Back in 2005 we wrote about the September/October 2005 issue of The Futurist where they examined Americans’ use of time. According to the article, the common perception that there just isn’t enough time isn’t supported by the stats from a national study using time-diaries. Basically, the findings show that Americans average 35 hours per week of work time and 35 hours per week of free time. So how does that compare to today? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics people spent an average of 35.91 hours each week on leisure activities in 2016. The average time spent working was closer to 40 hours, but it isn’t clear that the methodology is the same.
Regardless of the exact numbers, it is clear that most people don’t feel like they have 35 hours of free time each week.
One of the reasons people feel like they have no time is because of marketing. There are many businesses who make money if you don’t feel like you have enough time. Everything from self-help books to prepared foods to delivery services depend on people who feel like they are too busy.
So where does all the free time go? The 2005 study showed over half of that time is spent watching television which was about what it had been in 1990. BLS is showing people spent 2.73 hours per day watching Television in 2016 which pretty close to half of their free time.
When people say that they don’t have enough time, it says more about how they spend their time than the actual quantity. After all, no one really has more time, we all just spend it in different ways. When people feel like their time is being spent on very valuable things, they may still run out of time, but there is a completely different level of fulfillment involved.
The trick to having enough time is making sure that it is spent on things that you feel are important. This means setting priorities and deciding what is actually valuable to you ahead of time.
By spending your free time on things that you feel are truly valuable, you won’t have actually ended up with more time, but you can increase your satisfaction with how your time is spent.
This funny quote from the article in The Futurist seems to sum up many Americans’ feelings about why they don’t have any free time. “Of course I don’t have any free time, because I spend so much of my time watching TV.”
Originally published November 17th, 2005 and updated with current statistics in 2017.