a gallon. If you have a large 20-gallon tank, that adds up to a whole dollar saved. Depending on how far out of your way you went, that may not even end up being a savings.

The best philosophy is to know where the cheap gas stations are near you. Try to fill up there when you need it, put five bucks of expensive gas in if you're low and you know you're going there soon, but otherwise don't worry about it. It's just not worth going out of your way and it's certainly not worth running out of gas in an effort to save a dollar or two.

In business, there's a principle that's something along the lines of "know your business". Your business probably isn't fixing the laser printer when it breaks, or (for smaller businesses) running your own hosting service. It costs money to do those things in-house, so it also makes sense to hire someone else to do it so you don't have to worry about it.

People often fail to apply that to their own lives. Some things just aren't worth fretting over when you can throw a bit of money at the problem and make it go away (or significantly reduce the scope of the problem). If owning a Roomba cuts down on vacuuming time by 75% then just pay the money and make the problem go away, your time is worth more than the amortized cost of the roomba.

The other one that's really surprising is car repairs. Changing oil is literally a half hour job, and many other repairs boil down to replacing an easily accessible sensor or something. The gains here are large, a garage will hardly look at a car for less than a hundred bucks. It's easy to check Youtube and see videos of someone doing the job.

Car repairs are easy when you know what you're doing, but to many people cars are a black box. It's easy for you or I to walk up to any car and change the oil, but that's because we have experience & the confidence that comes with it.

There's also a lot of mistakes you can make even just in changing oil. I won't make them, but that's because I've already learned the hard way. John Doe has yet to put all the mistakes behind him.

He could be getting other benefits he values more than $50 doing that 30 min drive. You assume it's a 'chore' but he may enjoy the drive and peace and quiet away from the family (or just some time out of the house).

it's most likely the high of getting a good deal that bargain shoppers love

I agree. Of course he should do that if it's what he wants to do. I only meant it as illustrative.

I have scaled back years ago: ditched the car ( does away with a whole class of problems/bills ). When I had a job no more than 32hrs. No TV, no cable. Do my groceries in combination with going the postal office, while biking/walking. I rent, do not own. Try to own as little as possible.

I call it the 'small life'. Lots of people in town know me, I know them, build a pretty social life.

I am not going back.

You're very lucky that you

- Found a job and dwelling that are reasonably near each other and the other amenities you need in your life, all in an area that's easily navigable by bicycle and foot

- Found a job that allows you to work only 32 hours while still paying enough to pay the bills

I agree there is luck involved. But it is choices too: I chose to move back to my medium size European city ( < 200k ).

The other choices have radically lowered or removed the bills I am getting. I hardly get any mail anymore.

> No TV, no cable. > Lots of people in town know me, I know them, build a pretty social life.

I love TV( youtube, Netflix, amazon etc). I grew up with state TV and there is no stopping me now. There are all kinds of amazing stuff on TV, there is no limit to how much you can explore the world. Eg: This week, I time traveled back to soviet union in the 50's got to look their communal houses, social classes, dress codes, social norms ect all while being entertained [1].

I would rather be emotionally dependent on TV than a bunch of unpredictable random strangers. 'Small life' to me not less stuff ( stuff is cheap), its having predictable emotional dependencies. I don't understand the minimalism movement, people are somehow emotionally tied to their couch so getting rid of it makes them free?

>ditched the car ( does away with a whole class of problems/bills ).

I never got into an actual car till I was 19 yrs old. Now I own a cheap new car that bought for around 20k from my savings. Only bill I pay is insurance of ~$100, and there is routine maintenance once every couple of months. I don't consider that 'whole class of problems'. I love owning a car, so much freedom and less dependence on random unpredictable human beings. Small life.

1. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GU8CN0K/ref=dv_web_wtls_list_pr...

That is really great for you. Maybe you should also get a radio so you can become a good listener too.

What an incredibly rude comment.

Yeah sorry about that. It must have been the sun, just came back from 3 hours 'scaling back': bike ride, sunbathing and reading Kundera.

I'd love that life style but I have to work.

You would love less, but you have to work, because you have more?

If I weren't working, I'm sure I would drive far more as I'd be regularly traveling places--probably including places where I would fly today.

The numbers seemed very high to me so I created a list on my own and thought I'd share it (single, no kids, full time job).

1. Work: 40 hours

2. Cooking: 3 h (who the hell cooks three times a day?)

3. Laundry: 0.5 h (once a week)

4. Cleaning: 1 h (and I am very clean, I just avoid producing dirt)

5. Buying stuff: .5 h (I try to avoid buying too much stuff I don't really need)

6. Bills: 0 h (they a are paid automatically from my account)

7. Small errands: 1 h

8. Transport: 4 h (I ride my bicycle to work, so one could count that as exercise)

9. Staying healthy: 4 h (in addition to the bicycling to and from work)

10. Finances: 0 h (I have no idea how anyone can spend so much time on this. I just live by the simple rule: don't get into debt and move some of your income automatically on a saving account)

11. Taxes: 0 h (automated in Germany)

12. Responsibility for Yourself: 0 h (weird point)

13. Responsibility for your dependents: 0 h (I'm not responsible for anyone and visiting my family is fun)

14. Being sick: 0 h

15. One time errands: 2 h (I have to do some irregular stuff)

16. Long term planning: 1h (because I'm actively thinking about it at the moment)

1. Attire and Grooming: 3.5 h (half an hour every morning, 3 minutes in the evening)

2. Sleep: 49 h

3. Eating: 1.5 h (breakfast and lunch is included in work time)

Overall: 109 h

Free time: 49 h

I think it all comes down to priorities and you current life situation. But one can influence most of these things and you have to decide what is really important in your life. For me, it's free time.

> 2. Cooking: 3 h (who the hell cooks three times a day?)

i work from home so i do usually. once you get good at cooking, most restaurant food is un-appetizing or extremely expensive for what you are receiving. it also helps me maintain my weight and not be a complete fatass.

i still eat out a couple of times a week but i'd say a good 75% to 90% of my meals are cooked at home. par-cooking common ingredients in batches helps a lot. it's basically like running a small commercial kitchen for myself.

once you get good at cooking it's basically a 'flow' activity. line cooks get 'in the zone' when the rush hits.

also, once you get the basics down most day to day meals take about 10-15 minutes to cook, not including roasting time which is passive.

the only downside for cooking to me is the cleanup. that never stops sucking for me and brings out my lazy streak.

I think if you actually timed some of this stuff your numbers might need to be adjusted. For example, unless your 1/2hr laundry is drop-off/pick-up from a service, it takes a couple hours to run a load through a washer, dryer & fold to put away. Ditto with errands. Some weeks you get lucky. Other weeks, not so much.

People with children at home will obviously have very different time allocations (I do laundry almost daily, and if I let it pile up to fold once a week it takes 2-3hours to fold and put away everything. Family meal times can take 2hours each, depending whether we get the food ready quickly and the kids feel like eating. Someone is always sick. )

Not OP, but laundry for me consumes about that much time, since I swing by a local (self-service, in my apt complex) laundromat to drop things in the wash, which takes a couple minutes, swing by again to transfer to dryer, and then the third time to pick it up, at which point it gets folded. Those might take place over the course of a couple hours, but 1.5hrs is spent doing other things. Not at all unreasonable.

> 2. Cooking: 3 h (who the hell cooks three times a day?)

People who enjoy cooking, and people who actually care for their health.

I explicitly divide my "cooking" into two categories. Food I make to sustain my body, and food I make because I like it as an activity. Most of the meals I eat fall under the former category, and so I personally prefer to eat meals that make themselves (e.g. drop some wieners into a pan, light up the stove, come back in 5 minutes, done) or to order - any time spent on preparing them is time wasted for me. Cooking for pleasure is something I'd put into "hobby" section, and thus not count it as a chore (cleaning up after it - that's another thing).

I think the meals I have are quite healthy, I just cook once a day. Also, if you enjoy cooking, wouldn't you add it to the free time because it's a hobby?

This! When I cook for fun (i.e. friends) I wouldn't count it as a chore, and the daily meals either I do big batches of stuff and freeze them (i.e. this sunday I cooked about 1kg of bolognese sauce that's now frozen in 1 servings) or I cook something that doesn't really take more than 20-30 minutes of active cooking.

Time spent cooking isn't a factor when determining the health of the meal.

I make five medium sized breakfast burrito's on Sunday night and refrigerate them. One every morning. That's a whole wheat wrap, a couple eggs, green peppers, and chopped onions. This takes me about a half hour on Sunday including cleanup and 5 seconds to grab one out of the fridge each morning. I supplement it with a granola bar.

I won't claim to be ultra concerned with my dietary balance, but you definitely don't need to spend a ton of time cooking to be healthy.

I once spent a few months alternating between cooking up a batch of "the concoction" on a weekend afternoon, and eating nothing but that over the next two weeks.

If it tasted better, I might still be doing it. It's actually the same sort of thing prisons feed to problem inmates to punish misbehavior, except they call it "nutriloaf", and put more actual food in it.

Mine was mostly eggs, coconut oil, and chia seed. It looked horrible, but it barely tasted like anything at all. I might tweak my recipe and try it again some day, but the family won't even look in its general direction, so somebody still has to actually cook meals.

Even so, that can be reduced to twice a day if you cook in batches (i.e. have leftovers for lunch). That seems more optimal to me without compromising the healthy aspect.

Agree and extend with the suggestion to try healthy fast food. Take advantage of products like fresh instant salad in a bag, or frozen stir fry vegetables in a bag.

I'll have my wok cleaned and put away for next time before the frozen pizza chefs have their oven preheated. Or I'll be half done eating my lunch salad before the frozen burrito comes out of the microwave.

I'm not sure that "open bag, dump salad on plate" even counts as cooking, but that's like 1/3 of my meals and the "cooking" process takes about 10 seconds.

I suppose it depends how you define cooking. If I'm at home, I'll generally make something 3 times a day but breakfast is usually something really quick and lunch will tend to be a sandwich or heated leftovers. I like cooking but I can't really imagine cooking multiple full-blown meals a day. I don't eat that much even if someone else is doing the cooking.

In the US, it is a hell of a lot cheaper to cook for yourself than to eat out. For poorer folks, it is the only option, or ramen.

Ramen is cooking for yourself! It's very expensive if you eat out[0].

[0] http://tokiunderground.com/

I meant instant ramen. I put ramen in a different category as that takes much less time than cooking from raw ingredients.

You say free time is your priority, but even with this ideal list (it makes some very unrealistic assumptions) your free time is only 50% of your responsibilities time.

Yes, it could be more. I'm actually thinking about reducing my working hours. Could you elaborate on which assumptions seem unrealistic to you? I tried to list them as honest as possible, but for sure I might have overlooked something. The estimated free time aligns quite well with my daily perception (also, I could see 'staying healthy' as free time, because I go rock climbing and thats just something I love to do as a hobby).

On second thought, "very unrealistic" was harsh. I (or anyone) could nitpick a few hours per week here and there but nothing significant. You are right that it's really just about current life situation. As a married homeowner, my responsibility time is much higher, hah.

No kidding! I feel like my wife & I get somewhere between 1-2hr/day of discretionary time, and it's not in large blocks most days... and it includes things like calling the utility provider to figure out a billing problem, vacation & event planning, chatting with neighbors/friends, and anything else that isn't a natural part of the "committed parent + homeowner" categories.

If you include sleeping as a responsibility.

Absolutely. I definitely would not do if I didn't have to!

It distorts the statistics a bit, though. You could have 75% of your waking hours be free time and still calculate that you're spending half your time on 'responsibilities'.

Is this created from actual measurement or what you think you spend your time on?

No, it's not from actual measurement. I tried to think through my days in the past few weeks. But even if I'm off an hour here or there, I'd never come down to just 10 hours of free time a week.

How have you produced less dirt? I've been trying it out. No shoes in the house has helped a lot but I'm curious about what other ways there are.

Not OP but: High quality mats inside and outside every entrance to the house/apartment. I use a stiff bristle mat outside and a softer/more absorbent mat inside.


