You probably watched T.V. A lot of T.V.
Sometimes I’m not totally sure why the government tracks all the things it tracks. Private universities get funding to study all sorts of strange issues, but it’s really the Labor Department that has incredible repositories of data, some of which never even get seen unless an economist or journalist or crazy person calls up and asks for it. But I’m extremely glad they do track it. Otherwise, I’d have nothing to write about.
But in case you missed it, a couple days ago the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their annual survey of how, exactly, Americans spend the 24 hours they have in a day. It’s effectively a life audit and just as interesting to me as how we spend our money. Here are the stats displayed in a very nice pie chart. The most interesting takeaways for me were these:
We watch a lot of T.V.
On average, we watched 2.82 hours of television every day. That’s a lot. Way more than we checked e-mail. In fact, it was way more than any other specific activity except working and sleeping. T.V. is one of those leisure activities that’s easy to do and yet gives us the least bang for our minutes. Socializing (clocking in at less than an hour in the survey) at least builds relationships that can contribute to many aspects of life aside from leisure. Television, on the other hand, is a mindless time suck. Unless you’re watching educational programming, you come away with nothing except a point of conversation at the water cooler.
Even before this survey came out, I found that I spent way too much time watching the tube to the detriment of productive leisure activities like this blog. Proud to say I finally canceled cable on Monday. Here’s one of my favorite videos on productivity with one of my favorite lines about the T.V. black hole. “Stop watching $#(*&$ Lost.”
We spend a lot of time buying stuff.
About 46 minutes of every day, actually. I’m not a shopper. So to me this is inconceivable. Though it’s unclear from my cursory read of the definitions, it doesn’t seem that this includes buying food (eating clocks in at an hour and 13 minutes). The number has stayed about the same since the recession started—it’s dropped a minute since 2007. And that says a lot about whether Americans have gotten rid of our conspicuous consumption culture. We haven’t.
That triple-action suck Dyson vacuum cleaner has apparently not reduced the amount of time we spend cleaning.
Household activities took up an hour and 48 minutes, which is about the same as last year. In 2003, the earliest data available, we also spent about an hour and 48 minutes cleaning. I suspect that 20 years from now, we’ll also spend an hour and 48 minutes cleaning.
Why do technological improvement not save us time? Apparently, as I mentioned in an earlier post on work, as technology gets better, our standard of cleanliness rises. In other words, that Dyson might just lead you to want a cleaner floor rather than achieve the cleanliness that you have now quicker.
One of the positives I drew from the BLS report was that we actually spend eight hours and 40 minutes sleeping. Which begs the question: Who are these people, and where do they get the time?