Chances are, the ideal day doesn’t come close to the one you’re having.
That’s because few of us are living by the optimal 36:106 ratio, (which is 36 minutes of work to 106 minutes of sex) cited in a recent paper by Sebastian Pokutta and Christian Kroll titled, “Just a perfect day? Developing a happiness optimised day schedule.” Kroll is a research fellow at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, while Pokutta is an assistant professor of engineering at Georgia Tech.
Most research into the area known as subjective well-being (SWB, for short) focuses on “people’s living conditions such as marriage, income or employment status.” Rather than magnifying the macro-level realities of daily life, Kroll and Pokutta instead built upon an alternate method called the Day Reconstruction Method, which examined Americans’ time use and focuses on how daily activities affect happiness.
The trick to optimizing each day lies in a subtle truth: “Even the most pleasurable activities are usually less enjoyable the longer they last and the more often we do them.” Even though we may love to shop, eat, or watch television, five hours of virtually anything on a daily basis will leave us tired and bored.
Kroll and Pokutta plugged data from a Day Reconstruction Study conducted in 2004 into a utility function that corrects for overindulgence, and then optimized it for a 16-hour day.
The result? We should be doing more of what we like (having sex and hanging out with friends) and less of what we don’t (working and commuting) in relatively small chunks.
Instead, an average and whopping 244 minutes a day are spent on our least favorite activities (working), and a meager seven minutes on each of our two favorites (having sex and socializing). While 36 minutes of work is hardly practical, the gulf between what should be and what is might help explain why so many people are unhappy these days.