Subjective time is something we experience, it explains how time feels in different situations. Sometimes we feel that we have a lot of time, sometimes we are very busy. The differences in subjective time explain why sometimes 15 minutes is a long time, sometimes simply inadequate. Subjective time is quite different from objective time, which can be measured by clocks and calendars. Subjective time is highly dependent on the person experiencing it and the context. People frame subjective time with different natures according to different situations. These natures are such as speed of time, simultaneous actions and thoughts about planned and appropriate usage of time (ex. utility time vs. pleasure time).
Some people seem to have a lot of time, while others do not. Some people feel time-poor, that is, they never seem to have enough time to get everything done. To other people, time might be generally sufficient resource and they could be called time-rich. These feelings of time scarcity are very subjective, and they have an impact on people’s consuming behavior (Darian & Cohen (1995)[i], Kaufman-Scarborough & Lindquist (2003)[ii]).
Measuring subjective time
There have been two interesting ways to measure time scarcity. Kaufman-Scarborough & Lindquist (2003)[iii] developed six-item Time Supply Scale (TSS). Darian & Cohen (1995)[iv] have used a much simpler scale. They used quite successfully only one statement: “I have very little spare time” with Likert scale. Very time-poor, somewhat time-poor, and not time-poor consumers were compared in the convenience and fast-food markets. Main findings in their study were that time-poorness influenced consuming and it influenced different products differently. I have also used the statement “I have very little spare time” and Likert scale. I coded a little bit differently, since I felt that time rich people should be included in the variable due to potential relevance in media choices. I coded strongly agree as very time poor, agree as quite time poor, disagree as quite time rich and strongly disagree as very time rich. It has been argued that time scarcity is more or less an attitude that people have. I agree with this, but I think that subjective time scarcity depends on the amount of objective time too.
Subjective time depends on objective time, but it is also an attitude
In other words, I argue (see figure below) that subjective time scarcity is partly an attitude and partly it depends on the amount of objective time. Even though there is a clear linear connection, time style is also attitude, since even 17% of those people who have “super small amount of time” (whose time is objectively scarce) feel time rich and 31% of those who objectively seem to have quite “a lot of time“ feel time poor.
Some people feel busier than they should
Results reveal that all demographic groups are divided into time poor and time rich (see figure below). When we compare objectively and subjectively time poor people we notice than men feel generally less time poor and more time rich than they are objectively. It seems that time is a rather more subjectively sufficient resource for men than women. Objectively most time poor generation seems to be generation X, but interestingly younger generations Y and Z feel more time scarcity than generation X, even though they seem to have quite a lot of time (objectively). Education is interestingly related to time scarcity. The amount of objective time diminishes clearly when education level goes up. To summarize: Generation Z and Y, and the less educated people feel busier than they should and more educated people and men feel less busy than they should.
This is interesting, because the time scarcity attitude affects media and other consumption choices.
[i] Darian, Jean C. & Cohen, Judy (1995): “Segmenting by consumer time shortage”, Journal of Consumer Marketing Volume: 12 Issue: 1
[ii] Kaufman-Scarborough, Carol & Lindquist, Jay D. (2003): “Understanding the Experience of Time Scarcity- Linking Consumer Time-Personality and Marketplace Behavior”, Time & Society, Vol. 12, No. 2-3, 349-370 (2003) DOI: 10.1177/0961463X030122011
[iii] Kaufman-Scarborough, Carol & Lindquist, Jay D. (2003): “Understanding the Experience of Time Scarcity- Linking Consumer Time-Personality and Marketplace Behavior”, Time & Society, Vol. 12, No. 2-3, 349-370 (2003) DOI: 10.1177/0961463X030122011
[iv] Darian, Jean C. & Cohen, Judy (1995): “Segmenting by consumer time shortage”, Journal of Consumer Marketing Volume: 12 Issue: 1