It's not that nasty if you have non-carpeted floors and a swiffer. Living somewhere warmer (no salt, snow, etc.) helps too.

I don't have orthopedic problems, but I've found that I'm generally more comfortable by the end of the day if I'm wearing shoes at home vs barefoot or slippers. This is especially true if I spend a few hours in the kitchen standing up to cook, etc.

Additionally, where I grew up it's odd/rude for a visitor to remove their shoes or be asked to remove their shoes. Different strokes and all that. :)

Curious where you grew up, because I've noticed lately (since we stopped wearing shoes in the house), that almost all our visitors -- no matter what their ethnicity or place of origin -- tend to either volunteer to remove theirs or tell us they also don't wear shoes indoors.

"I'm busy" is really just an excuse for not taking productive action. You know all those people you look up to that seem to be 10 times more productive than you? Whether it's Elon Musk running multiple blue ocean companies while being a technological innovator or Richard Branson leading over 400 companies, or whoever it might be, they all have the same 24 hours that you do. In the end it's up to you whether you find ways to make the most out of your time or just repeat the same tasks every day.

It took me a long time to realize this, but it finally clicked for me fairly recently. Record everything you do for a day, figure out which are of low or no value, and figure out how to get rid of them, create systems to reduce the time you spend on them, or delegate them. The most time-consuming things often can't be totally cut out, but they can be systemized or delegated. In the end, only you control your time (and if you don't, you have a bigger problem).

Edit: If anyone is interested in the resources I've found helpful in this realization and the implementation of taking actions to take back control of my own time, feel free to send me an email (in profile).

"The most time-consuming things often can't be totally cut out, but they can be systemized or delegated."

This is a big part of it, and it makes the comparison between Musk or Branson and an average Joe a bit disingenuous. They have the wealth afford to delegate many things that consume an average person's time. I doubt Musk does his own grocery shopping, and Branson likely doesn't scrub his own toilets.

It's hard to come up with examples without choosing people with wealth, since people who excel at time management become wealthy. It starts with good time management techniques, which leads to wealth, which leads to the ability to delegate the low and no-value parts of your life.

Let's say someone with bad time management goes to the grocery store every day, and the nearest one is a 10 minute drive away. They spend at minimum 45 minutes going to and from the grocery store, choosing food, waiting in checkout lines etc every day. That's over 5 hours per week! Musk spends 0 hours. But it's not all or nothing. Instead, a 30 minute investment of planning out a general meal schedule and grocery list for it on Sunday, and one trip to the grocery store might take an hour and a half. That's 3.5 hours of savings per week!

Repeat this for cooking, cleaning around the house, etc, and I guarantee you can find significant time savings in systemizing routines. If you save even 2 hours every week, that's an entire 8 hour work day per month. If you make, let's say, $300 daily as a software engineer that's quite a bit of savings! Even... maybe enough to hire a house cleaner and someone to do grocery shopping for you.

A lot of my time is 'wasted' by recovering from work. I have a nice physically easy programming job. But it's quite a lot of hours, and there is travel on top of that. But when I get home I need to spend at least an hour basically going 'ughhhhh' and just doing nothing much. It's necessary, but eats so much time.

What's your commute like? Can you arrange things to combine commute and de-stress time?

In my experience the best way to de stress is to walk, but that's obviously not feasible for most. It's worth moving to make it possible, in my opinion.

Mass transit is pretty awesome too. Even if it takes longer, you can plug in your headphones and zone, netflix and chill, or best of all, take a nap.

Biking in urban areas can be pretty stressful, but the exercise it provides is pretty effective at helping the body recover from stress.

I'm not sure 'netflix and chill ' is allowed on mass transit to be honest...

I didn't realize that was a euphemism. I guess I'm getting old. It seems obvious in retrospect.

Mass transit would be much more appealing if you could, though!

it is, and it isn't. depends on context. i don't think op meant it, but the replier made a joke of it, which turned it sexual.

You've never gotten the last train out of King's Cross on a Friday night then...

>> "Mass transit is pretty awesome too. Even if it takes longer, you can plug in your headphones and zone, netflix and chill, or best of all, take a nap."

Depends where you live. For me mass transit at rush hour is incredibly stressful.

Yeah, where does all this mass transit love come from? Every city I've been to has congested mass transit on rush hour. And if it's not congested, you still have to deal with inconsiderate, sick, obnoxious, or aggressive people. The 6 train in NYC home from work drained me even though I was only on it for one stop (two minutes). Definitely not getting a seat either; if you do, someone is hovering right over you anyways. It was more of a stress than when I used to drive 45 mins (different city).

Commuter rail might not be as crowded but has its own set of issues.

I'm at the beginning of my line now so I always get a seat, but even when I lived in Japan I found my commute relaxing.

But I've always lived in places with polite people, especially at rush hour. We may be jammed in but we're polite.

Trying to cram in your relaxation time during your commute is, like, the opposite of relaxing.

Sit on the train and read your book or take a nap for 30 minutes isn't relaxing? I love my commute time.

Sure, I can sit on the train if I wait until after 7pm to go home.

I like to read on the train, but I'd like even more to read at home without someone having an insipid conversation two seats over.

I'm going to go against the norm: I recently bought my first car (I'm nearly 30) and am amazed how much time it saves and freedom it gives me. I've always lived in European cities with good public transport, but even here having a car is worthwhile.

Instead of taking a train and bus 30+ minutes to work, I leave when I want and know it will take me around 15 minutes to get there. Maybe I'm weird, but I find driving a lot more relaxing than public transport (at the moment it's really hot here so AC helps). If I want to get groceries I can stop in a supermarket on my way home from work, instead of walking 15 minutes each way (bonus: it also has a bigger selection and cheaper prices).

If I want to get out of the city it's easy, I can drive for 20 minutes instead of taking trains and buses for 1 1/2 hours and I'm at the sea. Before if I wanted to do that I'd book a car from a rental place, go collect it, return it hoping I didn't get any scratches, where as now I can be spontaneous.

Having a car can be expensive (I estimate over the life of my car it'll cost me around €2000/year + fuel) but for the benefits it provides, to me that is a justifiable cost.

I've got to say I've had the opposite experience, moving from London to rural England, where a car is necessary to have any sort of flexibility (to go to work, shop, take kids to nursery etc).

I'm learning to hate cars. The damn things are a time sink. In the UK we have to take cars for MOT each year and generally we service once a year. That's two half days gone, but I try to make best use of the time by working in a coffee shop while it happens.

Then there are the unforeseen things. Door locks breaking. Tyre replacements. Punctures. Remembering to top up the air in the tyres. Washing them (I pay for someone to do this, but it's still something on your mind). Replacing wipers. And the wiper fluid of course. Checking oil and tyre pressure.

Just the sheer time I spend in petrol stations. Why aren't all petrol stations self pay? I try to avoid ones where I have to go into a shop but it's not always possible.

Insurance. Oh great, the yearly "you raised my premium 10% but I can see I can get it cheaper online" phone call. I resent having to make this.

And then there's the cost.

Sorry, that turned into a rant.

If you actually use the thing regularly it more than makes up for itself. You say it's "necessary" but what you mean is that it's the best available option by such a large amount that no other option is worth considering.

You could hire a chauffeur and make him take the car for MOT and everything else but that's so much more expensive that you don't consider it an option. You could get a bike and put some milk crates on the back but that's so much less effective you don't consider it an option.

There's very few true necessities. A lot of resources can be saved if you manage to identify a "necessity" that you can work around by leveraging specific aspects of your situation.

All true. In our case we "leverage specific aspects of our situation" (nice ;) ) by only having one car because I work at home. If we had two the above might be doubled!

A lot of people think too rigidly to accept that some people could really benefit from owning a car.

For me it's a much tougher decision because the costs are much higher due to mandatory both-ways insurance being required. I basically can't afford to have both savings and a car where I live. Damn shame though, because I would benefit immensely from having a light truck (something the size of a Hilux). If I want to bring handguns to a range, the law basically requires that I own an automobile. If I want to get construction materials or inexpensive/exotic Korean groceries, I need an automobile.

Your estimate for the cost of owning your vehicle is actually considerably lower than just having a public transit pass for that same year where I live.

> I find driving a lot more relaxing than public transport

+1 from me. Public transport in London is a nightmare during rush hour, I'd happily trade that for an equivalent drive. Probably wouldn't be (much?) more expensive either.

I'm the other way around. The city I live in has a lot of trams. Driving in the city is unpleasant because I don't drive much, so my confidence on the road is low, and complex intersections and road layouts with frequent trams can be kind of scary. It's much lower stress and more pleasant to just hop on a tram and tune out for a bit until it's time to get off or change.

The tube during rush hour is a special kind of hell. People do it because driving through London at those times is pointless, you'd never arrive. Lesson learned the hard way.

You know what can be even better ?

Car with a driver. Flexibility + you get to do other stuff besides driving.

But I guess affording that means more work and stuff.

I think one thing here was missed: managing [successful] relationships.

I have 2 kids - i have to directly manage a relationship with my wife, with each kid, with both kids, and with my wife and both kids. She has to do the same. I have to indirectly manage a relationship between the two kids, and with the wife and both/each kids.

To do it right would mean breaking up those 10 free hours I might have into each of the above.

The OP clearly doesn't have kids for how glossed over the point is. Amazing that they come up with just 10 spare hours a week without even really factoring kids into the equation.

For those of us who have kids, you just sit back some days and wonder... How little we recognized at the time, the sheer freedom of being able to just head out for dinner or a drink any day of the week, plop down and watch whatever movie we wanted, sleep in on the weekends, etc.

OP does acknowledge the workload of having children is "indefinite" but doesn't really do justice to the reality of raising children.

The funny thing is how that theoretical 10 hours per week of free time will somehow make way for the ~40 hours per week spent on the children. Shopping for new shirts because they don't excite you anymore? Yeah, parents ain't got time for that BS!

Nothing can prepare you for the "crap I can't do anything spontaneous now" like having children. I recently had to let tickets to a concert go (that I was really looking forward to) because the babysitter had a family emergency.

And this is a deep confession that I've never really told anyone: I envy my divorced friends with kids. Every other week they (usually) are child free. And get to do things like mow grass, have a dinner with an SO at a place that doesn't have a built-in playground, or go on weekend trips on a whim. That guaranteed time without children that you get from custody agreements has a ton of perks. I won't admit this out loud, though.

"I won't admit this out loud, though."

You should give it a try, my wife and I get occasional nights and weekends off, its pretty nice. Also we live in an area with an active city parks and rec, and we have a childless date night with each other this very Friday night, I don't even know what parks and rec class my wife signed the kids up for (probably the fall kickball tournament, the Halloween party is next month). We also send them to day camps a couple times each summer so we have some married adult time while the kids are theoretically getting exercised, educated, and socialized.

My experience is "For profit" camps tend to charge what the market will bear ($$$$$) and always have openings. Parks and rec charge what it actually costs to provide the activity (maybe $20/day/kid?) but reservation slots fill up fast every year.

What you're describing and what the parent described seems very different to me. Not only does "every other week off" vs "occasional nights and weekends off" have an obvious quantitative difference, it has a very strong qualitative difference.

1 day off to every 5 on or 2 to 10 is a very different pattern than 7 to 7 consistently until they're grown and hopefully self-sustaining.

This is where I've seriously considered multi-family communal living, and wish it were more popular and mainstream.

Taking care of kids is relatively scalable, in that it's a full-time job for one person to "engage" (and I don't mean "watch" or "babysit" or "entertain" but more like "actively plan and execute a meaningful day's activies") one child, and it's nearly the same full-time job for one person to engage six children.

So I imagine sometimes how much better a job I could do if I could really focus and devote my full time and attention for 1 whole day out of 7 on a small group of children. What would we be able to plan and go out and accomplish and learn about? If you had 6 adults taking shifts with 6 - 10 kids?

This hit right in the centre of the target. My time got exponentially less with every additional member added to my family. Of course I do enjoy maintaining the relationships but it does have a toll on work and personal leisure.

Can I upvote you 100 times? 100 wouldn't be enough, actually. This should be the top response.

