I sometimes wonder if the last truly time saving modern convenience was the washing machine. Its arrival in the 1920s, along with other new technologies like the vacuum cleaner and the refrigerator brought hours of leisure time to the average US citizen. The Harris Poll began tracking our leisure time in 1973, measuring on average, 26 hours per week. That number dropped to a mere 16 hours per week in 2007. (I have been unable to find more recent reports, and can only assume that Harris no longer has the time for such polls.) Modern technology retains the reputation for convenience, all the while it insidiously eats minutes, hours, days, and eventually, years of our lives. Here are some simple steps to reclaim your time.
Don’t use TV streaming (use the free alternative)
The fewer streaming services you have, the simpler your life will feel. Viewers spend between 28–41 minutes per day just looking for something to watch. This adds up to 474 days over your life time — more than a year of your life spent squinting in indecision.
When I quit Amazon Prime, I got in the habit of checking out movies at the library. With more distance between selecting my videos and the time I watch them, I don’t feel pressured to find the perfect thing. I can drop a dozen titles into my canvas tote in only a few minutes. When evening TV watching time rolls around it’s just not possible to lose half an hour to indecision when there are only 12 titles to choose from.
Set healthy boundaries with your phone
My clients and friends don’t see me in person until I have completed my morning self care. I apply the same expectation to my smart phone and other devices. I don’t visit with them until I am fed, dressed, had my tea, combed my hair and brushed my teeth. Now my mornings are calmer and simpler. I have clarity. I am able to engage with my working memory about my plans and ideas because my short term memory hasn’t been obliterated by items from my social media feeds.
I realize that I have handed several years of my life over to my phone. The average American spends nearly 5 and a half hours a day on their phone. The number is grows even higher for millennials and teens. It is predicted we will spend at least 9 years of our lives on our phones.
Set a weekly phone call with friends instead of texting constantly. The results are more rewarding.
I told my friend I used to text with constantly that I wanted to better connect by actually talking to her. She texted back, “I love that!” Now, we rarely text and save our shares for our Monday “coke date.” (We are from Texas, where all sodas are called “cokes.”) In terms of feeling heard and connected, calling creates memorable connections. It’s also scientifically proven to be more emotionally fulfilling.
According to a study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin in 2020, “Phone calls create stronger bonds than text based communication.”
People send text messages when a phone call is the way to get the feelings of connectedness we crave. The problem is, you don’t recall the funny thing they texted. You don’t feel emotionally seen. Or, if you did, you just don’t remember the moment. The fact is, texting is emotionally unfulfilling. Interestingly, the UT Austin study found that calling did not, in fact, take more time than composing an email.
Connection is one of the tenants of living a simple life. When we feel connected, life feels easier. When we aren’t constantly interrupted by texts, we actually get to focus on living. Setting limits and taking cues from life before everything was at our fingertips enables us to reclaim our time, calm our minds and rejuvenate our relationships.
Diana is writing a book on living simply. Follow me on Medium for more insight into regaining your time and simple pleasures. Follow me on Instagram to get to know me better.
- (2008) Americans Today Have Less Free Time, Study Says, Public Relations Society of America https://apps.prsa.org/SearchResults/view/7722/105/Americans_today_have_less_free_time_study_says#
- Alexander, Julia (2016). Study Viewers Will Spend A Total of 1.3 Years Trying to Find Something To Watch, Polygon https://www.polygon.com/2016/11/7/13549616/netflix-hulu-streaming-tv-study
- Brown, Eileen (2020). Americans Spend Far More Time on Their Smartphones Than They Think, ZDNet https://www.zdnet.com/article/americans-spend-far-more-time-on-their-smartphones-than-they-think/
- Dannenmaier, Molly (2020). Phone Calls Create Stronger Bonds Than Text Based Communications, UTNews. https://news.utexas.edu/2020/09/11/phone-calls-create-stronger-bonds-than-text-based-communications/