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Where does all of our time go?

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

No wonder we don’t have enough time to get everything done.

I was reading a survey this week of the amount of leisure time Americans spend with various forms of media. It broke down this way:

Radio – 20 hours

Broadcast TV – 15 hours

Cable and satellite TV – 19 hours

Recorded music – 3.5 hours

Daily newspaper – 3.5 hours

Internet – 3.5 hours

Magazines – 2.5 hours

Books – 2 hours

Home video – 1.3 hours

Video games – 1.7 hours

That’s a total of 72 hours a week.

You can compare it with your own preferences. For example, I don’t spend anywhere near 20 hours a week listening to the radio, even when I’m doing a lot of driving. I’m much more likely to have a CD in the player.

I also spend a lot more than 3.5 hours with the daily newspaper, but then it’s my job. And I know I spend more than 1.3 hours with “home video” (videocassettes or DVDs), because it takes at least a couple of hours to watch just one movie and I probably average two or three a week.

Nevertheless, I thought it was a rather remarkable figure. Especially when you consider there are only 168 hours in a week.

Figure we spend something like 49 hours a week sleeping and 40 hours a week at work.

That leaves just seven hours a week for all the other stuff we want to do. Like eating. Bathing. Picking up dirty socks.

I realize, of course, this is the age of “multi-tasking,” which is a fancy word for “not really paying attention to anything.”

For example, I can be found reading the newspaper while I’m eating lunch with the television droning in the background. When I’m done, odds are I won’t be able to remember one of the three – what I read, what I heard or what I ate.

If you commute back and forth to work, you’re listening to the radio or a CD while you drive. (Those of you reading the newspaper, watching a DVD or talking on the telephone while you drive, be sure to factor in the amount of time you will spend at the repair shop or in the hospital after the inevitable collision.)

Seven hours a week. That’s all.

Say you spend a couple of hours in church. A couple of hours hiking, or in the gym. Playing with the kids, or watching them play sports or a recital. Volunteering with a service club or nonprofit organization. Shopping. Washing and waxing the car. Dropping nickels in a slot machine.

Maybe you had to work overtime this week. Maybe you went to a movie, a concert or a show. Skiing. A drive in the country with the windows rolled down.

With all the possibilities tugging at our time, seven hours doesn’t seem like enough, does it?

For the most part, these are activities we’re choosing to spend our time pursuing. Unfortunately the clock keeps ticking whether we’re doing anything constructive or entertaining – or not.

Here are my estimates for some of the events in our lives that consume time we otherwise could spend, say, gazing at a Sierra Nevada sunset.

n Waiting for the checkout clerk to finish gabbing with another employee: 19 minutes a week.

n Trying to turn left onto Carson Street: 9 minutes a week.

n Waiting for the water to get hot: 7 minutes.

n Looking for the other shoe: 8 minutes.

n Listening to messages from people who apparently dialed the wrong number: 14 minutes.

n Singing in the shower and wondering what kind of reaction you would get on “American Idol”: 12 seconds.

n Watching the toaster: 3 minutes.

n Watching the microwave: 6 minutes

n Looking for that thing we were sure was in the top drawer but somehow got moved who-knows-where and now won’t turn up until we no longer need it: 23 minutes.

n Lying awake waiting for the snooze alarm to go off: 41 minutes.

n Listening to someone describe in great detail their last trip to the doctor/dentist/mechanic: 54 minutes.

n Standing in the hallway trying to remember exactly where we were going: 2 minutes.

Such inevitable occurrences in our everyday lives – well, mine anyway – end up costing us at least three hours a week – nearly half the total amount of time we have for activities that don’t involve working, sleeping, television, reading or radio.

The answer is not more “multi-tasking.” Nor is it being impatient with people. We could all spend less time watching television, I suppose, but I think what we really need to do is make sure we spend at least a couple of hours a week talking with somebody we care about.

Make time for it, because it’s the best investment of time we can make. It stimulates our brains, can often be quite entertaining and is almost always informational.

Who knows? They might have seen that other shoe.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at editor@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-1221.