Why I Believe the Saying 'Everyone Has 24 Hours in a Day' Is Ableist


We’ve all heard the saying, “Everyone has 24 hours in a day.” It’s meant to make us stop and think about the ways we choose to use our time and how we can make the most of it. It seems simple enough. After all, there are technically 24 hours in every day. I can’t argue that. So why does this saying get under my skin?

This is about time, energy and ability. And the unfortunate reality is that not everyone has the same amount of usable time, energy or ability in any given day. To assume we do is ableist and ignorant.

I’ll give you an example. Bob has 24 hours in a day. He sleeps for seven of those hours. He spends an hour showering, eating breakfast and getting ready for work. He works for eight hours. He hits the gym after work, then has dinner with his family. That’s two hours. At this point, Bob is left with six hours to use at his discretion. He can accomplish a lot in six hours. He could do some reading, walk the dog, mow the lawn, play catch with his kids, and still have time to watch an hour-long TV show. Bob can use those six hours any way he chooses. He could even start his own business while working full-time at his day job! Go Bob!

Fred also has 24 hours in a day. Due to his medical condition, Fred has to diligently track his sleep and must get at least nine hours each night. Fred works for eight hours after spending an hour showering, eating and commuting to his office. After work, Fred has a doctor appointment and has to stop by the pharmacy to pick up a new prescription. He gets home an hour later. All the activity of the day is taking a toll on Fred’s body, and he has to lay down for 30 minutes to regain his strength. Then he spends the next 30 minutes paying medical bills and arguing with the insurance company on the phone. Fred has dinner with his family, then takes a short walk to get some fresh air. That’s another hour. Fred has three hours left in the day. At this point, he is too exhausted to do anything that requires much energy, so his options for how he spends those three hours are limited. He could do some reading and maybe watch a little TV with his kids. But mowing the lawn or starting a new hobby is out of the question.

Bob and Fred both have 24 hours in a day. But Bob will accomplish more. Does that mean Fred is lazy or doesn’t utilize his time wisely? Does that mean he should be shamed and ridiculed for the activities he prioritizes? Does it mean he is a less valuable human being than Bob?

While the saying “everyone has 24 hours in a day” is technically true, it’s far from the actual truth. Positive thinking and organizational skills will not miraculously cure every disease. Everyone may have 24 hours, but not everyone has the ability to utilize them.

So the next time someone reminds me that I have 24 hours in my day, I will politely inform them that how I spend my time is none of their business. I will continue to use my 24 hours to the best of my ability, but I will not compare my accomplishments with anyone else’s. Life is not a contest, and I refuse to compete with anyone but myself.

Getty Image by stevanovicigor


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