Actually, I have found that my (young) adult life is the best time of my life and I have a giant excess of free time.

I'm very lucky to be able to command a high hourly rate for software consulting. So I can work <40 hours a week and still earn enough to outsource 90% of the items on this list (cooking, cleaning, etc.). I definitely have way more free time now than I ever did as a student.

Seriously, people always act as though students have an easy life. In my experience, I was much busier and less happy when I was in college. Not to mention that real work is, for me, much more meaningful than the fake work which constitutes most "education."

Also, technology really has reduced a lot of these time demands. If you're still manually paying bills or balancing your finances, you really need to automate that. There's no reason to spend more than 15 minutes a week on that sort of thing.

The people who act like students have an easy life are the students who partied their way through a psych degree and are stuck cleaning up the mess after the fact.

The people who work their butt off in college (by some combination of working while going to school and going all out in a difficult major) usually have an increase in free time once they're only working 40 or 50hr per week and not bringing their work home every day.

Bills are a once a month thing, I rent so maybe it's different but my student loans should make up for that. In total? 15 minutes tops.

I dry clean my clothes myself, so yeah I agree clothes _can_ take up to 2 hrs. But picking out what to wear and polishing your shoes shouldn't count as an extra 10.5 hours a week.

Most people enjoy buying stuff, especially if it requires research because then they get psyched about it. Who doesn't like a new car? Other than that, it should be pretty rare to need to research for window cleaning products. You just buy what looks alright on the shelf and if it sucks don't buy it again.

The rest I'll agree with. Most people I see that "waste" their time are doing things like, marathoning Game of Thrones, drinking or celebrating something.

Here are some real wastes:

  - Going after companies to get your money back for either incorrectly or over charging you, or charging you for services not rendered. 
  - "Market forces" raising prices, causing you to move right freaking next door so your rent can stay the same, or even lower. 
  - How about those Dr. appointments that you scheduled, only so you can wait an extra hour to actually be seen. 
  - Warranty covered oil changes that take an hour or even two (last time it happened to me). 
  - Standing in a 40 minute long line at the store because despite having 30 register's, they only have 2 cashiers. There is self checkout but of course it's already full of people struggling to understand how the machine works, or they're just generally slow moving.
  - Holiday traffic/parking, where do all these vehicles come from? Even small towns get congested it's a real mystery to me.
  - Spontaneously waking up in the middle of the night for a few hours, then oversleeping the next morning. Also, you need to go to bed early now to make it up.
  - Paperwork for just about any government related activity. I just listed my SSN on three different pages why do I still have to fill this in again?
I'm sure there are more I'm not thinking of...

What solvent do you use for the dry-cleaning? In my comment I said that dry-cleaning is too dangerous to not outsource, but I'm happy to change my opinion if I'm wrong.

BTW, if you want to reformat your list so it can be read without scrolling left and right for each line, you can use a · on each item, leave a blank line between them, and not indent it. The typography sucks but not quite as bad as what you have now.

I've got a different answer.

People are "busy" because they fill every waking hour with something to do. If they ever find themselves without something to do, they make something up or change something so it provides some perceived benefit and takes more time.

For example, I dated a girl who said she had no free time, despite only working 1 job part time and basically never going out. I eventually found out it was because she'd do things like walk go to the grocery store for fresh food every single day. And then complain that she didn't have enough time to spend with her son.

I'm not blaming her. It's her choice, and there's nothing wrong with it.

But that incident made me look at my own life and I realized that any time I could possibly be bored, I'd find something do to. For me, it was usually something fun in the name of de-stressing. If I ever managed to get bored with everything I had, I'd pick up a new hobby. I now have far, far too many hobbies to actually do much of any one of them, and I switch between them as I get bored.

As I look around, I see others doing this as well. The idea of simply sitting and getting bored is basically impossible. At the worst, there's always cable TV or Netflix or something, and shows you just have to watch.

It's quite fascinating once you can look in on it from the outside.

I think there are different types of people. Personally, I always have more things I'd like to do - much more interesting than job, errands, family time, etc. - than time for them. So I wouldn't e.g. go for fresh food to a store every day (other than as a part of the commute, or during lunch break at work), because I need the time for something else (like doing a home automation project, or playing a video game).

So I guess some people may be "busy" by inventing activities to avoid boredom (I'm pretty sure I know a lot of people like that), but others would love to have more free time to spend it on even more things they're already interested in.

Oh, I totally understand that. I'm not saying that there aren't people who are legit busy all the time, just that people who aren't will invent ways to end up with no time left and feel like they need more, even though they are deliberately wasting time.

Note that I'm also not saying that people's priorities aren't differently or that any of them are wrong.

To re-use my example, having fresh vegetables every day is awesome, it's just that going to the supermarket for them every single day is a waste of time. Even every other day is a huge improvement and doesn't result in the vegetables being any worse off. That 30-60 minutes saved every second day could have been spent with her son instead, as she clearly desires. But something in her mind kept her in the same cycle, "busy" all the time.

Then the real answer is "People are "busy" because they don't want to be bored".

Free time is a dangerous thing, so urban adults must be kept entertained during their free time.

I never realized how much free time I had until I started blowing my responsibilities off and watching TV series or playing video games.

The point is, a lot of the things we do in our adult lives are bullshit errands that exist only because of habit, custom or societal expectations. I'm in progress of trying to get rid of as much of them as possible (and automate others), to reclaim some free time for actually productive endeavours.

This is a good point. For example, I hate going to the grocery store. Buying good food to cook for a night is fun, but the general grocery shopping is a horrible experience. A combination of Amazon Subscribe and Save, Pantry, and services like Blue Apron mean I rarely go to the store. And things like subscribe and save mean I never have to think about when I'm out of toilet paper, it just shows up on a schedule which I have figured out now.

I peapodded for a couple years when my kids were very small and ultra-high labor, but I found the ability to micromanage my delivery made me spend about as much time on their website as I used to spend shopping (omg hold on while I google ten pages about how many oz of fresh blueberries I need to buy to make exactly 1/2 crushed cup whereas at the store I'd rely on my finely honed nearly instant engineering estimation ability). So if my daughter needs a box of raisins for snack time at school and there's 6 days until delivery and 2 are a weekend and there's 8 on the shelf and the next delivery is the 22nd then I need to buy how many packs of raisins? Whereas in the store I'd just buy one week sized pack per week until there's a backlog and then skip a week which is a much simpler algorithm.

Also I like hiking but lets get real sometimes the weather sux or its dark out or the air is clouded with bugs... and the supermarket is well lit, flat, hvac, bug free, sometimes I just need to put a couple thousand steps on the ole step counter...

I am also an amazon S+S user like yourself and a HUGE gripe I have is UPC churn. So I subscribe to three gigantic mouthwash bottles delivered every six months and like clockwork each time that rolls around the UPC has been cancelled/discontinued and I need to shop a fresh for something inflation adjusted to be 1.5 oz smaller for their profit or whatever. I would like to S+S to a more generic product/service like ship me qty three of two month sized (enormous) mouthwash bottles twice a year of minty fluoride freshness and I don't care the exact brand or the exact size to the mL.

Good point on the Amazon S+S. I have had that happen a few times and it's annoying. I wish more products were Amazon Basics. Those rarely change. We get basics baby wipes for our dogs (don't ask), and I'm pretty sure they have never changed since I set it up almost a year ago.

The labor part is also a good point. I used to order groceries online and pick them up and found it easier to just go to the store. Only when I got S+S setup, and started using services like Blue Apron was I finally out of the labor of managing a delivery. I still go to the store every week or so, but it's to grab fruit, milk, and soda. I'm in and out in just a few minutes depending on when I go.

It seems counter-intuitive, but I massively cut down on my grocery store time by going every day. Pop in after work every day, grab 3-5 items, hit the self-checkout and out. Takes about 5 minutes. If I forget something, no big deal, I'll be there tomorrow.

Whereas before you'd spend time thinking about the rest of the week to make a list, dash around the kitchen to check the essentials, drive to the store, spend > 30 minutes in the store getting everything, drive back, ... Probably 1.5-2 hours total.

Hell, a lot of the shit I do at work is BS to make it look like I am busy or that I care. We could go to a 4 day work week and probably not lose productivity.

A lot of the time in my 60 hour weeks is just sitting on meetings I don't even need to attend. Or flying to a client when we could have a phone call.

Dirty Little Secret, They're not. The Average American Adult Spends 5.5 hrs a day watching video content, this adds up to 38.5 hrs a week. Allowing for 8 hrs of sleep a day, an average of 47 hrs a week working for a full time worker and you're left with 26.5 hrs to fulfill the requirements of adulthood listed in the article. The only mention of TV/media viewing came by way of the time spent to purchase one, never a mention of the amount of time spent on one. http://www.emarketer.com/Article/US-Adults-Spend-55-Hours-wi...

You're not busy if you're watching a day and a half's worth of television every week. It's one of my pet peeves to hear people say their busy when so much time is devoted to a mindless activity.

Imagine what could be accomplished if instead of turning on and tuning out, people choose to devote that time to side projects, gardening, some other creative hobby, or time spent enjoying nature and each others company.

Maybe this should be worded: Why are American adults so busy.

I've been living in the US for a couple of years, and have thoroughly enjoyed it, but it occurs to me that life is more "rushed" than I'm used to from Denmark.

RE: 1) Have Money

The standard work week is 37 hours. I love my job, but this leaves me plenty of time to do other stuff I enjoy.

RE: 6) Bills, Bills, Bills

Living in the US for a couple of years taught me this: cheques are a real thing and most payment processes are manual. Denmark: I no longer receive bills. The banking infrastructure allow consumers to "subscribe" to businesses, who can then withdraw the correct amount. If the amount increases the consumer won't have to change a thing. And it is easy to unsubscribe again :)

RE: 8) Transport + 9) Staying Healthy

Get a bike and combine commuting with exercise ;)

RE: 11) Taxes

Paying taxes in the US is A PAIN. Ordinary people need to hire an accountant (and still do most of the grunt work themselves) to make sure they pay the right amount. Denmark: fully automated system. Yes, the government has access to my bank account and investments (!privacy!), but my only tax-related action is to click "Accept" once a year.

>RE6: The banking infrastructure allow consumers to "subscribe" to businesses

We have this in the US (almost all businesses have an 'Automatic Bill Pay' or similar)

But businesses are very routinely "slightly-corrupt" here, so many don't trust it. Businesses will purposefully withdraw more than they should, and make you fight to get it back. Or will raise prices without telling you. Or will continue to bill you after you unsubscribe (if they let you unsubscribe at all).

Often you have to yell or make threats to people on telephones, or publicly harass a company on Twitter / Facebook, or manually withhold payment, to get any kind of appropriate response.

This creates an atmosphere where people don't trust businesses with "subscriptions" or automation of any kind of bills. Which further perpetuates the antique cheque-based bill payment process. It's not a technology problem (we have the technology). It's more of a "poisoned trust" issue.

> RE: 11) my only tax-related action is to click "Accept" once a year.

We have this in the US -- the IRS is already capable of offering this. It's just illegal for them to do so, because of Intuit's political influence. (Again with the businesses being corrupt...)


Yep. I have the ability to have most of my bills automatically deducted but I don't trust those institutes enough to allow them to do it. If one of them bills me for an incorrect amount, which happens more often than it should, it could cause me to overdraft or not be able to pay my other bills.

It still takes me about 30 minutes at most to electronically pay every bill that will take it and balance my account.

It's the impression I got as well: it seems to be an exclusively american list. All bills are set up to be paid automatically and the whole "financial planning" thing that there's effectively no need to do here.

That was fun, we had a similar sort of discussion with our kids as they were growing up. My eldest was especially anxious to get to the level 'adult' and start her life. It wasn't everything she hoped it would be.

I think its easy to pick apart the specific numbers but it is also a good way to think about how you want to spend your time vs how you do by default. And that will let you make decisions about optimizations and time/money trade offs. For example you can just eat Soylent and not cook at all (not a good tradeoff in my opinion) or automate bill paying and bill management. Living in a place without lawn care requirements vs living with some amount of garden.

