January 15, 2013

Where Does the Time Go?

Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a Time Use Survey that tracks the amount of time Americans spend on work, household activities, childcare, eldercare and leisure.  Here are a few statistics that lend themselves to examination:

- On designated work days, the average adult spends 7.6 hours actually at work.
- Women spend 2.6 hours per day on housework, a full thirty minutes more than men (2.1 hours).
- Those providing for an aging parent or relative spent 3.1 hours on eldercare.
- Adults without children spent 4.5 hours a day on leisure activities, while working parents only had 3.5 hours of free time.
- Watching television occupied half of all leisure time spent, totaling 2.8 hours per day.  

What's even more interesting is how these hours and percentages compare to how other people around the world spend their time. For example, in a comparison of thirty countries around the world:

- Americans spend the most annual hours working (1,896) with Hungary (1,889) and Poland (1,806) following closely behind.
- Adults in Turkey spend 35% of all leisure time visiting or entertaining friends compared to only 16% of Americans.
- Only Mexicans watch more television than Americans (48% versus 44%).
- No surprise here: the French spend twice as much time eating each day (135 min) as Americans (74 min).
- Nearly every country surveyed reported sleeping more than Americans (8.6 hours).

While neither of these reports address productivity or output (topic for another day), I cannot help but feel woefully inefficient when I read stats like these. I could cut my to-do list in half if I gave up even one hour of television. Moreover, I cannot keep using work as an excuse for avoiding friends or enjoying a night out at a new restaurant.  Clearly, there are enough hours in the day for non-work activities if I choose to make them a priority.

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