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I Have an Unexpected 6 Minutes of Free Time and I Don’t Know What to Do with Them

Woman stares longingly out window
I have 6 unexpected minutes of free time and I need to decide what to do with them.

It’s a cold brisk Tuesday in Boston. I walk out of class with my friends, chuckling at some joke about the failings of American capitalism. I pull out my phone from my back pocket to check the time.

Their voices fade. My vision grows dark and narrow. Dread curls in the pit of my stomach. The best and worst has come to fruition: class let out early, so I have 6 unexpected minutes of free time and I need to decide what to do with them.

Ok, I have to approach this problem in a logical manner, so I’ll employ the rigorous modeling instruments I’ve learned as an AM/Ec concentrator. First, we must make some model assumptions:

Model Assumptions

The subject is me, Jennifer Nordica. Let us assume that Jennifer is a logical human being, with Cobb-Douglas convex preferences. Let’s also assume that she gains utility from just 2 activities: leisure and completing a task, which she can allocate a maximum of 5 minutes and 31 seconds (updated from 6 minutes as time was allocated to setting up the model). Let us also make the reasonable assumption that this model doesn’t break down the minute an inkling of reality is introduced.

Given these parameters, we begin the analysis:

Option 1: The subject, Jennifer, can elect to spend time with long-time friends, Daryl and Katie. It has been a while since she has spent time with them. Freshman year they could spend hours in Annenberg. Now, their interactions have dwindled to breathless “Hi’s” as they speedwalk past each other in the yard on their way to classes. But first, we must consider the present and future benefits and risks of this selection.

Present Benefit: According to scientific research, humans are social beings, thus social interaction will improve Jennifer’s mood and increase her energy.

Future benefit: Networking opportunities. Katie is pre-med, so she is of no use to Jennifer, who is on a finance track. Daryl on the other hand, has been straddling the fence between government and finance. Either way Jennifer stands to reap rewards from whichever choice he makes.

  1. Given Daryl chooses finance, Jennifer’s networking strength increases by 15 percentage points as he may open the door to future jobs.

  2. Given Daryl chooses government, Jennifer’s networking strength increases by 55 percentage points because Daryl will be a corrupt official once his future wife and mother of their 2 kids has an affair with his best friend (probability of that event: 99%).

Present Risk: Katie may ask Jennifer to look at her mole again and check to see if the puss has gone down and Daryl will steal 2.6 glances at Jennifer’s rack when she thinks she’s not looking.

Future Risk: Daryl takes this extra time spent together as a sign of Jennifer’s growing affection, and asks her out 5 times in the month (6 if it’s a leap year).

However, we must now update our model to reflect the fact that a total of 2 minutes, 19 seconds, and 13 milliseconds have been spent defining the parameters of our model and option 1.



Recalculating… 99%

Option 1: Despite decrease in the time endowment, option 1 still holds. The only change is that the quality of the interaction decreases due to the more restrained timing.

Option 2: Jennifer has yet to respond to an email from the president of one of her extracurriculars. It is worth noting that 1) this extracurricular is listed third on her resume, so she can afford to neglect it, but 2) Jennifer is romantically and sexually interested in the president, Jared. Thus, if she responds to his email within 3 hours, he will perceive Jennifer as a suitable member of their organization, and thus, a suitable mate.

It is important to consider that the average time it takes Jennifer to craft an email response is 1.4 minutes. The value increases to 2.7 minutes if the email must both sound professional and cute in order to allure the recipient. Since she has a class next, Jennifer must write this email while walking, thereby increasing the likelihood of typos, which would consequently decrease her rating on Jared’s Mate Potential Meter (this model also assumes Jared is a rational male who would like to pass on his surprisingly healthy genes to future children).

Given all of this information, the risks of responding to Jared’s email now are too great, so we will forgo this option.

We must again take a moment to update our model as the time endowment has now decreased to 2 minutes and 25 seconds.

Recalculating… 10% 

Recalculating… 60%


Option 3: Given this new time constraint, Jennifer’s preferences switch from Cobb-Douglas convex preferences to perfect substitutes, as she has time to complete only one task. Jennifer could elect to increase her walking pace by 0.9 mph so she can arrive to class a little earlier. This would then give her time to engage in small talk with the professor, who could later write a recommendation letter for her. However, there is a 57% chance allegations of sexual assault will come out against him before he can write the letter, and so there is great uncertainty associ… 




The Extra Time Endowment has now been depleted to 0 minutes. 

As a result, not only did Jennifer not increase her networking strength by spending time with Daryl & Katie or her professor, she just received a passive aggressive “Bump!” email from Jared, meaning she is now a 0 on his Potential Mate Meter, and bumped down to a 9.9/10 on his Hookup Meter. She must also incur the healthcare and social humiliation costs of walking directly into a street sign due to her lack of awareness of her surroundings while contemplating her options.

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