Monday, February 9, 2004

How We Invest Our Time

A recent Wall Street Journal article, "Buddy, Can You Spare Some Time?" (WSJ 1/26/04) discussed how Americans spend their time. We spend about 53 hours per week working, 48 hours sleeping, 34 hours per week watching TV, over 18 hours per week listening to radio, about 10 to 12 hours per week each on things like exercise & sports, transit, caring for children & pets, and worship, between 1 and 4 hours per each on things like talking on the phone, listening to recorded music, reading the daily newspaper, reading magazines, reading books, watching videos, playing video games and being on the Internet.

Several observations. First, the total is over 20% more than the total hours per week there is. While, this is probably caused by combining several different and independent studies, it indicates why we may feel there is not enough time. There isn't!

Second, we're spending a lot of time at work and I think in general feeling that we are accomplishing less - certainly less for ourselves.

Third, we still watch a lot of TV - 20% of our total time, 28% of our waking hours and 50% of our non-working non-sleeping time. And, the amount of TV we watch has grown by 13% since 1996. At the same time, our work hours have increased by 10%.

Fourth, we are switching from broadcast to cable & satellite TV. Broadcast TV has dropped by 27% since 1996 while cable & satellite has grown by 73%.

In a separate article published in TV Guide, research by Phase One Communications showed that in the 1980's network TV showed 9.5 minutes of commercials in one hour. In the 1990s, that increased to 12.7. Now, it's 17.3 minutes of commercials per hour - that's almost 30% of the viewing time is spent looking at commercials.

To me these data speak for a need for innovation. How do we innovate at work so that we improve productivity, take less of our time and make work more meaningful? What are we looking for that we spend so much time watching TV? Are there other innovative ways to meet that need that take up less time? Instead of just shouting louder and longer in our commercials, is there a way to innovate that makes them more effective and efficient? Are commercials the most effective and efficient way to drive our consumer driven economy? Or, are there others innovative ways to pay for what we want in entertainment in our homes that is more time and cost effective?

Paul Schumann

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