It also points out why married people (and people in committed relationships) have "more" free time as many of these jobs can be done for 2 people in the domicile in the same time as 1 person. So you can split them up and complete them in parallel, freeing up time.

Wash & Fold Laundromat changed my life. Am able to eliminate a massive chore for $17-22 per week. Every Tuesday on my way to work, I drop off my clothes and on the way back, I pick up my clothes, hung and folded as if they were brand new. I was never able to achieve the level of consistency with a laundry schedule when I did it myself.

Being rich and never having to work except on something you really want to do is worth achieving mostly because of this. I don't really care about material things, and I love my job, but being free to do anything I want is liberating.

This also leads to breakthroughs like tools, agriculture, figuring out the planet is round, math, philosophy, physics etc. Most people would just party though.

I'm wondering why, with all the technological progress, we don't have 8 hour work-weeks just yet :)

You will never have it. As productivity increases you will have more disposable income and land prices will rise pushing up rents. See Henry George "On progress and poverty". The more advanced the more poor.


The current system transfers gains over to land. Silicon valley being a prime example, all on their big salaries with big rents. Zuckerberg and a bunch of land owners got rich, the latter without raising a finger.

Yes, good question. I think this is because nowadays, work is mostly a way to skew wealth distribution in your favor. Therefore people that can work more, do work more. That contributes to make them wealthier. The others, are unemployed.

I believe your last two sentences hit the full truth.

The real answer, individual consultants, and self-run people aside, is that if you DONT work more (to employers standard), you become unemployed.

Because of the asymmetry in laboral relationships.

If you have a rare, valuable skill, employers will be willing to pay handsomely for your time, but they will demand a lot of your time. IF you are good enough, they will be even willing to pay you premium to have you not use your skills for anyone else. The caveat is that these arrangements are, more often than not, non-negotiable. It is an all or nothing proposition.

On the other hand, if your skills are commodity, potential employers will be happy to hire you part time (so they do not have to give you any benefits). However, your wage will be so low that, more often than not, you'll want to juggle two or more part-time jobs so you can earn a reasonable compensation that actually pays for your living expenses.

If you're actually serious about cutting down your work week, check out the book 4 Hour Work Week. It's not perfect, but at least does a good job at entertaining the idea.

"Take us through a typical work day for you/your cofounder".

"Well for four to six hours we do X,Y,Z very focused and intensely and then we rest and think subconsciously/do nothing".

"Wait you mean you're only doing this halftime?"

"No we chose to do it this way because there's some decent research that suggests this is both the most efficient way of doing it and the most healthy way of doing it. It's a full time job."

"Ok, thanks."

There was a very good radio programme on BBC Radio 4 about busyness:


In a nutshell, we're busy because people value things based on the perceived effort that goes into them. This is why people are frustrated if it takes you 1 minute to update their website but still want £100. So if you appear to be very busy, you appear to be putting more effort into your work. The same applies to parenting - we think busy parents are perceived as better parents. At least, that's the argument made in the programme.

Much of this doesn't apply to me, but mostly because I've been implicitly trying to avoid it.

I don't do my taxes because I can buy an accountants time, but I can't buy more "time".

It's another reason I don't want a huge collection of "stuff". "Stuff" takes your time.

I don't have a car for this reason, and I live in a city that doesn't require one.

But the article is motivating me to be more explicit about the things that take time. To make sure I spend that time doing what I want.

Also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3JzcCviNDk

This is my single biggest justification for not doing my own laundry. I've run experiments.

If I take my laundry to a laundromat, run it through the washer, move it to the drier, (run it through the drier again because it isn't dry), fold and put it all away, it costs me about $12 in quarters. It also costs me two or three hours of time, where I'm pretty much stuck at the laundromat, unable to do anything really worthwhile.

If I drop the laundry off at the laundromat and have them do it for me, that wash-dry-fold service usually costs about $30. I toss it in a bag, stop at the laundromat on the way to work, then on the way home that night I stop in again and pick up bags of fresh, nicely folded laundry, with all my shirts on hangers. It's so much easier, and trading a little bit of money for time not spent doing something tedious is a big win.

I rent, but when I moved in I still paid to replace the washer with a washer-dryer. I spend less than 5 minutes a month on washing clothes. (I have multiple laundry baskets so they're pre-sorted)

If something needs ironing I either don't buy it in the first place, or I have it dry cleaned just to get in ironed.

I don't understand it. We've had washing machines for decades in this country. Surely USA can afford them as well. You can get a used one for nothing. Literally.

I save a solid 10.5 hours a week.. that grooming nonsense is for public facing human resources and not a cave dwelling engineer like me.. just put me in front of a computer in a dark room or in the lab with a bunch of hardware leave that grooming shit to the sales force.


Let me give you one example. Birthdays. My wife has two sisters and both parents are alive. That's 5 events a year. Double that for my family. 10 events a year. That's basically once a month I'm spending a weekend afternoon or evening. That's just birthdays.

Add kids in and suddenly every other weekend is filled with something. That isn't including extended family.

As someone who just finished grad school, I'm preparing my future for "minimum maintenance" so that way I can have lots of free time for interesting projects. Shopping, cleaning, commuting, and house maintenance are not on my list of interesting projects, so I would like to minimize the time spent doing these things.

* Shopping — Don't shop, except for the necessities (and when you need them, buy in bulk). I generally feel like having stuff adds stress to my life. My girlfriend and I once had a somewhat humorous argument over whether a kitchen table is really a "need".

* House maintenance — I'll probably rent apartments as long as I can get away with it, but because all of the best high schools are usually in the suburbs, I imagine I'll need a house once I have kids. It will be a small house, but well built. Poured from concrete so I don't have to worry about weather and tornados (most American houses are made from cheap wood). No wallpaper — that stuff gums up all of the time and is a pain to clean. No carpet or wood — carpet is a grime magnet and wood gets scuffed up. I'll use large tiles on my floors (or at least those ceramic tiles that look like wood). I'll have a tiny yard. If I have to mow, I don't want it to take more than five minutes.

* Commuting — After the initial years of my career, I want a job that requires a commute no longer than 10-15 minutes. Living near a city center or finding a remote job are both solutions to this. My brother-in-law drives 3 hours a day for his job; I can't imagine giving away that much of my time.

The key to having more time is to try to think about how every decision you make might cost time in the future. Granted, many people may not be able to make free time because of circumstances beyond their control, but I think these tips and this kind of thought process can at least help a little bit.

I compared my own hours to the ones in the article. I end up with 40 spare hours a week. That feels correct: I have a lot of spare time.

I work 40 hours a week (arrive at 9, leave at 6, with 1 hour for cooking/eating). I am married and it seems that my wife and I evenly split the work between cooking (me) and cleaning (mostly her). We buy groceries together every second day and take about 30 minutes to do so. I spend absolutely no time managing my bills as they are automated and nobody has credit card debt in Europe. I have very few errands. I bike to work for a grand total of 1.7 hours a week which I count as fitness. I go to the gym 3 times a week for a total of about 4.5 hours. We have no children and that is a life decision. I don't spend more than an hour each day grooming/dressing, nor does my wife, what is the author doing? Yes, I sleep 8 hours a day and spend about 10.5 hours eating.

Now, where does the difference come? Well if I worked 60 hours a week I would lose half of my free time, but overworking is really silly. The difference in commute alone gives me nearly an hour a day of extra time to myself compared to the author. Also, if you can enjoy cooking, that is time that is productively spent. So learn to enjoy cooking. You should be enjoying your meals too, so thinking of those hours as cost is a bit sad.

Doing just this. For me, a Monolithic Dome figured out to be the lowest maintenance. Concrete, for all the reasons you mentioned, plus an added benefit of no roof needing repair. Exterior maintenance is yearly power washing, only if it looks dirty. Considered stamped concrete flooring, but decided on vinyl plank. City housing restrictions mean my commute is 20min instead of 5, but on the flipside there is a nice Amish-run bulk food store nearby.

There are apartments in the suburbs too, and near the same schools (maybe slightly farther away, but the school bus should get your children there just the same).

If you look deeply it's surprising how much of that list is self inflicted.

How? What can you realistically avoid? (edit: or rather, what do you mean?)

kids :)

Think of it a different way. We fill up our time, subconsciusly, to avoid the existential angst. Especially if you are an atheist.

Many religious people find time to pray three times a day and still be very productive.

Today, corporations have happily made this situation they own your time for 8 hours a day and you are afraid to lose your steady paycheck, so in many jobs, you pretend to work those 8 hours, refuse to build anything of value for yourself or others for fear of getting fired. It is a bit of an infantile mentality that's conditioned for 40 hours a week. Sweden has just moved to a 6-hour day!

In the past, people didn't have netflix or facebook. You'd see photos of people chilling outside, and in real life. More people were out. Playing sports etc. That's not on your list!

Interesting to contrast this with articles that paint the various delivery/cooking/cleaning/task runner services as a kind of mom-in-a-box that real adults shouldn't need.

Maybe being a real adult is an unwise investment of time if you can afford to do without it.

There's a reasonable middle ground (that will differ by person). I spend very little time on bills--direct payment in most cases. I have a housecleaner who comes every few weeks to keep things at least vaguely under control. I have a lawn service. I use Amazon Prime which eliminates lots of little errands. That said, I don't go crazy with all the Internet task services, most of which seem like more trouble than they're worth and most aren't even available where I live.

Most of tasks are exaggerated or poorly managed. I do all the mentioned stuff, get a good night sleep (7-8 h), plus studying for master's degree and still have time for my hobbies and friends. Time management is a critical skill to learn while being adult.

I read the list, to my surprise it mentioned nothing about raising kids, which took away 40%+ of my daily energy averagely and is the sole/main reason I feel busy, not to mention all the arguments and emotional stress etc you have to deal with daily.

Automate all the things!

If you are spending an hour a week tracking bills, or even 1/2 hour, you aren't taking advantage of your bank. We set up auto bill pay whenever we can. I prefer to have it through my bank or my credit card rather than through the service provider doing EFT, because it's easier to shut off and it centralizes the view.

That doesn't mean you can totally put this task on autopilot, just that automation can make sure you don't have late fees and that you don't spend money on stamps.

I don't want autopay from my bank account. Automatically paying with a CC is ideal and then just making one payment to CC. Then you can dispute if you are billed the incorrect amount. I don't think my power bill, for example, will take credit. Plus is fluctuates from $400-$800 a month so I like to see how much it is before I pay.

Title should be "Why are American adults so busy?"

Once you leave the U.S. and live in other nations for a while, in some of those you will quickly realize that the ideas and observations in this article are so clearly Americanized. Life doesn't have to be the way it is described here, and without giving up any contributions to the world or standard of living.

The average American watches more than four hours of television a day. That's where a good chunk of the time goes.

One of the perks of being an engineer is I can spend less on my attire and grooming.

I shave once every two weeks. Most of the time I have a scruffy patchy beard. I love being lazy. The downside is I'm perpetuating a bad stereotype. Perhaps engineers would have higher social status if we dressed the part.

> you're working a 40 hour a week job but the rest should

What rest?

128 non-working hours

It doesn't quite work that way.

I'm busy because I work 60 hours a week so I can ensure my family has what they need as we grow.

My mentality, and I hope I don't break away from this (and continue down a spiral of working too much) is to gradually reduce my workload as my son gets older. Right now he's a tiny baby who I can support by ensuring I help with feedings and care so my partner can be happy as well. That's easy, and I can focus on boosting my career in the mean time. It helps he goes to bed at 7pm, so I am able to catch up on work after hours. It's not ideal, but it's the reality right now. To achieve what we want as a family.

Once he's older, I want to be able to spend actual daddy time and interact with him in a meaningful way. That's the goal, at least.

Kids form their base behaviour and approach to the world until three years old, this is the most important time.

For sure. I'm not neglecting my child at all, at least like to think I am not :) When he is awake in the mornings and evenings, we spend ample time. Of course, weekends are a great time together as well.

Didn't mean to make my comment sound like I am neglecting my child, but I could see how it could be perceived that way!

