Monday, July 24, 2006

The Biggest Waste of Time

I regularly teach a study skills course to new college students. One of the topics that we always cover is time management. We usually do an exercise in which we calculate how much time we spend during the week on different activities.

Many students are surprised at how much time they spend on certain things in their lives. Some find that they study much less than they thought or sleep or work more than they were aware of. Some are simply shocked to find out how much time they spend watching television in a week.

For me, it was a rude awakening when I realized that I spend something like ten hours a week just commuting back and forth to work. That's about an hour each way, five days a week.

When I put that in perspective, it's more than a full work day that is lost to me. Sure, I can spend some of that time thinking and planning my day or week, but for the most part that time is wasted.

This is another opportunity cost of working outside the home. For those who are able to telecommute or otherwise work out of their home or even nearby, this isn't a factor. They are able to make much more efficient use of their time. For those of us who do have to spend time traveling to get to work, we are investing a significant amount of time and effort every day just to get there.

What do we do on this commute? Most people probably listen to the radio. The morning FM shows are typically full of unintelligent, adolescent banter with each program competing for the prize of most crude and banal. How entertaining are the constant dirty jokes and interviews with strippers? Don't you get tired of all the cleverly worded and thinly veiled references to sex and deviancy designed to just barely escape the notice of the FCC?

If you're not listening to that brainless chatter, is it the news? How enlightened are we after hearing the latest tally of shootings, apartment fires, drug busts and car crashes? Does anybody profit from absorbing this information? Or how about the ridiculously detailed weather forecasts? Does it matter to anyone what the wind speed is or whether a cold front is due to come in? Just tell me if it's going to rain!

What could we do with the time that is essentially wasted this way? Read more, write more, work more, relax more? More of something other than wasting time? Though this isn't a call for everyone to run right out and quit his or her job, it's definitely food for thought.



Anonymous Steve said...

The time wasted on commuting is, however, a great argument for good mass transit... which unfortunately Cincinnati doesn't really have. I know my editor in New York commutes into the city every day, and she spends the commuting time readings manuscripts.

If someone else is driving, then you can get something productive done.

7/26/2006 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ray said...

It would be great if we had a better public transportation system in our area. The light rail idea would totally change the culture around here after a while.

I'd also love to be able to reclaim that wasted time and be unchained from having to deal with a car every day.

7/26/2006 07:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very pretty design! Keep up the good work. Thanks.

8/11/2006 04:59:00 AM  

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