Where Does Your Time Go?



People tend to get retrospective toward the end of the year especially closer to New Year’s Eve. It’s also traditional for some people to make New Year’s resolutions for the coming year.

New Year’s resolution or not, this is a good time to review the use of your time and make some changes if you see that there is an inordinate amount of time spent in an area that is not a priority of yours.

The following table shows some of the most recent results from the annual American Time Use Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. With this information you can compare your use of time with national averages.

Of course, each individual’s needs and priorities are different, and so the national averages should be kept in perspective. The full report here gives more specific averages based on certain demographics. For instance, if you are a woman with young children at home, the national average for that demographic found in Table 8 may be more useful than the overall national average.

Time Study

Conducting a week-long time study on yourself is a recommended way to ensure that you understand more accurately how you spend your time. Leadership and management expert Peter Drucker observed that most busy executives were surprised with the results. “There is never much resemblance between the way these people thought they used their time and their actual records,” he said. (“The Essential Drucker”, Chapter 16, “Know Your Time”)

A time study of your work and work related activities should include the amount of time you spend on primary responsibilities (the ones in your job description) and others (e.g. non-essential meetings, phone calls, email. etc.).

Time Management Principles and Tips

Improving your time management skills is a proven way to increase effectiveness at home and work. To read a selection of time management principles and tips, click here.


American Time Use Survey

Summary in Hours – 2013 Responses – BLS

 All Employed Non Employed


Total Hours 24.00 24.00 24.00 24.00
Personal Care – Excluding Sleep .76 .77 .71
Sleep 8.60 8.33 9.36
Eating / Drinking 1.16 1.17 1.13
Household Activities – Including Housework and Maintenance 1.85 1.56 2.64
Purchasing – All Forms Including Shopping and Personal Care .73 .72 .78
Caregiving – Adults and Children 1.54 1.28 2.25
Work and Work Related Activities 4.20 5.64 .27
Educational Activities .25 .14 .57
Religious Activities .13 .12 .17
Volunteering & Civic Activities .18 .16 .21
Leisure – Excluding Sports, Recreation, Exercise, and TV 1.04 .96 1.27
Leisure – Socializing / Communicating .71 .67 .83
Leisure – TV/Cable Watching 2.17 1.85 3.04
Leisure – Sports, Recreation, and Exercise .25 .25 .25
Phone and Correspondence – Not Leisure .11 .09 .14
Others Not Classified Above .31 .28 .38

Total of All Activities Must Total 24 Hours



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