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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.


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