DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How do you use your time?

The informal time use survey now being conducted in the right lower quadrant of this page provides a glimpse into the growing science of time use. The truth is, many people aren't really aware of precisely how they use their time. They can remember what they did and usually describe the order of events, but when it comes to accurately estimating how much time they spent doing different categories of activities, they often misjudge.

Depending on the activity, they over or under estimate the actual amount of time spent doing it. For example, they often overestimate the amount of time they spend working (imagine that!) while underestimating the amount of time spent doing things that may be more enjoyable but less productive (talking casually with co-workers, for example). This observation, while perhaps not surprising, invites discussions of how time use is experienced. This is a dimension of time use studies that is just now beginning to be recognized as an important (but difficult) factor to measure in the science of time use.

Believe it or not, there is an international society of time use scientists known as the International Association of Time Use Research (IATUR). These scientists provide expert support for conducting and analyzing the studies of time use often used by nations.

At this point you may be wondering why governments would be interested in studying the time use of citizens? The reasons are varied, but accurate estimates of population time use can be helpful in planning and scheduling services, estimating exposure to environmental conditions, determining the productivity of a country's people who are working within the informal economy (caring for family members at home, for example), and for determining general trends that reflect changes in lifestyle. Companies that sell certain goods and services are also interested in time use data, because such information provides guidance for estimating market demand.

The United States has now joined other nations in participating in a standardized approach to gathering time use data. You can learn more about time use (and even see summaries of recent surveys) at the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) website, within the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor.

Given the important link between well being and time use (time use is really about lifestyle, after all), it makes a person wonder why the Department of Health and Human Services is not a sponsor of this activity. I'd love to hear your thoughts about how you use your time?

About Me

I am a writer, lifelong student, former academic and new blogger. My passion continues to be everyday living. I am interested in what people do, how, when and why they do it, and what it means for their their understanding of the world and hence, their well being.