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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 11:48 GMT
Are you wasting your life?
Rupert Murdoch
"You only get one shot at it"
What have you achieved today? Rupert Murdoch says that, despite setting up a vast media empire, he has wasted half his days.

When you reach your three-score-and-ten, how will you look back on your life? As a triumph of productivity? Or a string of wasted days?

Rupert Murdoch as a Simpsons character
"I haven't got time to be in The Simpsons!"
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has built up a global business empire in his 70 years, won the ears of world leaders and radically changed the course of British journalism. Not bad going?

"I have wasted almost half my life," he now proclaims, having totted up the number of days he considers he has put to good use.

So just how much valuable time are the rest of us wasting?

Put away childish things

Playing conkers, climbing trees, collecting Pokémon, grazing knees. Childhood activities on the whole don't appear very productive.

Being the son of a famous newspaperman gave the young Rupert Murdoch a bit of a head start in journalism, but are most people's green years frittered away?

Karen guerillas Johnny and Luther Htoo
Too much, too young
World-beaters such as Andre Agassi, Tiger Woods, Mozart and ... err, Drew Barrymore, all set out on their professional paths before even getting out of their nappies.

Agassi's father hung a tennis ball above his son's cot to "train his eye". Woods was given a golf club aged just six months. Barrymore - heir to a great acting dynasty - was on screen at four, and in rehab at 14.

Mozart's father said his child prodigy was a "miracle" sent by God and felt it his Christian duty to cart the six-year-old Wolfgang around the courts of Europe.

Such early pressure flies in the face of current thinking, though. The authors of US bestseller Hyper-parenting: Are You Hurting Your Child By Trying Too Hard? say children should actually spend as much "unproductive" time with their parents as possible.

Perhaps someone should tell Abdel Karim al-Ali's mum and dad. According to As Safir newspaper, the Lebanese couple are encouraging the five-year-old to smoke in the hope he will win an entry in the record books.

Eat your heart out

So if not from childhood, where else can you trim the unproductive fat in your life? Well, we spend an average 10 whole days eating each year.

Orson Welles is credited with producing the greatest movie debut of all time with Citizen Kane. Aged just 26, the auteur became the "Wonder Boy" of both Hollywood and Broadway.

Orson Welles
"Well, it certainly looked like a hot dog"
In later years, it was his appetite and expanding waistline, rather than his artistic vision, which garnered most public interest.

"He could really eat," remembered former Ritz chef John McGinnety. "When he ordered they would shout through 'Orson Welles' and we would serve up a double portion."

Welles also reputedly holds the record for eating most hot dogs at one sitting from the famous Pink's fast food stand in Hollywood. He scoffed 18, if you were wondering.

The longer he spent at the dining table, the less time Welles had to ensure his artistic legacy. Aged 70, his Hollywood swansong was Transformers: The Movie.

Blink and you've missed it

Being productive is about keeping your eye on the ball. But you spend at least 23 minutes of your waking day blinking.

When Sir Michael Caine was still hungry young wannabe Maurice Micklewhite, he decided the action of spreading lachrymal secretions over the cornea was not going to get him anywhere in the movies.

Hugh Grant and Sir Michael Caine
"Have I got something in my eye, Hugh?"
The Oscar winner trained himself to resist the urge to blink so as not to ruin close-up shots. This aspect of the star's stagecraft has opened him up for as much ridicule as his role in Jaws: The Revenge.

"I should have said you shouldn't blink, often. But then Hugh Grant made a whole career out of it," Sir Michael has admitted.

The star hasn't done so badly himself, as a veteran of more than 70 films. But closing your eyes does have its place, he concedes. "You only need to blink to clear all the crap out of your eyes."

With dry spots appearing on your eye after just a few blinkless seconds, Sir Michael wrote in his autobiography that eschewing blinking in smoggy post-war London wasn't ideal for his optical health.

Not enough hours in the day

Many people choose to burn the candle at both ends, cramming as much into their days by skimping on a good night's sleep.

A sleeping man
Obviously not a born leader
We should spend about a third of our lives asleep, with the average Briton heading to the land of Nod for seven hours, 12 minutes, each night.

Some far from average people displayed an ability to function with little sleep. Margaret Thatcher famously boasted about only going to bed for four hours a night. Hitler was awake 21 hours of the day.

If that's not enough to send you to bed for a week, Neil Stanley, director of Sleep Laboratories at the University of Surrey says lack of sleep is a serious issue.

"You can die from lack of sleep quicker than a lack of food."

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