Disclaimer: Mathematicians and actuaries; do not read the rest of this article, it will offend your calculative sensibilities.

Do you have a minute? A question I hear almost daily from work colleagues.  I too use it to borrow other people’s time for a quick chat or to address a passing question.  In the majority of cases, we oblige and invariably, we give considerably more than the literal originally requested minute.

Giving away our time to our loved ones and friends is not included in this discussion, that is reciprocal, enjoyable and life enhancing.  I am talking about our generosity to others we barely know or even like.  What’s more, we hardly mind giving up our time to complete strangers.  We stop and oblige a passer-by asking for direction.  We wait patiently in a supermarket queue behind a particularly slow customer who likes to pack away all their grocery neatly in their bags before realising they have to actually pay for it.  We wait for eternity on the line while an operative in a call centre somewhere decides to speak to us.

All these minutes given away by us, mostly and mainly to oblige others, amount to a significant part of our lives.  You don’t think so?  Okay, let us imagine that in a given week you allow yourself to be distracted at work five times, each time lasting 5 minutes.  You queue up once a week in a supermarket, bank, post office, or theatre box office for 11 minutes.  Once a week, you call and get put on hold for 5.5 more minutes.  I am not going to include giving directions to strangers because that is too infrequent to register in this very rough calculation.

Because you are a highly efficient, focused and a very occasional shopper, you must accept that you do give away around 41.5 minutes per week without feeling put upon or robbed of your precious time.  That makes it roughly 36 hours or 1.5 days per year.  An active adult life of 60 years makes it 90 days or roughly 3 months of giving away your time in return for basically limited or no value.

Staying with the arithmetical theme, a literal 1 minute a day amounts to 6 hours and 5 minutes a year or 24 hours (and 21 minutes) every 4 years but, let’s just call it a full day.  As luck would have it, there is an extra day every 4 years to account for ‘leap years’ when we have 29 days in February.  So, I am going to wish you a long and healthy life and predict you will live for 100 years!  This gives you the opportunity to experience 25 extra days of life due to the iterative 4th leap years you will live; isn’t this amazing?

So, here is my plea to you: You have wasted or plan on wasting 90 days of your life on non-productive, useless and unfulfilling activities as demonstrated above; won’t you give just 25 days to a worthy and deserving cause?  Yes, I am talking about charity work, community work, helping others who need help and giving your knowledge and expertise away so they may live better lives or attain more than they might otherwise do.

You don’t have to do all 25 days in one go, you can do it throughout your life.  Half a day a year is more than enough.  It only takes a minute a day, that’s all.