"Surely adults were doing something wrong if they were never bored."

FWIW, I know plenty of adults that complain about boredom and they are most definitely the ones that are doing something wrong. Not because they aren't filling whatever free time they have with some other form of work, but because they don't know how to enjoy the free time that they get (lack of hobbies/interests/etc.), and/or they don't know how to relax and enjoy doing nothing.

As people get older the concept of their own mortality becomes more and more tangible, which makes each moment seem more precious. To a kid being bored is an annoyance, but to an adult being bored is more like a lost opportunity at best and a personal failing at worst.

I think we have full control over how busy we are. But we also have full knowledge of the consequences of our actions, or lack thereof. So we choose to do more. Maybe we work more to have a nicer home, which takes more work to maintain. Maybe we hire out maintenance to have less money, but more time. Maybe we choose to have children and a spouse, which takes time. Maybe we choose to have a nice yard. Maybe we choose none of those things, and sit in a low-maintenance apartment playing games, or maybe we ditch it all and hike the Appalachian Trail. The point is that we make those choices. If anyone feels they do not have that control of their life, that is a problem I would suggest be fixed.

>A half-hour a day -- that's five hours a week.

A lot of this stuff is kind of... exaggerated. There's no real metrics except for these "small piece of day" x "five days a week" to make it seem dramatic. Not much value in this post.

I wasn't really busy until I had children..

To me the struggle is the rare collision of having both free time and ANY energy at the point the free time comes. Most of my energy goes into all those other buckets. I can see why some people just stare at a TV (which I don't have) or do other passive entertainment (which I'm sure I do). To be fair to myself...I do exercise (usually biking) 1-2 hours every day, which some will classify as "free time". While it is often enjoyable, I don't consider it an optional, spontaneous, or random endeavor...which is usually what I consider "free" (or "unplanned") time.

And it should be related to the feeling time passes so quick when you are an adult.

But.These things are not a part of it.I will not call it multitasking.But an important part of my daily schedule is planning things to make sure that I avoid time where I just day dream,it could be waiting for a build process,washing clothes,cooking etc.While all these tasks are defined as "time-consuming",they basically require more efficient management(you can ask any working parent,they will be able to explain to you important time management becomes). So adults seem busy because they are doing more than one thing simultaneously(not to be mistaken with multitasking).

I guess most of the comments focussing on cutting down work.. but I get a serious mid life crisis - "what am I doing with my life" sinking feeling when I have time to spare. Being busy helps me avoid that..

I find it hard to compete against you in the job market, haha. I have a gazillion things I'd want to do if I had the time and energy.

Obviously they are busy because they are reading and responding to Hacker News.

It's easy. We are busy because we stay at work too much. Also todays jobs are not so fulfilling, which means you need more time to recover. Make the work day 4 hours + meal and things will be better.

The comments on this thread strike me as an unusually good portrait of the HN community. This is who we are, how we spend our time, how much diversity in these viewpoints we contain.

That's why I hate full-time employment. It is shocking that people haven't revolted when the majority have to devote much more than a majority of their time to work and errands, even not including time for offspring.

When I make kids (my pokémon if you will), I plan to sit'em down and ELI5 what life is like for the average adult. I will work with them develop their own income streams, based on things they are passionate about. This way, they can avoid a life of modern slavery.

They only accounted for 40 hours for work. What professional today is only spending 40 hours working and/or increasing their skills related to work? Especially if you are on HN.

2 hours for dependents? I take it that doesn't mean children?

Another thing I will never understand is how so many of my fellow American Males can watch basically every football game during the week. Who has time for that? I don't even have a single friend outside of my family because it's just too time consuming.

In government, hours are often limited.

For federal contractors, any extra hours must be paid (not legal to work for free) so normally it's only 40, or perhaps 47 at a real sleazy place.

Compounded with the current (IT) expectation that you should do and be everything for your job. It should be the first thing you look at when the alarm goes off, and the last thing you look at when you go to bed, and at 2pm on Saturday...work work work.

But then you're made redundant in the name of 'finding inefficiencies' due to the merger and find yourself with...nothing outside the office that defines you.

An additional perspective: most of us don't leave and rejoin our jobs, so we have no downtime, long fluid moments of activity and rest. Also we forego most healthy time now for a massive payoff at retirement with diminished health. We fear this constantly.

To fix it, we should become contractors or 4 day week workers.

I have some contractor friends and they say that they feel so much more respect. When there is overtime involved the client usually pushed it to their salaried staff because there is no cost to them. I went on vacation for a week and couldn't go a day without someone contacted me about some BS at work. There is no mental break at all anymore. I'm a enterprise consultant so any over time I work is basically free money for my employer.

Dependents typically take a lot more than 2 hrs/week. More like 2hrs/day if they are in school and involved in any extra-curricular activities, at least until they are of driving age. On days where they might have e.g. a game, or some other performance or event, this can easily double.

So, most of the things on these list are avoidable. Some are not.

Doing the laundry is a good example. With a 4 person household, this takes up a lot of time! A robot to take this chore away from me would be extremely valuable. I can't wait for technology to advance so these become available.

This is probably a bit exaggerated. Like someone else mentioned, this is probably directed at adults that have children. Having children comes with loads more time-consuming responsibilities... not that I have any, but my sister complains a lot about that part.

To prevent existential dread creeping in if you get a chance to contemplate the hamster wheel?

This chart from the bureau of labor statistics shows where our time goes. Work is the # 1 activity, followed by sleep.


Well if you cook for more people, and someone cleans for more people and someone else does something for more people... it becomes fun and you won't have to do some stuff of that list because someone else did it.

Looking at our nearest relatives, primates, they seem to have a pretty chill life.

Also, I think there is a vast difference between spending time on something that is intrinsically rewarding, and on something that isn't.

Missed security. You could argue it falls under the responsibility sections, but protecting your possessions without your presence is definitely extra effort.

Perhaps. Some people are lucky enough that closing the windows and locking the doors are enough.

Easy, have less stuff. Save time shopping, save time on security, save time on disposal.

How do you do that?

You stop working you start dying.

Working for another person, or working for yourself? It's possible to be unemployed, and working.

I'm fortunate enough to have access to people who stopped working. All do not need to work for income. Often, after working years, they perish quickly.

Others spend their days in front of tv. This saddens me. Imagine telling the young intern that after you sell your practice you spend your days watching tv. Day in day out.

Or the widow who is always on her couch.

Or the well off retired exec trying to figure out how to spend years and years of days ahead of him.

Being rich and old and not working is a bad formula.

Because we have to do all the stuff now that our parents used to do for us?

one thing i've learned over the years is that everyone isn't really as busy as they say they are.

everyone is afraid of not sounding busy.

Trello is life and it is my goto to-do list!

I read this and I think that it mostly sounds like a list of self-created problems, largely arising from the author's vanity and poor impulse control, that need to be solved.

The crucial #1 thing that's entirely missing from this list, though, is cultivating personal connections with other people. That's the thing about your life that most strongly determines your happiness, as well as your professional success, your educational opportunities, and your love life (obviously). And it's not just a matter of taking care of dependents (#13), because it involves people who aren't your dependents, too. This list implicitly relegates that to last place, behind ironing your shirts, fixing dents in your car, and fucking off at the gym. Don't do that. Spend time on connecting with other people every day. Help them. Listen to them. Work with them. Play with them. If you don't, your life is going to be terrible, no matter how much money you have, how clean your toilet is, or how up-to-date your sound system is.

I'm not speaking theoretically here, although there's lots of psychological theory backing up what I'm saying. I knew a number of people who killed themselves. Don't be the next one. Connect. On your deathbed you aren't going to wish you'd owned a more complete set of cutlery.

And this is, in my experience, the biggest difference from childhood — you have to deliberately connect with people, because it doesn't happen by default. As a child, your parents will invite people to your birthday party. As an adult, if you don't invite people to your birthday party, you won't have a birthday party. This is more an opportunity than a burden, because it means you choose who to create connections with.

What about the rest of this stupid list?

I'm going to mention my life from time to time in what's below, but I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I'm far from a paragon, of self-discipline or anything else. I'm not holding my life up as a model to be emulated, although it does reflect my own values to some extent. I'm saying, if even I can do this shit, any fucking idiot can do it. Probably you can do better.

1. "Have money". Okay, I like to have money. I like to work, too. I've paid my own way (and sometimes some other people's ways) since I was 18; I've been lucky in that this has been a lot easier for me than for most people. But honestly, I haven't been shallow enough to equate financial independence with adulthood since I was about 12. Housewives aren't adults? But I was an adult when I was paying my rent by working at Taco Bell? Please.

How much you have to work to make a living has a lot to do with how much you spend and how much you can bill. Financially independent people's spending, even in the US, varies from a few thousand dollars a year up to hundreds of thousands, without even getting into the super-wealthy. Workers get paid anywhere from US$10 per hour (or even less for prisoners and illegal aliens) up to US$1000 per hour or more. Outside the US, the variation is even greater.

Don't tell me that across this entire range of expenses and earnings you have to work "40–60 hours a week" in order to have money. You work that number of hours because it's the norm, not because your living expenses magically adjust to match your earnings within 15%. Then, you spend however much you make, instead of what you need, because you're a fucking idiot. I've been there too, man. It sucks. But you can stop doing that, unless you're at the bottom of the income distribution or have extra expenses.

2. "Cooking." You can totally cook if you want to. Cooking is an enjoyable activity, and feeding people even more so. But you definitely don't have to spend half an hour cooking breakfast every day if you're short on time. Boil half a dozen eggs on Sunday night, have an egg and a banana for breakfast each morning. Make a casserole on Saturday, eat slices for dinner all week. Have peanut-butter sandwiches and salad for lunch. Cook dinner for yourself, a partner, and two friends; then you only cook dinner one out of every four times, unless you somehow get slotted into a housewife role. Boil eggs, chopped onion, and cheese in a Ziploc bag to make a Ziploc omelet. Chop vegetables on Tuesday night and use the vegetables in food for the rest of the week. Use dried onion and garlic in bottles. Make three liters of cooked rice and eat from it the rest of the week, or use a rice cooker. Keep a seasoned salt mix in a shaker. Keep oils for cooking in squirt bottles with conical nozzles next to the stove. Make a big batch of curry, pack it into a dozen big Ziploc bags, and freeze them all with separators in between.

My breakfast this morning was canned mackerel, wheat crackers, and a peanut bar; lunch was instant noodles. (I'm trying not eating after midday this week, although I'm buying the food rather than begging for it in the street in the traditional way.)

3. "Laundry." Don't dry-clean your own clothes, as the article bizarrely suggests; that's dangerous enough to outsource to a specialized company. Don't fold your clothes except on special occasions; wear knits instead. Wear your clothes twice before washing. Wear flip-flops instead of socks. Synthetics dry faster, but I can't wear them more than once; I can wear silk, wool, or cotton twice. You can get laundry down to 20 minutes a week (per person) if you have a washing machine.

4. "Cleaning." This is largely a matter of how much living space you have, although yeah, I probably spend a few hours a week washing dishes. When my then wife and I lived in a van, we sure as hell didn't spend 5 hours a week each cleaning it. We probably didn't spend two hours a week between the two of us. (We did have to spend a lot of hours fixing it, though...)

5. "Buying stuff." This is the only one on the list that actually saves you time — buying bookshelves is a hell of a lot faster than making them, not to mention toothpaste. But I've still wasted a terrible fraction of my life on it. You can reduce the time you waste on buying things by buying in bulk, often by buying online, by buying things that last, and by possessing less. (If you are poor, you may find yourself obliged to possess a great many things, just in case; but if you are not poor, you can take advantage of the opportunity afforded by your money to only buy the things you do need.)

6. "Bills." My roommate and I have six bills: rent, internet+telephone, gas, electricity, water, and property tax. Most of these come once every two months. (The property tax we can pay yearly.) It definitely doesn't take us 16 hours every two months between the two of us to track and pay them. Don't live alone; that's a stupid waste of time. Of course, if you pick the wrong roommate, you could waste a lot more than 16 hours arguing... but that hasn't been a problem.

