Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? was the haunting battle cry of the last great depression. These days, many of us are begging for something even more elusive: time. Please, mister, just give me an extra hour to squeeze in a run or a massage, a free weekend to go camping rather than paying bills and scrubbing the bathroom tiles.
Increasing research proves we are struggling in this time warp and are decidedly more stressed over time losses than wage losses or the exorbitant price of things. If it is a given that we value minutes over moolah, than what can we do to conquer the clock?
For one thing, it is clear many workers don’t bother taking the vacation days they have earned at work, according to a somewhat self-serving Westin Hotel survey. It found that while nearly 70 percent of those questioned feel revived after a break, a whopping 75 percent of us are too busy keeping up the pace to actually de-stress on a vacation. It was clear that a bulk of those who keep working rather than beaching or camping are fearful about job security (ah yes, the American way!) and at least 30 percent of those who do manage to take off check in with work every day.
One reason for working through earned time is that we have the least paid vacation days of any nation, which makes taking off even harder in a recession. Americans are afforded just 13 paid days on the average, compared with 42 days in Italy, 37 in France and 35 in Germany. Even if you take those paid golf days (as our president did), they usually don’t amount to many hours goofing off and having fun or just feeling your life. We all know how necessary this is for recuperating from the stress and strain of working and managing our lives.
Professional women often face a double whammy of keeping things up both at work and at home, believing they have no time to escape from either job. Studies continually show these demands are not imagined but rather expected of them. Working women who work from home become exhausted from the multi-tasking while commuters who don’t opt for public transit are often running on empty.
Shelling out $15 an hour for a house cleaner or babysitter could eat up too much of the income needed for the mortgage, medical insurance (it keeps going up, Mr. President), school-related expenses and other money-sucking priorities. Meanwhile, these women are prone to play housemaid on Saturdays, catching up on laundry and paperwork that falls behind during the busy workweek.
As the most overworked country in the world, it is hard to strike a balance. Even during a recession when have been tossed to the unemployment lines, we are forced to spend free time still caring for children or searching for work. The ego often prevents professional men from lazing on hammocks. Some even continue to dress the part as they search for new work online a home or coffee shops. Despite the fact that taking a breather is often the most beneficial way to gain new momentum, it can be humiliating to appear as if you have nothing to do.
While many Americans say a good income can improve their lives, few find it can buy happiness. People keep busy 24/7 – so busy they often forget to laugh and have fun, or waiting for that free moment when chores are done to reward themselves. Many of us also stress about using time to catch up on our connections, email or Facebook, and the time we needed to restore ourselves gets eaten quickly, according to Zenhabits, which compiled useful list of 20 ways to reclaim your time. One is to make a short list of four to five things you love to do and to actually make room for them. Another is to learn to say “NO”.
An important thing to remember is not to be so stressed over your time management that you lose sleep over it, since sleep is also vital for the body to rest and for the brain to repair cellular damage and absorb nutrients. If you get a free moment, you are better off with a nap than a coffee break. Sleep deprivation resulting from stress, or relaxing in front of the tube rather than socializing or enjoying music, just aggravates the sense of loss, experts say. And then you go around not only being time strapped, but as a cranky time strapped zombie.
Perhaps the goal is not to save up on time, like we try but fail to save up on money, but to spend it the right way. The bathroom tiles can wait. Your health and happiness cannot.