Telling tales about the ways Americans spend their time


September 18, 1994|By Susan Hipsley | Susan Hipsley,Special to The Sun

Here's a grab bag of thought-provoking tidbits about time -- the way we perceive it and use it, as well as a few ways we attempt to beat it, manage it and otherwise force it into our service.

* Shopping: Married women spend more time shopping than their single counterparts, an average of 7.2 hours weekly vs. 6.3 respectively. The real power shoppers are 35 to 44 years old. They wield their buying power longest on Saturday (1.4 hours), Friday (1.1 hours) and Monday (1 hour).

* Daily rituals: Americans spend more time gardening on Monday than any other day of the week. We watch the fewest hours of television on Friday -- the day we most often go to the movies and restaurants and work out. All of which can be completed before "20/20" comes on.

We read the least on Saturday and the most on Thursday.

Thursday is also prime time for home computer users. That's when they spend the most time staring at their own version of the silver screen.

* Longer days: A 1990 Gallup poll showed that 54 percent of the adults who responded preferred the idea of working four 10-hour days to the traditional five eight-hour days.

Could be they're on to something: A mid-'70s study noted in "How Americans Use Time," by John P. Robinson of the University of Maryland, showed that four-day-week workers actually tend to work less than "what is officially expected of them." Even though their workday exceeded the standard by two hours, they really spent only 45 minutes more on "activities related to formal work," as the author so diplomatically puts it.

* Working on it: The length of the average work week for production or nonsupervisory workers on private payrolls in August was 34.5 hours. But factory overtime increased by 0.2 hour, for an all-time high of an average 4.8 hours worked overtime last month.

And so what, you say? The heretofore non-union Saturn workers are contemplating unionization because their rotating work shifts and numerous overtime hours are making many of them unhappy and, in some cases, ill.

If these people have too much work on their hands, consider that in August, 489,000 people reported that they'd gladly spend time working, but couldn't find jobs.

The United Auto Workers, one of the nation's largest, most powerful and influential unions, is now delicately introducing to its constituents the notion of shorter work weeks -- and proportionately less pay -- so that more people can share the job wealth.

* A leisurely pace: We have an average of 40.1 leisure hours at our disposal weekly (women have 39.6 and men, 41.1, but that will go without comment here). We have the most time to play with on Sunday, a whopping 7 hours, and the least on Tuesday, at 5.06 hours.

The average American uses the largest share of that time watching television, which occupies approximately a third of our leisure hours -- even though consistent findings from a number of studies show that people rate television low as a satisfying leisure-time activity. People say spending time interacting with their families provides the most enjoyment.

* Family time: In households earning under $15,000 yearly, men spend two hours per week in primary child-care activities (those in which child care is the main activity, as opposed to watching television with the kids). Women spend 10 hours. When earnings reach $35,000 and over, men spend four hours and women, eight. Women with a college degree spend 10 hours weekly in child-centered activities, while high-school educated mothers report six hours.

* Clocking in: Medieval serfs divided their days into three parts: -- sunrise, high noon and sunset. Now computer programmers think in terms of a nanosecond -- one billionth of a second -- and report feeling that even that seems interminable at times. What was that Carrie Fisher said in "Postcards From the Edge"? Something like, "Instant gratification takes too long"?

Sources: American Demographics magazine; Leisure Trends, a

division of the Gallup Organization; Americans' Use of Time Project; "Time Wars" (Henry Holt), by Jeremy Rifkin; Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Have you developed a time-saving technique you think could help others? We'd like to hear about it. We will share reader tips and offer some solutions to your professional, home or leisure time-management problems. Please leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.

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