7. "Small errands." Yes, these can take an unbounded amount of time. Avoid them as much as possible. A lot of these come from your possessions and bills.

8. "Transport." Yes, it's easy to waste hours a day on transport (to say nothing of the time you work to pay off a car loan). I live 20 minutes away from my office by public transit or bicycle. Usually I read or write on the bus; sometimes it's too crowded. About once a month, I have to top up the transit pass. This is a 45-second cash transaction at the ticket counter in the subway station. I should probably spend a couple of hours getting my bicycle back in working order, because it's often more convenient.

It's easy to get into a position where you're spending two or four or six hours a day on transport, and worse, transport that consumes your entire attention. If you're in that position, recognize that it's an urgent problem and you need to get out of it. Only isolation from other human beings is more psychologically damaging than long commutes, and only serious illness wastes more time.

9. Exercise. (The article says "staying healthy", but ⓐ that's a lost cause, you're going to fucking die just like everybody else, and ⓑ eating is already point #2.) What the fuck is wrong with you that you drive a car to a job five days a week and then lack exercise? How about walking a little bit? I walk about a kilometer a day to get to the bus or subway, two or three kilometers most days. If I bike to work and back that's five kilometers. Also you could work (in the traditional sense of the word). I'm sure there's something in your house that could use some elbow grease. A few weeks ago I was also taking the stairs the fifty meters up to the office — this takes four minutes. I think I'll start again tomorrow.

10. "Finances." Don't waste your time following the stock market unless you're day-trading. Don't day-trade unless you're going to do it full time. Invest your savings at first in an index fund (or buy SPY, which is pretty much the same thing) and move a bit to a money-market fund each year so that it's nearly all in that form by the time you hit retirement. You don't need an investment advisor unless you have millions of dollars to manage. Keep enough of your money in a liquid form that you can cover emergencies; historically this was dollars, now it might be Bitcoin, though I'm not sure yet. Buy a house (and keep most of your savings offshore) if you live somewhere politically unstable. None of this, except for buying a house, will cost you hours per week, more like hours per year.

All of this can get a great deal more time-consuming if you're poor, because you're desperately trying to avoid disaster by carefully juggling things here and there. There may not be anything you can do about that, but if you're in that position because you're just spendthrift (as suggested in point #1), then get a grip.

11. "Taxes." Yes.

12. "Responsibility for yourself." Yes.

13. "Responsibility for your dependents." Yes, some of this is unavoidable, but note that many people choose to spend an enormous amount of time on it at no real benefit to their dependents. Also, to some extent you can influence how many dependents you have — the most responsible choice is to be childfree, because the human population is not in any danger of dying out from under-breeding. You may still have parents, siblings, adopted children, and so on to take care of, but you'll have less dependents and correspondingly more autonomy if you don't add to the population problem by breeding.

14. "Being sick." Yes.

15. "One time errands." Yes.

16. "Long term planning." Yes, this is the main thing. It should be #2, after cultivating friendships and other connections with other people, not #16.

1. "Attire and grooming." There are jobs that do require fancy clothes (even ironed shirts and ties! even now!) and you should count that as part of the work hours when you are considering taking such a job. I've had the wonderful good luck to work almost exclusively at jobs where I could show up in a T-shirt and slacks and get a haircut every month or three and be fine. In the spring, summer, and fall I usually take cold showers, which cuts my shower time to about three minutes. You can brush your hair walking down the street if you don't just shave it off.

2. "Sleeping." Yes, this is super important.

3. "Eating." Yes, this is super important, although I certainly don't spend 10½ hours a week on it.

They are not really busy, but it is one of the best socially-accepted excuses.

I hear this jib all of the time.

One thing the author missed in his, otherwise spot-on calculations, is the fact that after spending a certain amount of time on one task - namely work for most people, marginal hours of "free time" afterwards are actually not "free time" - they're hours spent in mental recovery.

This varies for each person, but you see a recurring theme of people sitting on their couch or in front of their computer just staring at a screen. But their mindless staring is only telling half the story.

Could they possibly just go to sleep? Sure, but waking up at 4AM has even worse implications on the next work day. These people are recovering by doing nothing.

This is why so many of my friends who saved up a nest egg as developers have recently quit their jobs upon hitting quarter-life crisis. All of a sudden, they now have the free time to do other development work they enjoy (often more productively), pursue other hobbies, cook, build/create art, fill up their day with MORE than just the monolith of the work day, and come out feeling "less busy" despite having achieved more than when they were employed.

The work week really is a monolith. Spending over 1/3 of your entire day on this monolith has implications on the other 2/3 of your day.

Even aside from social stuff I don't really finish everything I hope to every week. I don't know about everyone else.

OMG, that was a dreadful reading. And definitely, as an adult my life feels quite more easy and manageable than what she says, and I work, clean, cook, watch netflix, practice sport, and meet my friends besides all the other adult obligations.

How much time do you spend taking care of kids? That's the real time sink of adulthood (not just childcare itself, but also all the extra strain it generates in terms of household work, cleaning, etc).

10 years ago I had all the time in the world, even though I was an adult - a single, childless adult.

Having children is a choice. Most things in the original list are not a choice.

Yeah, if you "choose" to be a hermit living in the woods I suppose you can cross off the 40 hours a week for work too.

A hermit living in the woods still must nourish him/herself, and find/build shelter.

Technically everything on the list is a choice. You don't necessarily have to bathe.

The article doesn't really answer the question. It says adults are busy because they have too much stuff to do (duh..) But "why" is still a good question, and it remains unanswered.

The answer is that, as we grow up, we tend to develop the belief that our well-being needs to be justified somehow. In other words, we start to believe that we are not by default worthy of living a good, joyful, care-free, abundant life.. unless it is "deserved". And the way to justify, or "earn" our well-being, we are told, is by action. By doing things. So we become obsessed with doing things, as a way of seeking approval and justifying our well-being.

Of course, as any child knows... this is ridiculous. Action is not a means to an end. Action itself is one of the ways to enjoy life.

Having grown up in the UK I've always felt guilty about not doing anything in my free time. Partly because everyone else seems to be living such a busy and rewarding existence (or so they would have me believe).

Now, living in Spain, I feel it's OK not to do anything. Just sitting in the shade for 6 hours watching the world go by doesn't make me a weirdo, like it does back home.

Heh, I've noticed that Western culture does put a different emphasis on work ethics. After moving to Russia, I've just noticed a different approach to how work is perceived, and my partner and her mom have often cited this proverb at me:

Работа не волк - в лес не убежит. Work is not a wolf, it will not run to the forest.

Basically, the idea is work isn't going anywhere, so no need to worry that much about it. At my last job in the US, I couldn't understand why people were so adamant about how busy they were when most of the time people were doing what they could to look busy. It's not that they were actually burdened with work, it was that they wanted to appear like they had no time. My employees would frequently get into arguments over who had the busier and more difficult schedule. My family does the same (one of my brothers prides himself on how little free time he had)

I guess it's just this perception that important people are busy and the inverse of that is if you're not busy you're not important. Just speculation, of course, but it's my experience that once you get away from the US, you lose this mindset.

Edit: I guess in fairness I should note that I did have genuinely busy coworkers - our under-staffed programming team were constantly under pressure and in constant repair mode due to not having the time or resources to move out of a crisis state. This is a true "always busy" scenario in my mind.

>I guess it's just this perception that important people are busy

Perhaps but I'm sure the primary thought in their subconscious is "don't back down or they will punish you by inventing new burdens for you."

>Western culture does put a different emphasis on work ethics.

See "protestant work ethic".

That's not the inverse, it's the contrapositive. The inverse would be "busy people are important".

>Having grown up in the UK I've always felt guilty about not doing anything in my free time. Partly because everyone else seems to be living such a busy and rewarding existence

In the UK? Have you been to Yorkshire?

I am from Yorkshire. Take the point though.

Heh, didn't know it, no offence meant.

Was mostly referring to all the urban poor, crime, domestic violence etc that goes on in large parts of the UK.

Well, those are ways of keeping yourself busy.

There are certainly area of the UK where this is true, but not all. I guess it can seem that way because we have dense areas of population where the good and bad parts are so close together?

That's part of the reason I guess (density).

Is it really like that or is that the message you get from the media?

This post gives me hope. And a rekindled desire to learn Spanish. I just wish I coped with hot weather better.

Some areas, even in the South, are not that hot even during summertime.

True, I believe some of the the Northern regions can be relatively temperate? It is easy to forget that Spain is such a big country sometimes, especially compared to the UK.

Some parts are colder than the south of England, see Burgos and surroundings (not to mention the Pyrenees with 3K high peaks!).

Yes, learning Spanish is tough and July/August is pretty hot, so much so I returned to the UK for 2 months.

I'm in Sevilla for several weeks and was told by locals to come in September rather than August, due to the heat letting up. So far, it's been 40-45C every single day (save for the past few), and that leaves me couped up in the apt.

I'm missing Lisbon, where I usually live (over 300 days of sun yet it never really gets unbearably hot). I can't imagine being in Andalucia during the entire summer, though I hear Granada isn't as bad (probably due to being 30 min to the mountains and 30 min to the beach).

There's unusual weather in Europe at the moment. The UK recorded their hottest September day since 1911.


I'm in Alicante. It's been around 30-32C for the past two weeks which is hot enough to make me lethargic for most of the day. I couldn't bear 40-45C.

I can speak maybe 5 words in Spanish but I was usually told that it was easy to learn?

I find the vocabulary isn't that hard to learn as you pick up new words each day and eventually they stick. The grammar required to put those words together is another matter though.

It really does depend on your situation though. I have one to one lessons twice a week but it's not really enough as I manage to get by without having to speak that much during the week.

However, I know people who have picked it up fairly quickly because they are working in a public facing environment where they really have to learn fast.

The grammar required to put those words together is another matter though.

I wrote down a grammar card with all the verb conjugations (-AR, -IR, -ER verbs) and carried it in my pocket everywhere. When I couldn't remember, I (as soon as practical) pulled it out of my pocket and double-checked.

The most difficult one for me was getting la/el correct. Although by that point I knew the correct gender of each noun, it didn't come out correctly when speaking quickly.

I have started doing something similar - I have a notebook with some basics that I can refer to while attempting a conversation.

It helps, a bit, and is lot more convenient than firing up google translate every two minutes (which isn't that much use for a lot of grammar anyway).

The original author's distribution of time over responsibilities is not identical to mine, but it's similar enough to make me wonder where you're getting those 6 hours from. I'm not saying it's "weird," in fact I think it sounds lovely. But I doubt I could find six contiguous free hours in the next six months, except maybe if I spend my holidays with my in-laws.

Edit: typing on phone

During the week it would be tough but on weekends I have all the time in the world.

I think what you are experiencing in Spain is kakonomics, a preference for low quality pay-offs.


I'm OK with not really doing anything, but I try to draw a line between totally squandering time (e.g. scrolling endlessly through facebook, or watching a show you don't enjoy, purely to kill time) and calm, idle time reading a book or watching nature. I haven't figured out how to describe it well yet.

"Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”


> we start to believe that we are not by default worthy of living a good, joyful, care-free, abundant life.. unless it is "deserved".

That may be your own personal motivation, but it is far from a generalization or even shared by many people.

For instance, people do work to make a living. For some people, making a living means paying the rent and put food on the table. For others, it means affording luxuries and materialist goals. Most people do need to work to cover these expenses, and the higher they cost the harder they need to work for them. This is the norm.

Then there are also other motivations. Some people decide to become entrepreneurs not because they seek riches, but because they believe they are able to create something new, something that no one else can provide, and believe that they have an obligation to be a source of progress and push the world forward in their own personal way.

> It says adults are busy because they have too much stuff to do (duh..) But "why" is still a good question,

The article says that adults work, commute, clean, cook, take care of their dependent and so on... they don't do that to justify their existence but because it has to be done, unless you're rich enough to find other people doing these things for you...

Not every adult needs to cook in order for all the people to be fed.

Shared homes, or shared meals, would reduce the need cook so often. And reduce resource usage.

