Framing (a framework that supports and produces structure to an idea) is a very powerful effect. It happens whether or not we’re conscious of it. Which of course is why being conscious and aware of it is key. Most people frame the idea of the “rest of their life” very vaguely. I’m sure we’ve all heard of a story of someone who got a very grim prognosis and decided to make drastic changes for the better. A great example of this is Eugene O’Kelly’s book “Chasing Daylight“, where he describes what he calls “perfect moments” (one of my favorite ideas).
It’s common for people to frame their future so weakly, that it doesn’t provide the support to make solid decisions. So one of the things I’ve done is to reframe (a method of shifting context and contrast), my ideas around my personal longevity.
I started by taking a measure of time like “years” which is too nebulous and abstract, and shifting it to “minutes” which is much more understandable to our brain. And shifting “weeks” to “seconds”. The other effect this has is to make my life seem like a movie since my life expectancy is around 90-100 years based on genetics, habits, and technology. So like a feature film at 120 minutes, it’s like I’ve lived for Z minutes, and I have Y minutes left. Here’s what I’ve accomplished during the first Z minutes, here’s what I want to accomplish in the next Y minutes.
Same with weeks, reframing them as seconds is much more accurate to how fast they fly by and form up our minutes and eventually our entire life. Understanding this framing is tremendously helpful.
For this reason I created a quick system to help me keep track of just how little time I have and to spend that time as well as possible. It consists of 5 pieces of A4 paper, with 4 of those displaying a page sized, vertically oriented, digit. The other page is a collection of text headlines. I simply attached them to the wall through pushpins, although you could use magnets and a piece of metal behind it, or just tape or clips.
To create your own version:
1. Download this pack of files from here
2. Fill in this box:
Click to see manual instructions
3. Then print out your “optimal number of years left” figure in the number pictures (make sure it’s full size A4 and not cropped or oriented wrong)
4. Then use this tool to figure out how many weeks there are left in the year and print out that number in digits
5. Print out the labels and title
6. Put it all together by posting the text, and the digits in order. When done it should look like a clock with labels above each section, and a strange number system.
Then, each week, you subtract 1 from the “seconds” counter. And each year that passes, you subtract 1 from the “minutes” counter. The effect should be to frame your life in a much shorter and more meaningful way.
Here’s an example from a friend’s “longevity board”: