I usually write my posts in both English and French, and the French version of this blog is part of C@fé des sciences, a community of bloggers dedicated to communicating science in French. This week, C@fé des sciences chose to focus on one particular theme: time. Although I did not have time to contribute a full blog post, I couldn’t help but try to think of what I would have written otherwise. The first topic that came into my mind was something I had recently read about: the fact that, nowadays, many people feel pressed by time, and that, according to a poll done in the US in 2011, the wealthier a person is, the more time-poor they feel. A few thoughts on this topic, from the articles I read (see below for links): – lack of time: for some professions (especially the ones associated to a higher education level), the amount of work time has indeed increased over the past 30-50 years, leading to a corresponding decrease in the amount of free time people with these kinds of jobs have – too many things to do: nowadays, there is a huge amount of options we can choose from to occupy our free time (just think of all the things you’ll never have time to read/watch on the internet), and while this should be a good thing, it is often a source of stress for many people (typically, we feel frustrated for not having enough time to do all the things that we would like to do) – how valuable time is perceived to be: as time appears to be worth more money (typically as people are paid more to work), it seems to become scarcer and people feel compelled to use it well (either by “optimizing” their free time, or by not even allowing themselves free time)
-> people with higher incomes are more likely to be the ones complaining of a lack of time and feeling anxious about it, even when the hours spent working are actually held constant among all the individuals compared
-> beyond the direct financial value of one’s work time, and by extension of one’s time in general, it might be that even just thinking of oneself as relatively wealthy (without necessarily being so) is enough to create a feeling of being pressed for time: researchers at the University of Toronto divided some 120 students in two groups and ask them how much money they had in their bank account; all students answered using an 11-point scale, but for one group the scale increments were of $50 and the scale ranged from “nothing” to “over $500”, while for the other group the increments were much larger and the scale ranged from “nothing” to “over $400,000”; as a result, one group ended up circling a number at the top of the scale (the students using the $50-increment scale), which left them with the feeling that they were relatively well-off, while the other group had to circle a number at the bottom of the scale; the researchers then observed that such a trick was enough to make the students of the first group perceive their time differently than the students of the second group: the “affluent” students seemed to feel stressed out and more pressed for time than the students of the other group.
Here are two articles and a TEDx talk I can recommend if you are interested in this topic: – In search of lost time – Why is everyone so busy? The Economist, December 20th, 2014 – Why we feel pressed for time, Elizabeth Dunn, on Edge.org – What is your time really worth? Elizabeth Dunn, TEDxColoradoSprings 2014