The Time Hack


Final analysis

The year is up and the numbers are crunched.

As the about section explains, the Time Hack was a year-long experiment aimed at exploring whether our perception of time is influenced by our actions.

Throughout the experiment, which I carried out during the whole of 2011, I participated in a new and unusual activity each day in an effort to alter my perception of time. Click here to learn more about the parameters of the project.

Research suggests a person’s perception of how much time has passed between two points and how well memories are recorded onto an individual’s brain are partially dependent on the amount of new experiences that person has during any given day. The Time Hack aimed to explore this idea.

With this in mind, I timed each of the experiences on a stopwatch and pit those recorded times against my estimation of how long I perceived each experience to have lasted for. For a complete list of these activities and a comparison between the times, see this spreadsheet.

Breakdown and final totals

The following information and graphs represent an analysis of the actual times and perceived times of each activity, which I recorded throughout the project.

In total, I engaged in 344 activities throughout the year, which I had never participated in prior to the project, over the course of 365 days. 

Twenty-one days worth of data was compromised and/or lost, which is why there were 344 activities analyzed here as opposed to 365.  

During those 344 days, I spent 305 hours, 13 minutes and 42 seconds (or 18,313 minutes and 42 seconds) engaging in activities I have never before experienced. 

According to the total sum of my perceived times during those 344 days, however, I believed those activities to have lasted for 319 hours, 57 minutes and 11 seconds. This difference in time alludes to the idea that I experienced an extra 14 hours, 43 minutes and 29 seconds during 2011.

Put another way, I squeezed 4.6% more time out of these activities. And put yet another way, that’s about 2 minutes and 34 seconds of new life each day, while engaging in the activities for 53 minutes and 15 seconds on average. 

And put a third way, I lived 0.17% longer than other humans on Earth in 2011.

From Day 5: Jumping from a moving car to Day 359: Investigate a ‘haunted sanitorium’, I have placed each of the 344 activities into eight groups and calculated how much of the year was spent participating in each activity grouping, illustrated in the pie chart below.

The “intellectual” grouping represents intellectually-stimulating activities, “safe” refers to non-dangerous or comfortable activities, etc.

Differences between perceived times and actual times

The research becomes intriguing when one starts to look at the way I perceived each of the different types of activities [see the raw data on averages here]. Below you’ll see that on average I underestimated the total amount of time I believe I spent participating in game-related activities throughout the year, whereas I perceived intellectually stimulating activities lasted for a longer amount of time than they did last for.

Graph III represents the differences in the perceived times versus the actual times. For example, you can see that as a whole, I overestimated safe or comfortable activities and believed them to have lasted for over six minutes longer than the recorded times show.

(Each number on the graph represents minutes.)

Medians of each grouping

But the numbers become even more interesting when one looks at the median differences in times in each grouping.

As illustrated in graph II, I spent 32% of the year participating in “safe” activities, some of which lasted nearly 24 hours each, which may explain why the graph above indicates the “safe” grouping as the longest average difference in recorded versus estimated time.

Therefore, the median numbers in the graph below more accurately represent the differences in recorded versus estimated time.

This graph then illustrates that I overestimated physically exhausting activities the most frequently, with uncomfortable activities coming in a close second.


These figures represent only the beginning of what is possible with this data, which is available for anyone to download via the links above. 

Please simply send an email to matt[at] if you come up with any further interesting stats using the figures provided.

And don’t forget, I blogged the whole shabang! Go to the first post here and the last post here. Or check out the archive section here.