We've moved to a social system where all adults are expected to work. This leaves less time for social cohesion, domestic management, childrearing, and such. We've lost a lot in no longer having half of all parents not encumbered by paid work.

> We've lost a lot in no longer having half of all parents not encumbered by paid work.

We've also lost the ability to financially survive in a one-worker household, overall. Inflation adjusted household wages have long stagnated, and that's when factoring in women entering the workforce! Twice the workers for the same pay...

> In other words, we start to believe that we are not by default worthy of living a good, joyful, care-free, abundant life.. unless it is "deserved".

It's not about being "deserved". There is no merit, morality or legitimacy concern here. Just plain pragmatism : good things will not come to you if you just sit on your couch all day.

Take for instance item 4 in OP's list: cleaning. Well, I can assure you that if I don't clean my apartment, nobody is going to show up magically and do it for me.

> Of course, as any child knows...

Well yeah, because children have their parents do stuff for them. That's precisely OP's point.

There absolutely is a 'morality' (in the socially enforced sense) of cleaning. It's not quite as bad as it used to be, but your level of cleanliness isn't entirely a free choice because it affects how people judge you. And, unless you're extremely independent-minded, how you judge yourself.

Similarly there is a 'morality' of leisure: Protestant work ethic and all that. Note that one of the sibling comments talks about feeling a lot more comfortable relaxing in (Catholic) Spain.

> Take for instance item 4 in OP's list: cleaning. Well, I can assure you that if I don't clean my apartment, nobody is going to show up magically and do it for me.

Maybe it should be like this. Our bodies clean themselves.

I keep wondering, how's the research in self-maintaining and self-cleaning materials going. Surely, getting rid of the need to constantly clean your house will require a lot of small breakthroughs, but it is a worthy goal given the time we all collectively waste.

(Personally I view all maintenance as waste - you have to pay your dues and not skimp on it, but you should at the same time minimize the cost as much as possible.)

Maybe because the people with means and influence don't really worry about this problem: they pay someone to do menial tasks like cleaning for them. I know in the country I live manual labour is so cheap I have a maid and a gardener that do that for me. It's so cheap I probably wouldn't bother automating it even if I could. The furthest I go is packing a dishwasher. Just because I don't like dirty dishes standing around on the days that the maid isn't there.

> Well, I can assure you that if I don't clean my apartment, nobody is going to show up magically and do it for me.

The roomba and our cleaning lady are magical?

It's very simple: I get paid x/hr, the roomba as time advances effectively approaches a cost of 0/hr of work (same goes for the clothes and dishwasher) and the 1 hour the cleaning lady spends here is cheaper than what either of us earn during an hour. Why would we possibly spend our valuable time doing that when we can outsource it to a person and a robot for much less?

> But "why" is still a good question, and it remains unanswered.

Because maintenance takes time and it's not handled by your parents anymore.

And yet people in certain European countries and tons of other parts in the world with different work attitudes can have tons of free time, despite having children et al.

Which ones are those? I'm from an European country and one of the biggest sources of internal stress for me is just noticing how much of my life gets wasted by having to have a job.

>Which ones are those? I'm from an European country and one of the biggest sources of internal stress for me is just noticing how much of my life gets wasted by having to have a job.

Check out most small towns (200K or less) and villages in places like France, Italy, Spain, Greece, etc -- the one's I know off.

Or are small town residents not "adults"?

I'm a resident of 1M city. May be a part of the problem.

> Or are small town residents not "adults"?

Didn't mean to imply that. I was just whining about my own life ;).

>Didn't mean to imply that. I was just whining about my own life ;).

Heh, I added that part to refer to the original parent's question.

From what I've seen (and lived myself) in such places, work is mostly something you do, quite casually, for 8 hours or so, and then (or even in between work, e.g. with "siesta" etc) there's lot of socializing, slower everyday pace, etc. And everybody knows everyone else. People are not "ambitious" in the stereotypical "make it big" US idea.

That said, this also holds in "smalltown USA" too -- well, except for the unfortunate souls who work as employees in nationwide firms like Walmart, et al. But for those with own businesses, farms, etc, it's mostly like that.

Of course in larger cities you can easily work 14 hour days for shit pay.

they have more free time in small towns because usually your grandparents and parents and in-laws live close by and will help with babysitting (often people these days are only children, so plenty of parents/grandparents available to help), cleaning and cooking, not to mention that in general you live within ~10 minutes commute of your workplace.

North America is a lot more "everybody fends for themselves" than Europe, I mean, here parents will charge rent to their kids and nobody bats an eye, so forget about free babysitting and/or your mom coming over to clean your place and leaving your fridge stocked with leftovers. Not to mention living in sprawly cities with huge commutes in general...

Except this post was not about work but rather about everything else.

Well, they have free time for "everything else" too.

E.g. kids can just go out and play or go to afternoon classes themselves, they don't have to be constantly supervised by their parents or be driven everywhere, so they get more freedom, and parents gets more self time, for one example.

It's more practical than that. If you want things, you have to make them happen.

You don't clean and cook because you need to justify your existence but because you want to eat a decent meal on a clean plate. Many actions are definitely means to an end.

> ... But "why" is still a good question, and it remains unanswered

Mr. Clayton Christensen says its because adults like to invest their effort in stuff that gives them the most immediate sense of achievement - and that turns out to be their careers; spending your time with the kids (or doing other thing that might make more sense) doesn't give you this kick, often its a long term investment that gets neglected.

He says so in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHdS_4GsKmg (answering a question asked at 1:15:08).

i keep quoting this guy quite a lot recently...

Actually our physiology, may constrain us to this type of behaviour, throught the inner reward system that releases certain dopamine and other "feel good" neurotransmitters only after a certain level of effort / stress has beed detected, that is after high levels of cortisol, which is connected to stress .

This is of course a very simplistic description and by no means explains the result but it may play an important role.

This is a mechanism evolved since our existence in the wilderness and may have very different/negative results in our modern lives if not filtered through higher level mental functions. But anyway giving the fact that it's such a low level mechanism is hard to control it totally..

If you ask that "why" question like a 3-year-old - i.e. keep asking it repeatedly until you get to the reason behind the reason behind the reason, the answer you'll arrive at is entropy. You can surrender to it or work against it. How much order you want, determines how much work you'll have to do. Western society has a certain baseline level of order that takes a fair amount of work to maintain.

Or you know, you have responsibilities. I know where my free time went, it got soaked up by the kids. Get up, go to work, go home, kid time, bed time, now I have maybe an hour or two to cram in everything that makes me not a dull automaton, but half of that is spent fixing stuff or I'm too exhausted to do anything. You don't even get weekends, there's always stuff going on.

And I'm far from the busiest parent I know. One of the neighbors has a kid in competitive swim so she's up at 4AM every morning for swim class, then sending the kid to school, then sending the other kid to school, then a brief window to get stuff done during the day (at least she has that, with 3 year olds you don't get the school break), then bus pickup, then bus pickup, dinner, homework, then bedtime. Weekends are swim meets--every weekend. Often several hours away, plus whatever the other kid is doing.

Keeping a schedule like that up perpetually is exhausting, and there's basically no opportunity for adult activities. Nothing to talk about except swim meets.

My thoughts exactly. The question is a very good one. But the article does not really answer it.

To add to your observation, I think there is also a social aspect to it. I have often felt that being "not busy" is not socially acceptable. Or in other words being busy is somehow more respectable. So we tend to brag about being busy, and helps to perpetuate this point of view.

"If you're not busy, why don't you help me doing this thing that we both kinda like? (but I have to do for reasons other than pure enjoyment)"

I think that social acceptance sums up into that sentence here.

I think reading The Little Prince should be required approximately every five years from college graduation until end of life. It's far too easy to fall into a "daily grind", where one operates in a zombie-like mode executing a lot of minute tasks that are mostly devoid of any legitimate impact.

Reading The Little Prince every five years has indeed been my routine (since high school). Glad I'm not the only one :)

Yes, this is called "social conditioning." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_conditioning

To get back to being a kid, one can decondition all that (while retaining adult sensibilities).

> To get back to being a kid, one can decondition all that

I think that's what LSD does.

Please tell us more.

> Please tell us more.

To decondition oneself out of all of the social conditioning naturally involves giving up both cynicism[1] and pride[2] (they are socialized feelings).

[1] Urban Dictionary defines "Tell me more" as an expression of put-down: "When someone say something stupid or simple. It's used to annoy people by asking them to tell you more when the statement is final." http://tell-me-more.urbanup.com/6108370 And it takes the simple naïveté of childhood to dislodge the sophisticated cynicism of adulthood.

[2] such as pride at "being a fair social agent" (your words) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12496092

Ha, I should have been more careful, there was no hidden tone in my previous message. I genuinely wanted to know more about how to, and what are the limits (losing condition is probably not childhood regression either).

Do you consider asian philosophy (like buddhism I believe) that takes a contemplative approach on existence, to be childlike (from memories, I used to spend a lot of time contemplating things, lots of things are amazing when you're a kid, stone, river, rain, sky, ..)

ps: interesting interpretation of the nature of pride and cynicism. I'm not so sure about the social roots of pride, even though I agree that it's often socially distorded, but pride is also felt when doing something you feel about as beautiful, loving and right. For instance the other day instead of killing some annoying insect I took a step to tame my instinct and carefully move them out my room. This is also something I'd call "pride" even though it's far less social, but I agree it's not unrelated either)

pps: also not that I said 'your brain' as I believe it's a part of nature and evolution in our maturation from child to adult. As a child you enjoy asking things from others; a lot less later on though.

I find the word 'marvelling' more fitting to describe the childhood experiencing of "lots of things are amazing when you're a kid, stone, river, rain, sky, .." than 'contemplating' because the contemplation of Buddhism is a whole new ball game entirely (I find nothing childlike--much less naive--in withdrawing from the world of senses into a detached reality that forms the essence of meditative practices).

As you want to know more about this topic I'll refer you to: http://actualfreedom.com.au/library/topics/naivete.htm ... and the "method" to deprogram oneself is: http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/richard/articles/thismomento...

Thanks a lot for the links.

About Buddhism, I thought the withdrawing was only a first step toward a stable "marvelling". But I'm completely not educated on the subject.

I think this is a wholly narcissistic point of view .. moreso, I believe that the reason adults are so busy is that they realize that none of the luxuries they've gained can be attained without the help of other people working for them and so in order to maintain a fair life, adults work just as hard as others need to - on average - in order to maintain civilized life.

Where civilized life is defined in the regions between childhood and adulthood.

This is not a realisation, it's a belief. And it's a very boring one. I quite enjoy my narcissistic views and have absolutely no interest in trading them in for your moralism ("fairness", "equality", "justice" and other socialist bullshit). Live your own hell all you want, just don't inflict it on others. Since you're a believer in "fairness", I'll cut you a fair deal: I'll keep my luxuries to myself and you keep your "responsibilities" to yourself. Deal?

I'm okay with your statement, its your right after all, but lets see if you have the same views in 5, 10, 20 years time from now. I wager not, but thats entirely up to you. Responsibility for ones social existence is one thing; calling it 'socialist bullshit' is another thing entirely. There is nothing in this statement of belief, that we are all very dependent on each other, that makes it a socialist ideal. Even the most rabid totalitarian-authoritarian imperialists have to admit, they can't make all the good shit themselves...

Not all luxuries are necessary or beneficial.

I used to believe this, now a little bit less, at a certain age I'd say our brain takes pride/comfort into being a fair social agent (not a child anymore). You try to be independant while collaborating with others and satisfy your needs mutually. Society just amplified that trait.

- my 2 cents.

I see it more as people wanting to experience everything they can. Plus, modern life adds on many demands.

> I see it more as people wanting to experience everything they can.

I call this the buffet approach to life. Some people seem to want to cram a tiny bit of every thing onto their plate, nibbling at everything there is to offer. The alternative being a full course dinner with superbly executed dishes that compliment each other. Or you could just eat steak, whatever you prefer.

Or you can do like me and spend the first half of the meal eating so much junk food that you end up having to have veggies for dessert.

