Posted on May 18, 2012 @[email protected]

What do you do with your free time? This question is currently leaving some sociologists a bit perplexed as Americans’ time management habits have begun to change. There has been a shift from exercise and education to entertainment and sleep. So what does this shift mean and should you hop on the band wagon?

According to the 2010 American Time Use survey released by the US Labor Department people are working less, watching more television and sleeping more. It is of course not surprising that American’s are working less seeing as unemployment rates have sky rocketed. Many were hoping that faced with the extra time American’s would spend more time on productive activities such as volunteering and exercising but that has not been the case. In addition to spending about a quarter of their time in front of the television American’s also spend a lot of time in front of the computer. Of course for many of us time in front of the computer is key to doing our jobs well but many American’s are using their computer for leisurely activities in an increasing amount. While the increase in amount of time dedicated to sleep is probably a positive change as sleep promotes good health, the amount of time spent on unproductive activities is of course a concerning trend. To lead a meaningful life you have to fill your time with productive activities. So how can you avoid the trend that seems to be plaguing the nation?

Here are some tips for those of you who are currently employed:

Gain control of your email. Email has become a key way of communication both in and out of the workplace but it can also be a big consumer of time. When you sit down to deal with your email, only address each email once, be sure to read and appropriately respond to each email all in the same sitting otherwise it’ll just clog up your to do list. You should also limit yourself to only check your email at certain times of the day. This will prevent you from constantly going online to check emails, which can lead to further distractions in your day.

Give yourself some boundaries. Stay logged off of Facebook and email until you accomplish the tasks in front of you. Facebook and other online sites can be rather addicting and you may find that they consume too much of your time in unproductive ways. Self-control can be difficult but if you create boundaries it can be a bit easier to adhere to.

Figure out what routine works best for you and set your schedule around that. Find which work patterns lead to the most productive work days for you, whether that be taking an hour break for lunch everyday or working straight through the day. Be sure to often re-evaluate your schedule as your workday habits are likely to continually change.

Don’t be afraid to say no. It’s easy to take on too much but that can lead to you feeling overwhelmed and thus being less productive. Establish a balance between work and leisure in your life and don’t let the scales get too far tipped in one direction.

For those of you who are unemployed:

Get yourself into a productive schedule. It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re not employed and having a difficult time finding a new job but if you create a busy schedule you’re less likely to feel like your life is lacking in meaning which may fend of depression and loneliness.

Make time for exercise and volunteering. These activities will make you feel happy and healthy and will prevent you from spending too much time in front of the television or computer. They’ll also help you to give back to your community and keep you social.

In summary, it is important that even in difficult times we give ourselves boundaries and make the most of our everyday lives. Think about what you want your life to be filled with and consider if the most recent American trend applies to you.

Robert Boroff Executive Profile Managing Director Reaction Search International

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