Everyday Sociology Blog: Macro Meets Micro: Time Management

Everyday Sociology Blog: Macro Meets Micro: Time Management
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Karen Sternheimer

I’d like to think I’m pretty good at managing my time. At least until I start thinking about time in relation to structural forces, and then I realize that there are many factors involved in the regulation of time that are beyond human control.

Personally, I am fortunate to have a full-time job that allows me to manage my time according to my personal preferences. I can teach morning classes, so my commute is early, before the morning and evening rush hours. I can work from home a few days a week and choose my hours accordingly. I get paid breaks of about 4 months a year so I can spend my time the way I want.

Others may think I’m a time management wizard, but for me, these perks help. Along with the privilege of choosing when and where I work most often comes reduced stress and increased productivity, which reinforces my privilege. Even colleagues in the same position may have more family commitments that severely limit their work and leisure hours.

When we think about time management, we rarely think about how much time we have to manage and how it varies greatly depending on our social status, especially socioeconomic status, age, and other social roles and responsibilities.

Many students struggle with time management at times, but some students have less time to begin with. Some of my colleagues assume that college means living on campus and balancing partying, partying, and schoolwork. However, this is a rather privileged position for a student.

Here are just a few examples of things that can reduce the amount of time students may have to manage:

  1. The need to work full-time or part-time;
  2. Family responsibilities, including looking after siblings, parents or own children;
  3. commuting to and from work, sometimes long distances, attending classes;
  4. Athletic training, which can take up to 4 hours per day or 20 hours per week for college athletes;
  5. Emergencies related to health, housing or general welfare.

A combination of any of these responsibilities can severely limit the time a person can devote to school. So the simple time management tools and tricks I follow and regularly suggest to students, such as making to-do lists on calendars and starting assignments early, may be less useful for those who don’t have as much time as others. student. Tasks will take a lot of time for people, especially those with special learning needs, distractions, stress or other mental health issues, so time management can be a privilege that not everyone can control.

Much attention is paid to the use of time in social science research; The Bureau of Labor Statistics has conducted the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) since 2000, which measures how much time Americans spend on various activities such as work, childcare, and leisure. Time use surveys such as the ATUS can provide us with valuable information about long-term trends and demographic differences in time use. For example, we know that in 2020 mothers in particular faced a time crunch due to routines at home and that teenagers spend more time studying in the summer than they did ten years ago.

While we can have some control over how we spend our time, there are some things we clearly have no control over. Having resources can mean paying others to take some tasks off our hands: household chores such as cleaning, childcare and repairs are things some may regularly pay others to do. Those who can afford to dine in or order takeout can avoid cooking and cleaning. Conversely, those who have the time can do these tasks and spend their money elsewhere.

On a micro level, we have individual choices and strategies we can use to manage our time, so that doesn’t mean we can’t personally control our days. However, these choices may be much more limited for others than for us, and vice versa.

And then there is really big picture: the illusion that we really have control over time, especially when our health and other events are often beyond our control. The time is there no money; While people with resources may have more opportunities to spend time, in the grand scheme of things, even the richest person can’t buy more time.

How difficult is time management for you? How does your social status help (or challenge) your time management?

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