Study: Stop Whining, You’re Not As Busy As You Think

September 5, 2014 | Rhett Jones

According to a new study by the Americans’ Use Of Time (AUOT) project, though people believe they are too busy and have less free time, we actually have been gradually getting less busy over the last 40 years.

It’s taken as common wisdom that we’re getting busier as a society. With Americans scrambling to acquire jobs, trying to keep ahead of the pack at work, and taking on multiple jobs during a seemingly permanent cycle of economic recession, it seems obvious that we’d be busier. The study says that all workers clock in an average of about 40.4 hours of work a week. When we’re asked to estimate that number of hours, the average guess 44.

John Robinson, the director of the AUOT, has spent 50 years studying how people use their time. He seems to think it has to do with people working irregular hours — “the movement of the labor force into more service occupations… in which work schedules are becoming more irregular (with no time clock to punch as a vivid reminder), workers have fewer benchmarks to use in estimating the number of hours in their workweek.”

AUOT’s studies are often dependent on time diaries which can be frustratingly imprecise on giving us insight into why people feel the way they do. The conclusions are a bit vague. But there are still a lot of surprises in the findings. For example, we are watching more TV than we ever have. The internet, allegedly, has had little impact on the amount of TV people watch on average, which takes up more than 50% of our free time. Not surprising — the more TV people watch the less happy they are.

There are few solutions offered to make you feel less busy. Maybe, just keep in mind that if you’re an average American woman, you do less housework than you used to and if you’re an average American man you sleep more than you work (and do less housework then an average American woman). It’s not as bad as it feels.