Friday, November 21, 2014

Consumers say they are busy - how busy are they really?

People seem to very busy nowadays. Some people say they are so busy they do not have time to see friends, call them or even text them. But can anyone be that busy, really?  It is not lack of time that prevents us, but the nature of time can be inappropriate. Time might feel insufficient due to lack of energy etc. I think the gap between how busy people are and how busy they feel they are is extremely interesting. How busy people are really is a matter of objective time and how busy they feel is matter of subjective time. This post is about objective time and next week’s post is about subjective time.

Objective time


Objective time is quantitative. It is the same for everybody. It can be measured with watch, calendar etc. Objective time is the time where things are and where the events happen. Objective time does not depend on anyone’s perceptions. Whereas, subjective time depends on the person experiencing it. The concept of subjective time tells us how the time feels in different situations. Sometimes fifteen minutes is a long time sometimes we do not even notice it. We all have the same amount of objective time, we have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. But since some people have more obligations than others, the amount of objective time to be freely allocated varies.

Measuring the objective time



I have developed a simple empirical measure of (available) objective time. I provided a list of daily activities and asked respondents how if those statements described their life. I also had an open question to cover such time consuming activities that were not included in the list. Then I calculated the sum of those activities. These activities were such as “I have many children”, “I work a long hours”, etc. This variable is called the amount of available objective time. There were 15 different activities. I calculated the sum of these activities and classified them as:
  • A lot of time 0-1 activities
  • Quite a lot of time 2 activities
  • Medium amount of time 3 activities
  • Not much time 4-5 activities
  • A small amount of time 6-7 activities
  • Super small amount of time 8 activities or more

Figure  illustrates the empirical results:


As you can see from the figure above, people have quite a lot of time in general. Only 5% are really busy. Women were objectively more time poor than men (see figure below). Generation X (born between 1965-1979) was the most time poor. As expected, families were more time poor than couples, who were more time poor than people living alone. Education was interestingly linked to objective time scarcity – the more educated people were, the more tasks they had and the less objective time they had.


The fact that consumer’s feel busy, and that the lack of time is a socially acceptable excuse seems somewhat suspicious considering the results presented here. But being busy is not just lack of time, time might be meant for something else. Some part of time is utility timeand some part is pleasure time for instance. The different natures of time and the subjectivity of time will be discussed later in this blog.

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