I have a current supply of 16302 days left to live, maybe. This is an estimate based on my current age (31) and average life expediency. Why would I care to find out or share this number? In 2007 Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine, wrote a blog post describing his decision and method for tracking the number of estimated days he might have left to live. The concept of tracking my total potential days greatly resonated with me as I spend a lot of time on self-improvement and learning more effective ways to achieve my goals. Kelly described his reasoning for tracking his days as:
I decided to take the idea of number days seriously, and to revisit my earlier experience of counting down my remaining time on this lovely mortal plane. My hope was that a reckoning of my numbered days would help me account for how I spend each precious 24 hours, and to focus my attention and energy on those few tasks and projects I deem most important to me. Indeed, it might help me decide which ones are most important, which is the harder assignment. Kevin Kelly
Is this method for determining how many days I have left scientific, absolutely not. Guessing the age you die is like forecasting what the weather will be like 10 years from now, and just like the weather, my life may experience unplanned disasters. Being right about the number is not the point. The point is to inspire the best use of whatever time I have. I am a firm believer that people perform to metrics, so I can’t think of a better number to create constant encouragement and focus.
Is this morbid? Not to me. It’s not about focusing on death. It’s in fact the opposite. I am not looking at the glass and stating how empty it is, instead I am focusing on how full. Thankfully, in my case it’s (probably) more than half full. If I am lucky, I might even have more days then I planned for.
Lost time is never found again. Benjamin Franklin
Life Supply Tracking
After reading Kelly’s article, I immediately created my own version with a basic HTML coding to compute and display the total days. This method worked fine, but I decided I wanted something a little more visual and dynamic. After a lot of monkeying around, I landed on two separate solutions to make this motivator as personalized as possible.
The Donut Chart (My Life Supply Clock)
First, I created a donut chart that acts almost like a clock. This was actually pretty easy to setup, even with my limited coding abilities. About 90% of the information I used to implement it were contained in the Google Charts main library. I did find some of the formatting options a little confusing and restrictive, but I chalked that up to my lack of expertise. For the full code used to create this chart, please see my Github documentation. Note, I am not a professional programmer, I am sure those who are will look at what I created and find endless ways to improve. If so, please contribute to the Github repository.
Second, I created a daily email reminder that pushes the new number to me. The idea for the email came to me after getting the core setup for the Chart complete. I began experimenting with other coding tactics I remembered from my previous learning. In the process of manipulating and adding more bells and whistles, I remembered how to create cronjobs. I used the combination of a cronjob and a PHP script to create a once a day email that tells me how many days I have been given, how many I have used, and most importantly how many I have left. I am sure there are a dozen better ways to make this email happen, but this works for me. To see the code that makes this email work, see my Github documentation.
This project was not just a great chance for me to dust off my amateur coding skills, but was also a chance to make something that could have a large effect on my philosophy and life. I have only had it running for a month, but I can already feel a sincere effect from watching my number decrease every day. Every ten days when I see my days go from one group (16310) to another (16300), and it makes a difference in my attitude and respect for time. I am about to cross from one 3 digit group (16300), into another (16200), and I expect that will have a slightly amplified effect. So far this experiment is a success. I find myself more dedicated to my goals and engaging in the activities that make me a better person.
I am sure that a lot of people may find this practice either morbid, or unnecessary. It’s not for everyone. If you are like me, and this idea resonated with you, I highly encourage you to give it a try.
I might also try to create a public version for people who cannot or do not want to make a version of their own.