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Life Calendar — Visualizing Your Life


A few weeks ago I watched a TED Talk by Tim Urban. He talked about procrastination.

Near the end of this talk, he presented a “Life Calendar” on screen. The screen was filled with little boxes which represented a 90 year life, a grid. There were more than 90 boxes, so I’m guessing he broke it down by weeks. There’s probably 4,680 boxes (52 weeks X 90 years).

I thought it was a great way to visualize this fleeting life and to remind me not to waste time. I created my own grid of 4,004 boxes using the average male life expectance in the United States of approximately 77 years. I filled in 2,230 boxes with a little dot. Over half my boxes are gone!

At the end of each week, I’ll draw another little dot in a box. I’m hoping that I can fill in the 4,004th box and beyond, but there’s no guarantee of that.


You can also buy a life calendar poster from Tim Urban.

You can get a PDF of my less optimistic 4,004 life calendar here.

If you want something more digital, check out Count.Life. There’s a Chrome extension too.

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Every second, I am dying.

“There is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.”

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


Forgetting That You’re Dying

A little over a month ago my uncle checked himself into the emergency room. Hours later, he had two stents expanding arteries around his heart. A few days later my aunt, his wife, checked herself in for hypertension.

This whole business of “dying” is no joke. Yet, so much time is wasted on doing non-essential things. Hundreds of flicks and swipes through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and the list goes on and on. A dozen or so hours lost each week as brain cells melt away in to the social media abyss. It is so easy for inactivity to be the activity.

I decided that I wasn’t haven’t anymore of it so I devised a mechanism to break myself out of the mind-numbing activity of doing nothing — a little hack to promote activity.

I setup my Due app to go off five times a day at 8 A.M., 12 P.M., 3 P.M. 6 P.M., and 9 P.M. to remind of with a simple message:

“Every second, I am dying.”


Remembering Death Is Near

For about a month now, I’ve had this reminder pop up on my phone, my watch, and my computer. The reminder pops up in the middle of meetings, screencasts, everywhere — it just popped up again (the 9 P.M. reminder) as I am writing this.

The reminder is incredibly effective at breaking through the haze of inactivity and pushes me towards doing something productive or meaningful. What I’ve learned this past month is that it is really easy to let yourself slip into doing nothing.

It’s a bit of a morbid message, but it is the truth. To think that death is happening for me every second is a stronger motivator than thinking that death will eventually come sometime in the future.

This is one hack that I’ll keep until I, um, die.

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