Why do people nowadays feel so rushed? It is a common complaint that everybody, everywhere seems to be so busy. Despite more time-saving appliances that guaranteed more speed and less work the trend continues unabated. In offices, too, there seems to be a time scarcity problem. Young parents also complain of feeling harried to the point of exhaustion. Is this a fact of contemporary life or simply a current impression?
In part, this merely is a perception problem. We nowadays actually have more leisure time than was the case a generation ago. Too, surveys report that most of us devote significantly less time working than in the previous era. Women’s paid work has been climbing steadily for years, but unpaid work, like talking care of household tasks, has declined considerably, thanks to appliances that have become commonplace in middle-class families in North America.
The problem, then, is one of recognition; not how much free time we have, but how we use it. As incomes rise, time becomes more important so we try to use it efficiently. As people have more money, time appears to be more precious than was the case previously. Rising pay means that working time becomes more valued, we hate to waste it, so we feel the need to be busier, to squeeze as much as we can from the economy.
We believe we never can have enough time to buy all the supposedly desirable things. That makes us impatient – and anxious to work more. Also, modern technology, smart phones and email, require responses, so that takes time. Furthermore, companies seem to have no compunction about imposing on employees after regular office hours, so workdays appear to go on and on.
In previous eras, employees punched a time clock so that was an end to the work period. A survey at the Harvard Business School revealed that professionals worked longer hours than others.
Work opportunities have expanded for those with post-graduate degree and hence many feel that they have to fulfill themselves to ensure continued status. Unfortunately, taxes and other costs mean that work is less rewarding per se, than it was formerly, and unions no longer can enforce compliance by employers.
Many parents feel obliged to “snowplow” away as many obstacles as possible that are hindering their children, and feel they must help as much as possible in every way. Thus, those parents feel very harried and stressed.
All that explains the time squeeze and the notion of being on a treadmill going nowhere. Too many seem to neglect what really is crucial in life.