Time Well Spent//

Here’s Why It Feels Like You Have No Free Time, In One Chart

Ever wonder where all your free time goes?

Courtesy of Unsplash

Ever wonder where all your free time goes? Adam Alter has an idea.

At the 2017 TED conference, the NYU psychologist presented a collection of three bar graphs showing data for how people in 2007, 2015, and 2017, spend an average workday.

Relying on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the app Moment, which tracks smartphone use, the chart shows sleep and work take up roughly two-thirds of people’s day, no matter the year. Same for their survival activities, such as bathing and eating.

But how we spend our precious remaining free time — a period of just a few hours, during which we do many of the things that make us individuals — has changed dramatically.

Compared to 2007, when screens ate up mere minutes of our free time, the ratio has now flipped. Practically all of people’s free time goes toward screens of some sort, Alter’s research has found.

The red space is all the time we spend fiddling around on screens. The puny yellow and white slivers that remain are “where the magic happens,” Alter says. “That’s where your humanity lives, and right now it’s in a very small box.”


Alter urged the crowd to rethink their attachment to phones, laptops, and tablets. They may connect people in a geographical sense, such as a Skype call to a farflung relative, but they also lead to distraction and feelings of isolation, he says.

He encourages people to strike a healthy balance with their tech, whether it means blocking certain social media or abstaining from using a device altogether.

As author Annie Dillard observed in her 2013 book “The Writing Life,” “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Alter’s talk calls on us to spend that time wisely.

More From Business Insider:

9 mind-expanding podcasts to listen to if you only have 30 minutes

Body language is more important than you think — and it can even outweigh your IQ

A saving strategy implemented in your 20s could help you ‘coast’ into early retirement

Originally published at www.businessinsider.com

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


How to Have a Healthy Relationship With Tech

by Bethany Baker
Courtesy of Song_about_summer/Shutterstock

Here’s How to Finally Cut Back On Your Screen Time

by Marie Forleo
Courtesy of Ramil Gibadullin / Shutterstock

10 Tips For Limiting Your Kid’s Screen Time

by Kirstie Landry

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.