The time of our lives: what we spend our days doing today

Research shows that we now spend 7 minutes 36 seconds a day having sex, and 6 minutes laughing. So what about the rest of the time? Adrian Turpin clocks on
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The Independent Online

A survey by the holiday company Ocean Village claims that the average Britain's laughter ration has fallen from 18 minutes in the mid-1950s. Some have attributed this to Europe's Common Comical Policy, which has led to a large joke mountain on the outskirts of Düsseldorf. But it is now generally believed that the missing laughs have been culled, canned and used to provide the soundtrack for Kirsty's Home Videos.

LAUGHING ... 6 MINUTES

A survey by the holiday company Ocean Village claims that the average Britain's laughter ration has fallen from 18 minutes in the mid-1950s. Some have attributed this to Europe's Common Comical Policy, which has led to a large joke mountain on the outskirts of Düsseldorf. But it is now generally believed that the missing laughs have been culled, canned and used to provide the soundtrack for Kirsty's Home Videos.

'ON HOLD' ... 5 MINUTES

In the absence of British data, we are left with a poll for CNN which claims Americans spend 60 hours a year, that's just under 10 minutes a day, on hold. We're not yet in the same level of call-centre hell - hence we've adjusted the figure downward. Either way it's a lot Vivaldi's Four Seasons - but then frankly we need all the help with the arts we can get when you consider the amount of time we spend on ...

CULTURE ... 7 MINUTES

Which won't even get you through the queue for a National Gallery blockbuster. Alarmingly, this is also the same amount of time as spent ...

READING CEEFAX ... 7 MINUTES

And this is among people who read for pleasure! The same group, according to a survey by Book Marketing for Orange, spends just 11 minutes a day reading novels. At two minutes a page, it would take a little off four months to complete the Penguin edition of War and Peace (which is probably why everyone leaves out the bits about farming).

CHILD CARE ... 17 MINUTES

That may not sound much to you, but think of it as two and a half daily doses of Ceefax and you can begin to understand the sacrifices parents make. Besides which, you have to leave time for ...

SOCIAL LIFE AND RESTING ... ONE HOUR, 16 MINUTES

Which seems to be what the National Office of Statistics calls going to the pub and staring into space.

SHOPPING ... 1 HOUR, 6 MINUTES

Not that it makes us happy. Citing this figure, the British Society of Anger Management claims that more than half of us have stormed out of a shop because of bad service and frustration. A fifth of this time is spent queuing - which provides ample material for ...

COMPLAINING ... 8 MINUTES

We spend five months of our life seeking redress for poor customer service. The main culprits, says a survey for Hilary Blinds, are large department stores (35.9 per cent), banks and building societies (30.7 per cent) and airlines and holiday companies (12.9 per cent). Funnily enough, the research doesn't say anything about blinds companies.

HOUSEWORK ... TWO HOURS, 38 MINUTES

Unsurprisingly, women do four times the amount that men do. But men do more, DIY, so that's all right then? Isn't it?

DOING DIY ... 13 MINUTES

The boffins at B&Q have laboured long into the night to discover that Britain's top fantasy DIY slaves are Kylie Minogue and Sean Connery. Which brings us on to ...

THINKING ABOUT SEX ... 20 SECONDS

We have Durex to thank for the information that men's minds stray in this direction 20 times a day. How do they know? They just do. The Independent's panel of statisticians (well, an office straw poll) has estimated that most sexual thoughts are fleeting in nature, lasting about two seconds. We then divided it in two because, of course, women never think about sex. Unfortunately, no data exists for how many time a day men think about thinking about sex, but we're sure Durex would make some up if you asked nicely.

MAKING LOVE ... 2 MINUTES, 42 SECONDS

Chastely, the inaugural British time survey in 2000 failed to give any figure for the amount of time spent having sex. So instead, we must look to the Dutch premature-ejaculation researchers who this week revealed that typical British men last seven minutes and 37 seconds in the sack. Put this together with yet another Durex poll giving an average of 119 bonks a year, and you come up with our rather meagre figure total. If it's any consolation, the Italians don't fare much better. The average Italian housewife is apparently so exhausted from housework that she only has time to make love for one hour every 15 days.

MAKING TEA ... 6 MINUTES

Boy George's comment that he'd rather have a cup of tea than have sex appears to be shared, this research from First Direct suggests.

SLEEPING ... 7 HOURS 24 MINUTES

And still on the subject of not getting enough, a 2004 study in the Journal of Sleep Research dismissed the common perception that the 24/7 society has turned us into nation of insomniac zombies: the typical Briton gets the same amount of rest a night as in the mid-1960s. Professor John Groeger of the Surrey Sleep Research Centre said: "It's hard to find any evidence that we live in a sleep-deprived society. But it's clearly something that's discussed a great deal in the media." The Office of National Statistics puts the figure at a more generous 8 hours and 30 minutes.

SURFING THE INTERNET ... 22 MINUTES, 30 SECONDS

At 11 hours 20 minutes a month, we spend less time surfing the internet at home than the Japanese, Germans, Americans or French, but more than the Swiss or Italians. There's still a long way to go, however: the latest figures from Nielsen show that the people of Hong Kong spend almost twice the amount of time online than the British do ...

DEALING WITH SPAM E-MAILS ... 13.3 SECONDS

There's a lot of nonsense talked about spam. One of the most frequently quoted piece of research (by Nucleus) claims that employees receive 13.3 spam messages a day, which take on average 6 and a half minutes to deal with. Just how many offers of Viagra and breast enlargement do you need before you learn to press delete straight away? Perhaps they're too preoccupied with ...

OFFICE POLITICS ... 64 MINUTES

According to the recruitment agency Reed, Wales was top for intrigue with an average of 77 minutes a day being spent on empire building. By contrast, workers in the North-west are the most easy-going, plotting for just 58 minutes a day. If you are reading this in your lunch break, you are clearly not scheming hard enough. That is if you have a lunch break ...

HAVING A LUNCH BREAK ... 27 MINUTES

That's for men. According to research for the catering firm Eurest, women take only 25 minutes and one in four do not leave their desk.

WORKING ... 2 HOURS 35 MINUTES

If you are reading this on the way home from a 12-hour shift, this figure (from the Office of National Statistics) may come as something of a shock. Britons apparently spend almost twice as much on unpaid household chores such as gardening, DIY or cleaning as they do at work. If they had to be paid for it it would cost the nation more than £900bn a year.

EATING AND DRINKING... 84 MINUTES

If this seems excessive when compared to the seven minutes assigned for culture, you may take solace from the fact that pandas spend 12 to16 hours on the bamboo, while the Asian elephant fills its trunk for up to 20. But be warned: this argument may not wash at Weight Watchers.

BREAKFAST... 21 MINUTES

The Future Foundation's figure seems a little generous (although you should see the length of queues in Café Nero some days). It doesn't look so wasteful if you double it up with watching Ceefax, not having sex or laughing.

PERSONAL GROOMING ... 47 MINUTES

Although cleanliness does not appear to be universal. According to Olay, women in the Midlands spend 31 minutes to an hour in the shower or bath, longer than any other region. Scottish women spend the least time in the tub taking on average 5 to 10 minutes on their ablutions.

SPENDING TIME WITH A PARTNER ... TWO HOURS, 30 MINUTES

Of which more than 60 minutes is spent watching television together. Who says romance is dead?

SITTING ON THE SOFA ... 3 HOURS, 42 MINUTES

Oddly, this gem came from the John Lewis Soft Furnishings Department. "We were surprised at how long people spend on the sofa," a spokesman said. A case of a survey being knowingly oversold perhaps?

TAKING PART IN SPORT ... 12 MINUTES

If you are Liverpool FC, that's time to score six goals against AC Milan. The rest of us will struggle to jog to the nearest pub and back in the time.

WATCHING TV ... 2 HOURS, 48 MINUTES

A lot of time but as much as ...

APPEARING ON REALITY TV ... 2 HOURS, 49 MINUTES

According to the Warhol Department of Fame Studies at Elstree University, the man or woman on the street will spend 15 minutes in the glare of publicity during their life time. But we've adjusted our figure upwards after taking into account the ubiquity of Abi Titmus.

HUNTING FOR LOST THINGS... 31 MINUTES

Remote controllers (5 minutes), keys (10 minutes), socks and shoes (7 minutes), lottery tickets (4 minutes) and passports (1 minute) and 17 minutes shouting "you had it last". The source for this information has been lost, so you'll just have to trust us.

DOING IMPRESSIONS FROM LITTLE BRITAIN ... 17 MINUTES

This breaks down into Daffyd, the only gay in the village (13 minutes) and Vicky Pollard (3 minutes), others (1 minute). All right, we made that one up too - but you know it's true.

READING SURVEYS ... 37 MINUTES

The Daily Sport Chair of Spurious Research at the University of Peckham reports that the average Britain spends more than half an hour a day pondering "dodgy statistics." And for all those pedants who complain that our average day is 29.5 hours long, all I can say is: it's amazing what you can find the time to do while watching Ceefax.

All figures are from the National Office of Statistics unless otherwise attributed; Additional research by Alice Fordham

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