Headshot of Covington Doan by Paul Jun

Covington Doan


I recently read a post by Kevin Kelly about hacking together a death countdown clock and created my own death countdown clock using this actuarial table and this app. I put the countdown on your home screen.

As of today, I have 15,194 days left.

Stewart Brand arranges his life into 5-blocks according to Kevin Kelly.

Five years is what he says any project worth doing will take. From the moment of inception to the last good-riddance, a book, a campaign, a new job, a start-up will take 5 years to play through. So, he asks himself, how many 5 years do I have left? He can count them on one hand even if he is lucky. So this clarifies his choices. If he has less than 5 big things he can do, what will they be?

That means I have just over eight 5-blocks left.

Why do this exercise?

An experiment by Dan Ariely came to mind. He had three classes and assigned each class three papers. He then gave each class a different deal.

The first class was given the ability to set their own deadlines. By the end of the first week of class, each student had to commit to a deadline date for each paper. Once they set their deadlines they couldn't change them. Late papers would be penalized with points off for each day late. There was no penalty or benefit for turning in papers early.

The second class was told that they merely had to turn in their papers by the end of the last class. There was no penalty or benefit to turning in papers early for that class either.

The third class was given three deadlines for the three papers. They were due at the end of the fourth, eighth, and twelfth weeks. Period.

How did the classes do grade-wise?

The class that was given three strict deadlines did the best. The class that was given the ability to set their own deadlines came in second. And the class that merely had to turn in their papers by the end of the last class did the worst.

When you look more closely at the class where students were able to set their own deadlines, the students who generously spaced out their deadlines and gave themselves the time to do their best work did better.

When it comes to the arc of your life, no one is going to show up and give strict deadlines you must follow. It's up to you to set your own deadlines. Will you give yourself the time and space to do your best work?