A "why" I'll give that doesn't violate Ockhams Razor or elaborately explain social signalling without mentioning the term is I'm an introvert and I'm massively recharging when I'm standing in front of my stove chilling out to my favorite podcast while tasting amazing flavors from a new recipe, just basically loving life, just soaking up the good feels. I'll probably need them later at work or something. Standing alone in front of a stove is one of many extrovert hells but, not being an extrovert it is extremely recharging for me. In fact just sitting here writing this I'm daydreaming of an interesting mushroom and potatoe vegetarian casserole I'm excited to try cooking this Saturday, I'm really looking forward to the experience.

And to get that kind of recharging experience without hurting feelings sometimes you have to tell other adults, well, sure I'd "love" to sit in a two hour traffic jam to get to some sportsball game (I don't care about sports), or I'd "love" to sit in a smokey (I don't smoke) bar full of obnoxious drunks (I rarely drink) all night (I rarely stay up all night or up late), but woe is me I gotta do yardwork or the HOA will ticket me (actually I don't have a HOA where I live), woe is me woe is me, you guys go on bravely without me, adults are just soooo busy what a shame it truly is. And everyone leaves happy.

Its important to note there's doing laundry as per the mom in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory all exhausted and sweaty and drudgery and heavy manual labor for a 16 hour working day, but lets face it, my "2 hours per week" from the insane article is less than 5 minutes of moving stuff from baskets to machines and more than 1:55 of reading an exciting new book or playing in my workshop or playing video games or goofing off online. Again see above paragraphs, I'm sure doing laundry is some circle of hell for an extrovert but I've got my headphones on and I am totally rocking it and having a great time, maybe the best time of my week.

If you think its ridiculous for extroverts to "extrovert" in some of the article activities individually, imagine how crazy my actual life is for an extrovert when I double dip. If you're not sweating you're not cleaning hard enough, so I count cleaning time as exercise time, and why not do that while the clothes are in the dryer, that's triple dipping? That's not extrovert compatible lifestyle, somehow I don't envision hearing "hey bros come on over for beers and sweaty toilet scrubbing party!" Yet weird as it sounds with the right music or right podcast blasting, cleaning the bathroom isn't the worst part of the week.

Its not socially acceptable in general to be an introvert or admit to it, but I'm old enough to have accumulated enough F-you points to get away with that kind of behavior.

Try explaining rent to kids. We have to pay to exist? We have to pay how much? And they are right! I don't have a problem doing nothing. I don't care what others think. But I have to work far more than necessary because of the labour skiming rentiers. They are living off my back.

Edit: landlords of HN unite to downvote!

I'm sure it's different in different markets, different countries, etc.

That said, I know several people who own multiple homes and lease them out. They often barely break even with mortgage payments, maintenance, dealing with deadbeat tenants, etc. Sure, once a house is paid off, they have a nice source of income, but they're taking a decent amount of risk having so much of their money tied up in such a limited number of investments. Some of them are still under water on rental property mortgages after the 2008 crash.

They're not skimming labour off of their tenants. They're providing a service for a fee.

And if you're talking about large apartment complexes, that's not some landlord "rentier" class. That's a corporation, just like any other.

You don't have to pay to exist; just ask any homeless person. If you want to live in a home or any type of shelter, you have to make it yourself or obtain access to one that has been built. It has always been so. There are various ways to obtain access: squat, pay rent, perform services in exchange, couchsurf, join a commune, convince friends or family to accept you, buy, etc.

> They often barely break even with mortgage payments, maintenance, dealing with deadbeat tenants, etc. Sure, once a house is paid off, they have a nice source of income

So they get several hundred K for very little work that anyone could do.

There is no risk with the central bank land ramping. In urban areas they are limiting supply, forcing up prices and taking labour.

If someone does very little work and gets several hundred K that comes from somewhere.

If it was free money, everybody would be doing it. If it has no downsides, what's stopping you?

I don't want to exploit working people. Weird, eh?

Why is it necessarily exploiting people to charge a market rate for a good or service?

That makes no sense, unless you just don't believe in private property – which is a different argument and not one I'm super interested in having.

And honestly, if you think it's so easy to be a landlord, you should try it. It's not. It can be fairly easy, until you have:

- a tenant who won't pay but also refuses to leave, necessitating legal action to evict, which is doubly expensive due to the legal fees and lost income

- a tenant who wrecks the property, e.g., letting their cat pee all over the wood floor, but refuses to provide any additional money to remedy

- a tenant who falls in the yard and initiates a frivolous lawsuit against you

- squatters who refuse to leave and require police action

- a roof that needs replacing, new HVAC, new appliances, etc.

Investing in rental properties often performs no better than just investing in the general stock market. Is that exploiting people? Is it exploiting people to have a savings account that pays interest? Anybody can do that and gets free money.

Wrong. Here is why most "invest" in exploitation. Banks lend you several times your salary. You are not appreciating the dynamics my dear rentier.

I still don't understand. Just because a bank will lend someone money to buy a home, why is it exploitative to offer someone else the chance of living in that home?

I wish we could sit down over coffee or whatevs and discuss this. I feel like we must have fundamentally different views of the world, and I would like to understand yours better. I rarely meet people whose views I don't understand, even if I disagree – especially people to the "left" of me.

I rented for as long as I've now been a homeowner. I never felt like I was being exploited as a renter. I was essentially paying the same in rent as a mortgage, but as a renter, I got a ton of advantages. For example, I didn't have to pay for maintenance of the home, I got access to nice amenities, and I got the flexibility to easily move somewhere else at the end of the year. For a fee, I got to offload a huge amount of stress onto someone else – the property owner.

I know someone who owns two homes and rents them out. Meanwhile, she lives in a small rented townhouse shared with 2 other housemates. She does this, because she's very handy and can do most of the maintenance herself. And she feels she understands the real estate market better than the stock/bond market. So, these homes are basically her retirement savings. She's not forcing anyone to live in them, and she can't afford to have them sit vacant very long. So, she must price them at a rate that will attract renters. I just don't see the exploitation in that scenario.

That's just how the world is, you know. Back in prehistoric times, you didn't just happen to find a free shack and live in it - you needed to build it and maintain it. Right now, landlords take care of that for you - for a price.

Building a shack isn't that hard, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P73REgj-3UE

Try building it in the forest though - it is most likely illegal due to some rentier (or government) already owning it. I think the grandparent has some truth to their words.

Existing outside the dwelling is illegal. Dwellings are owned by the elite rentier class, so you need some money just to exist (unless you are a rentier).

It's called "land enclosure". There is no common land and you must pay someone to stand anywhere.

I don't expect to exist for free given all the services the state supplies, such as healthcare, policing, roads etc. I also don't expect someone to own some land forever and derive rent from it as the workers pay taxes to build up infrastructure which augments the land value.

Yeah, the land is not free, but, outside of metro areas, the land can be dirt cheap. You certainly don't have to toil for years to buy a piece of it. Plus, in places like Siberia or Northern Canada perhaps, you can live for decades in a public forest without anyone noticing.

In all fairness, you can't build a shack or pitch a tent just anywhere and live off the land. (Though, in practice, there's a lot of empty space in Western US and unimproved land can be very cheap. On the other hand, I don't suppose the parent poster would seriously live in a shack with no utilities, transportation, food supply, etc.)

The land is the price. Maintenance is not much. They exploit the system, no way do most add the value they derive. They are parasites forcing up costs.

Ok, so we do away with private property ownership... How do you determine who gets to live where? Can I just build my house wherever I want? Can I block your doorway with a house I build right in front of yours?

No you have land value tax instead of income tax to redistribute gains from land.

> Try explaining rent to kids.

When it comes to kids, we often call it sharing. Billy has a toy truck you want to play with. You have a action figure he wants to play with. If you each share what you have, then everyone is happy.

That is all rent is. Billy has a house, you have cash. He wants to play with cash, and you want play house. If you each share what you have with each other, everyone is happy. Pretty simple.

Sharing is a two-way transaction with the object being returned. Rent is one way, as the landlord isn't giving you your rent back.

Why aren't you getting your money back? The only reason why you would want to occupy someone else's space is precisely because you see an opportunity to get all your money back.

Also rent is a proxy for labour. You are labouring and then handing it over via a medium of exchange to your landlord who does very little work. He doesn't have to because our banks and govt allow exploitation through land.

It's a very simple analogy that in no way reflects the real world complexity of fiat money and limited land supply.

You're right. If we're explaining this to adults, it is even simpler: Create something of value and you can exchange it for things other people have created of value.

and the landlord creates nothing

The landlord either created the house, or the landlord created someone else of value and traded it for the house that someone else created. Houses don't appear out of thin air.

No they got it in the main on credit which they and the bank then use to share the labour of a working person.

Also the house is often worth far less than the land.

Credit is just sharing value that was already created. Credit has to be repaid with value that will be created in the future.

> Also the house is often worth far less than the land.

While that can be true, it is only true if someone has created value around it, or has exchanged the value that they created elsewhere for it.

It is not like land itself is all that valuable. A quick look at the real estate listings showed me all kinds of vacant lots for just $2,000. It takes more than dirt to derive value. Something has to be created.

The state confers value through infra and planning permission. Credit is created from nothing and then repaid with real labour, it is not value already created. Banks rent money they create. The people add value through taxes, the landlord waits.

> We have to pay to exist?

No. Existing is free. You have to pay in order to live in a dwelling you could not afford.

You also have to pay for the bounded, mappable area around that dwelling, unless you live in a ship on international waters or a perpetually-aloft aircraft in uncontrolled airspace.

In many places, homelessness, squatting, and camping without explicit permission are illegal. You might not have to continuously pay for the spot on which you stand, but if you stay on it for too long, eventually someone will come to collect or make you move on.

> In many places, homelessness, squatting, and camping without explicit permission are illegal.

And in just as many places, if not many more, it's not. After all, shanty towns do exist.

While raw "existence" is free, a sheltered existence is most certainly not. In many areas it is illegal to live in a tent or in a car, for example. It is also illegal to camp in a national forest for longer than 2 weeks.

> While raw "existence" is free, a sheltered existence is most certainly not.

I was replying to "We have to pay to exist?", not "We have to pay for a shelter?".

Being free to do something does not mean the means to accomplish it should be free of charge. I know lots of people think otherwise and therefore believe things like food, healthcare or accommodation should be given to them somehow for free, fortunately most people don't agree.

And we can't afford it because fiat money issuance by the banks is unconstrained and therefore trends towards saturation of all excess labour above basic needs such as food and clothing.

And the banks and the landlords mop it all up using the state to guard their property whilst the workers pay the taxes.

The system stinks.

Easy. "Kids, it's time you started paying me rent. Got no money? No problem. I got a lot of chores: cleaning the house, dishwashing, laundry, cooking, etc. Mummy and Daddy are off to catch some Pokemon or whatever."

Nope, totally wrong. The service you deliver to your children will far outweigh that rendered by them, at least in their youth. Inverse for renter / landlord.

You asked how to explain rent to kids. They can't learn if you are a horrible landlord.

All landlords reap far less than they sow. They are rentiers, they do not create wealth rather they exploit our regressive property laws to extract labour.

Upvoted you. You make a good point.

I am not a landlord, but I downvoted you for complaining about being downvoted.

Ah well at least I don't have to pay you.

Some of these time claims are comically wrong.

The average man spends nowhere near 90 minutes a day on 'attire and grooming.'

Most people don't work out an hour a day either.

Laundry? No way that's 2 hours per week.

Most people don't cook every meal either. And making a sandwich or pouring a bowl of cereal sure as hell don't take 30 minutes.

Here are some actual statistics that weren't randomly pulled out of my ass and subsequently upvoted on Hacker News:


The very idea that somebody takes half and hour each to exclusively cook and eat three meals a day is absurd for a number of reasons, e.g. leftovers, the act of eating and reading at once, sandwiches, meal planning, skipping lunch, very-american-pre-processed-food, rice cookers, toast, etc.

Horror vacui.


Yeah, my dad thought that. Didn't work out so well when he was served divorce papers.


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