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November 9, 2023
Each of us has 24 hours a day, every day, to use however we see fit. And, we all deploy those minutes and hours differently. We have different goals and how we use our time is a reflection of what is important to us as individuals. Multiply those choices on we use time by the 8 billion people across the world and you get a fascinating picture of the human species.
We talk and think a lot about how much money we have. And, the corollary is time. You probably have a sense of how much you have of these resources, but what about the world?
This can be difficult to answer, but experts estimate that there is around the equivalent of $8 trillion U.S. in circulation with around $2 trillion of that being in the United States. But, that estimate does not include other kinds of assets beyond currency. The total value on planet Earth is probably in the quadrillions.
We have an estimated 8 billion people on planet Earth right now. Those people represent 192 billion hours every single day or more than 70 trillions hours a year.
Scientists from McGill University recently did an unprecedented analysis. They aggregated data on time use from 145 different countries.
The researchers assembled a complete estimate of what humans are doing, averaged over time and across the entire population, to provide an aggregated high-level view that we refer to as the global human day.
The results may seem surprising.
Researchers categorized all human activity into 4 categories.
Across the globe and all humans, sleep accounts for 9.1 hours of a 24 hour day. As a species, this takes up most of our time.
This might seem like a lot, especially for those of us who wake endlessly through the night for various reasons. But, the difference is due to the inclusion of children in the estimate and also the time spent in bed without sleeping.
The largest amount of collective time is spent on activities that have a direct impact on human beings, activities like eating, grooming, playing, watching television, socializing, caring for children, education, and religion.
These types of activities take 9.4 hours a day and include:
Only 3.4 hours are collectively spent on activities that result in external outcomes. These are things that change the physical world: all food provision (including farming, raising livestock, and manufacturing and cooking things we eat), mining, logging, oil and gas extraction, cleaning, construction, telecommunications, and manufacturing of physical goods.
The smallest block of communal time is spent in organizational activities. These endeavors include: transportation, government, military, trade & commerce, real estate, and the financial industry.
Fajzel, W., Galbraith, E. D., Charmes, J., Frie, E., Hatton, I., Le Mézo, P., Milo, R., Minor, K., Wan, X., Xia, V., & Xu, S. (2023). The global human day. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(25), e2219564120. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2219564120
In their report, the researchers had some interesting observations about our use of time. Here are some of their insights:
As the research team behind this study on collective time use points out, how we spend time determines the impacts we have on our surroundings as well as how we experience life.
It is critically important that you make the most of your time and that probably involves thinking about how much time you spend making and allocating money.
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