How we spend our time – a global perspective
"Modern man thinks he loses something - time - when he does not do things quickly. Yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains - except kill it." Erich Fromm
All around the world people are working, studying, cooking, cleaning, eating, and sleeping. People are busy in Asia and people are busy in Africa. People in Europe, Australia, and the Americas work hard every day to make a decent living while others work hard every day just to survive. Some in developing and ancient cultures live simply and according to ancient traditions. For instance, “ . . . Indians [Machiguenga Indians of Peru] survive by growing food in gardens, hunting, fishing, and collecting wild foods. ‘They are self-sufficient; almost everything they consume is produced by their own labors using materials that are found close at hand’” (Robinson and Godbey 27). It is fascinating to observe how various cultures in different areas of the world use their time, and how this use affects their need for time management.
For example, in the United States, time is like a pressure cooker. There always seems to be far too many tasks to undertake and never enough time to accomplish them, and so the pressure builds. In comparison though, other countries around the world seem to work just as productively and efficiently, but without such excessive amounts of stress. The busy schedule of workers in Japan closely mirrors that of the United States, but “Despite their longer work day. . . the Japanese have found ways to introduce more leisure activities, such as conversation, hobbies, and education, into their lives. Informal conversations with Japanese colleagues and observers in Japan suggest that the pace of life in Japan may generally be as fast as in the United States, but that the pace of life in the Japanese workplace is more relaxed” (Robinson and Godbey 268). Many Japanese firms encourage their employees to participate in stretching exercise programs before work and during their lunch break. All members of the workforce participate from the CEO down to the hourly workers. They find the program not only helps relax muscles and prevents neck and back pain, it also builds community within the work force.
Also, in the United States, one of the most stressful parts of the day can be the morning or afternoon commute. To get around during a typical day in their hectic lives, most American’s choose to move about by car: “87 percent of daily trips take place in personal vehicles” (“National Household Travel”). Many countries use modes of transportation other than the automobile to get from place to place; they often use less stressful and healthier means of transportation such as walking, biking, or they will make use of public transportation instead.
When the workday is over, people in many countries around the world set aside ample time for meals and relaxation. “Sleeping and eating times were below average [in America], particularly in comparison with Germany, Belgium, and France” (Robinson and Godbey 261). Regardless of where a person lives in this world, we all need an adequate amount of food and an adequate amount of time put aside for physical and mental relaxation. Leading a rushed lifestyle without a time management plan to control it can prevent people from fitting these simple yet fundamental necessities into their lives. In some cultures a hurried lifestyle is considered completely normal, while in others the opposite is true. “In some countries, rushing is a sign of rudeness and poverty of spirit, while in others it is a sign of intelligence and importance” (Robinson and Godbey 25). It is not difficult to see how rushing through life, instead of stopping to appreciate it, can indicate a poverty of spirit. Introspection, self-discovery and the understanding of ones’ place in the world all require the benefit of available time to develop.
- “National Household Travel Survey: Daily Travel Quick Facts.” bts.gov. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. 3 Dec. 2006.
- Robinson, John P., and Geoffrey Godbey. Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time. 2nd ed. U. Park, PA: Pennsylvania State U. P., 2000.