We have fewer working hours than ever before, but are enjoying leisure time less. A recent holiday article from The Economist dives into this disparate perception of time and leisure.
The author explains that this perception and associated stress varies between cultures. He describes how cultures that prize individualism tend towards a “time is money” mindset, while poorer countries encourage a less harried pace.
Having never travelled abroad, I’ve not seen this for myself but I’ve heard stories from friends and family of the extremely laid-back attitude that persists in many countries outside of America.
Divergent Views of Time
My husband volunteered for a church in Mexico several years ago. Upon returning, he was quick to report on the leisurely aspect of life over the border. An abundance of genuine hospitality was also a primary memory during his time in the country.
He noted a similar feeling when traveling abroad to Germany. In Europe meal times were slower and locals walked as if they were on vacation (and perhaps they were). Research has shown that perceptions of time vary dramatically across cultures.
What’s Stealing Our Joy?
Two questions arise when reading that we have more leisure time than ever, but perceive that the opposite is true. Do these laid-back cultures have a leg up on type-A Americans? Also, what’s stealing our joy?
If we have more time each day for self pursuits, why aren’t we happier?
The Solution to Our Time Perception Problem
According to a Time magazine article, as of 2006 the average American adult spent 2.5 hours a day in front of the television. This is the primary leisure activity for the majority of Americans.
The solution to our perception problem is simple: less TV.
Rather than parking ourselves in front of the television we’d be better off engaging in conversation, reading a book, or participating in a alternate hobby. I say this as someone who watches over an hour of TV nightly. I want my leisure time back!
Commit and Find Accountability
It isn’t enough to simply state our intention to eschew the boob tube. To ensure success I’m going to enlist the help of my husband (the only other human in our house that is awake after 9 o’clock).
Accountability is an effective motivator for goal achievement. My husband is amazing at gently encouraging me when I’ve set an objective.
I’d encourage you to use the same tactic: pick a goal (less TV or more family dinners, for example) and enlist the help of a loved one to achieve your objective. Let’s reclaim our leisure time!
How do you spend your evening leisure time? Do you feel overly hurried?
Note: You may be interested in reading this comprehensive 2007 study of working hours around the world by Routledge. How Different Cultures Understand Time is also a fascinating (and much more succinct) article.