Why modern life is so busy even though we work less

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MONTREAL – Many of us feel that time management is getting more difficult. But why? Is it because we are working more now than ever, or perhaps because life in general has accelerated so much?

It’s unlikely. Overall, people are working less today than they were 100 years ago. And there is no clear evidence that the pace of life has accelerated.

So if it’s not more hours or a faster pace, what has changed? The answer is that the institutions that regulated our time have all but disappeared.


Think about it. In the 1950s, what did the average American or Canadian do on Sunday mornings? They didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about whether to watch Netflix in bed or go to brunch. The only option for many was to go to church.

And of course, Netflix didn’t exist. People had to plan when they were going to watch their favorite shows, which meant that TV channels gave us the boost to manage our time. You couldn’t just watch what you wanted when you wanted to.

The same goes for dinner: you had to be at the table on time, otherwise there would be consequences. Today, family dinners have all but disappeared.

While you may sometimes wonder when the best time to do your laundry is, decades ago the answer was clear: Monday was laundry day. It was the norm at the time. And you could only shop during business hours when today, thanks to Amazon and other online retailers, you can buy whatever you want 24 hours a day, all year round.

Free to manage our time

You see the picture: people’s time was once regulated by society, government, religion, family, and many other institutions.

And not just institutions, but also biology: Condoms and other contraceptives have been around for a long time, but they have only recently been widely used. If you are unsure of the impact contraceptives have on our time management, I highly recommend that you watch the MTV show. 16 and pregnant. It shows how parenting can increase our sense of time pressure and reduce autonomy, especially for mothers; unplanned parenthood can dramatically worsen this feeling.

Make our schedule a reflection of our values, beliefs and philosophy

Today we have more freedom than ever to manage our time in the way that works best for us. For that, you can thank technological advances and an unprecedented relaxation of social norms. What a time to live!

But freedom also means responsibility: we are now responsible for managing our time instead of following the rules set by institutions like family or religion that tell us how to spend our days. This is one of the reasons why most people now have calendars, to-do lists, and other personal time management tools. In the 1920s, personal time management tools were much rarer.

Time management was easier decades ago: people’s time was, in a very real sense, managed for them by outside forces. They didn’t have to constantly think about what to do next or how to prioritize their tasks. Today, these decisions rest entirely on our shoulders.

A great time to be alive

But don’t be discouraged. With all this freedom, you have the flexibility to do things your own way and live your life exactly as you see fit, at least to a greater extent than your grandparents, who did not have the freedom of time that you want. we take it for granted.

So while time management may be more difficult, your opportunities are greater than ever. (Assuming, of course, that you’re lucky enough to live in a country with public policies that ensure everyone has quality time.)

After all, this is the ultimate goal of time management. It’s not about efficiency, productivity or getting things done. It is the ability to make our schedule reflect our values, beliefs and philosophy. Time management allows us to structure our life as we wish.

The implication is clear: while time management may be more difficult than before, it is also more rewarding. What we lose in ease and routine we make up for with the ability to create our lives on our own terms. And it’s a compromise worth making.

Brad Aeon, assistant professor and researcher in time management, University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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