The 36-Hour Day

Wouldn’t it be great to have a few more hours in a day? A bit more time would be such a fine solution. There is so much to do and so little time. It seems impossible to reduce the demands. It would be so much easier if we could just add a few more hours.

My experience with a 36-hour day casts some doubt on this idea. This extra-long day came about by travelling from Japan to Nova Scotia. During the summer, there is a 12-hour time difference between these places. We boarded the train from Osaka to Tokyo at 10:40 am on Sunday morning and arrived home in Nova Scotia at 11:40pm on Sunday evening. In Tokyo, it was 11:40am Monday morning. So, for me, 3 June 2012 was a 36-hour day.

For a while it was quite productive. I revised a manuscript while on the train from Osaka to Tokyo airport. It was a complicated revision that was well suited to a long stretch of time on a train. I called up a data file and did a few clever things with the numbers for a while, thinking ahead to the next writing project.

All progressed well for a while, but then I began to encounter an energy shortage. Time is the ultimate, non-renewable resource, but energy is a serious contender for second place Even with a comfortable seat, the oxygen levels in a commercial airliner are somewhat crimped. And the hours go by. After a while, I could tell that the concentration necessary for demanding work was gone. I was only good for watching airplane movies and then to sleep.

My conclusion was that extra time, while a welcomed resource, is not enough on its own. Perhaps people could gradually accustom themselves to a longer day if the Earth progressively slowed its spin, but the energy necessary to adjust to an abrupt lengthening of the day is not readily available.

The lesson from the 36-hour day is that wishing for extra time is not only unreasonable from the perspective of physics but from that of physiology as well.

So, it’s back to the basics of time management.


• Have clear goals

• Set priorities on alternative actions

• Create and attend to lists

• Be hungry for closure


  1. Dear Dr. Leiter:

    Your observation is very important to take in to account, specially in our context, because most of us, work in two or even three places each day. The reason is that salaries are not enough to support the basic needs of a family. Even when we must consider ourselves lucky for having employement, there is an imbalance beetwen work and economical posibilities, but alwas health is at risk for years, until sickness appears.
    Since the economical situation is a long term problem, a good time management in such situation could be a healthy option.

  2. Heriberto

    You make an excellent point about the pressures that emerge from economic strains that push people beyond their limits. The need for a focused time management strategy becomes very important under those conditions.

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