Every human on Earth has the same 24 hours to spend in a day—but the way we divide those hours for work and sleep and school and play varies a lot. Scientists recently compiled the available data about how people around the world allocate their time and used them to define the average “global human day.” More than a third of our hours are spent in bed, they found, with the rest split among three categories the researchers devised based on whether the time directly affected humans, the physical world, or where and what people are doing. Activities such as agriculture took up much more time in poorer countries than in wealthier ones, whereas others such as human transportation were fairly constant everywhere. Ultimately the study found that relatively little time—about five minutes per average human day—goes to activities that directly alter the environment and climate change, such as extracting energy and dealing with waste, suggesting an opportunity to put in more time to help the planet. “We have to switch off fossil-fuel energy and construct more renewables,” says study co-author Eric Galbraith of McGill University. “If it turned out that the changes we want to make required huge allocations of time to activities we're not doing now, then it would be impossible. But we can tackle this with just a couple of minutes per day. I think that's hopeful.”

Pie and bar charts show how an average “global human day” is spent: 9.1 hours are dedicated to sleep; 14.9 hours are dedicated to activities. Activities are further divided into 3 groups, 8 categories and 21 subcategories.
Credit: Studio Terp; Source: “The Global Human Day,” by William Fajzel et al., in PNAS, Vol. 120; June 2023 (data)