Many people struggle with time management and would like to accomplish more tasks in a day, or have more time for non-work activities. There are a number of suggestions for improving time management at work and at home, and different approaches work for different people.
Many of us attempt to accomplish tasks that can be easily delegated to someone else. By delegating a task, you can have more time to accomplish other important tasks in order of priority. When can a task be delegated and when should you do it yourself?
Only delegate if there is a person who is skilled enough to do the task at hand. You can delegate to employees you supervise, your colleagues, and even those above you. When you delegate a task to your subordinate—downward delegation—you have the authority to make sure that the task is done correctly, but assigning a task to an employee who lacks the skill to do it will often require more time than if you did the task yourself. Delegating to a peer, or a colleague, works well if you and the other person have complementary skills. You can trade responsibilities if you have skills that balance each other out and create synergy. Although most employees do not consider it, you can also delegate to employees above you in the organizational hierarchy—upward delegation. If you have been assigned a task that should not be yours or a task that is beyond your abilities, you can ask a superior for guidance or clarification. Your feedback may indicate to your supervisor that the task is better done by him or herself. Conversely, it can also indicate an interest in a challenging task and show a higher level of commitment to the company.
Another consideration when delegating is the type of task. There are three types of tasks that are best suited to being assigned to someone else: (1) tasks for which you do not have adequate skill or expertise, (2) tasks that you do not want to do but that others might, and (3) tasks that are easy to accomplish but detract from your value to the organization.
First, if someone else can do something more effectively than you can, doing it yourself is poor time management. For instance, if you are planning a retirement party for a colleague, you could purchase, prepare, and arrange the refreshments yourself. However, if you are not good at preparing food or creating a buffet, it would be wise to hire a caterer for this task. In addition to saving the time it takes to purchase and prepare food and drinks, by hiring a reputable caterer, you would spend considerably less energy managing the task and thinking about it.
Delegating is also wise when someone else may enjoy the task. Again, consider the example of organizing a retirement party. Perhaps you do not enjoy party planning, but your colleague does. Delegate this task to your colleague, perhaps taking on one of his tasks in return, creating a situation in which both of you feel satisfied with the work you are assigned.
Delegation also works well if there is a task that takes little skill to accomplish. For instance, if you are sending a mass mailing, stuffing the envelopes yourself is poor time management. By delegating to an assistant or intern, you are freed to complete other tasks that require more skill and attention. Since the person to whom you have delegated this task is likely to complete it just as effectively as you would have, then there is no drawback.
When should you not delegate? First, you should accomplish your major job tasks. For instance, it may be appropriate for your secretary to stuff envelopes with a letter soliciting business from former clients, but it is not appropriate for this secretary to write the entirety of this letter without your help or final approval. If you consistently have others complete your tasks, then you may find yourself replaced by another employee. Second, you should not delegate tasks in which the outcome is critical. If you have tasks that, if not completed, can lose the company a client or money, you must be responsible for this task. If you are accountable for an important outcome, you should use caution when delegating. Finally,
there are some tasks for which delegation is too expensive. While hiring a caterer for a party does not represent a large cost, there are other times in which hiring others to complete tasks (e.g., offer training or develop a Web site) can be cost prohibitive to some organizations.
Procrastination is common to many people, even in business environments. Procrastination occurs for many reasons: not knowing where to start, not understanding a task, disliking a task, or worrying you cannot complete a task successfully. Often a person's anxiety about a task leads them to avoid it. Therefore, to accomplish more in a workday, it is best to tackle the most difficult or worrisome task first. This is beneficial because it allows you to devote the time and mental energy necessary for a difficult or unpleasant task when you are most able to. Furthermore, by reducing the anxiety associated with this task in tackling it early, you will find that work becomes easier. When the unpleasant task is finished, it no longer creates anxiety and worry, which can save time.
If a person leaves unpleasant or difficult tasks until shortly before their deadlines or until the end of the workday, he or she will have less energy to complete this task. Additionally, the anxiety and dread associated with the completion of the task that has been procrastinated may affect a person's ability to complete other tasks throughout the day. The negative emotions and anticipation associated with an unpleasant task are likely to distract from other tasks on the agenda. This can make even easy tasks more time consuming.
Goals can be very effective ways to meet workplace demands in a timely manner. Goals are measurable, short-term objectives. Simply by setting an appropriate goal, you can better organize your day or week. Decades of research have supported the effectiveness of goal setting on performance in a variety of tasks. However, for a goal to be effective, it must be designed properly by being specific and challenging. Specific goals are much more effective than non-specific goals, because your progress can be assessed. For instance, setting a goal of reading twenty pages of a report is a good goal because you can determine whether or not it was accomplished. If your goal was to “read a lot of the report” then you might determine five pages into it, that you had accomplished that goal, when in reality, you had not read enough. Goals should also be challenging. A goal that is too easy, such as “respond to one e-mail today” are not motivating because they present no challenge at all. Overly difficult goals (e.g., “improve my sales by 50 percent in one month”) are also not motivational; they are so unrealistic that a person may give up too soon, realizing they will never reach the goal. In addition to being appropriately specific and challenging, you are more likely to reach goals to which you are committed. A lack of interest or commitment in reaching the goal makes the goal-setting process futile.
One of the advantages of setting goals to improve time management is that, over time, you gain a more realistic understanding of what can be accomplished in a set amount of time, such as a workday. People who do not often set goals may not be aware of what their capabilities are; however, those who have set goals more consistently have a good idea of which goals they have been able to meet and which were set too high or too low.
MEET DEADLINES EARLY
Some people thrive when working under deadlines. Newspaper reporters operate each day with a set of firm deadlines. However, many other people find deadlines to be daunting and stressful. Deadlines are set to help us manage time. By always meeting deadlines, or even by meeting them early, you can appropriately manage time. If you complete deadline work early, you reduce the stress associated with your schedule, and you have more self-confidence about completing work tasks. Additionally, a person's work is likely to be higher quality if deadlines are met early on; attention to detail can suffer when a person is hurrying to finish a project. To meet your deadlines early, you can break larger tasks into smaller ones and prioritize them. In addition, setting interim deadlines before a final deadline can help you to set goals and to make a large and seemingly unmanageable project seem easier to complete. Finally, tackling more difficult tasks first, as described previously, may increase your ability to meet deadlines.
Organization and time management go hand in hand. Many people waste time looking for documents, messages, or other information necessary to complete tasks in a timely manner. There are a number of steps that can help you stay organized. First, arrange your workspace in a way that promotes organization. That is, live by the old adage: have a place for everything, and put everything in its place. If you do not have a specific location for telephone messages, it is not surprising that you might spend time looking for a telephone message or even misplace one. Additionally, put the items that are most used closest to you. If you use a reference book (such as a dictionary or a computer programming reference book) frequently, putting that book across the room wastes time. Minimize the time you spend getting up from your desk to retrieve or look for items.
Spend a little time each day organizing your workspace. Discard documents and items that are no longer needed, file items that will be needed at a later time, and write to do lists for tasks that must be accomplished within specific timeframes. Some time management experts suggest that you only touch each piece of paper in your office once. That is, if you receive a memo, you should read it when you receive it and take action based on it only once, rather than reading the memo, putting it down, and having to reread it several times before acting on it.
A third suggestion it to use a calendar or day planner to stay organized; this will help you to remember important dates and deadlines. Without a calendar in which such dates are noted, some tasks or meetings will undoubtedly be forgotten; instead of planning the time you need to do certain tasks, you may have to drop everything to accomplish a task that must be done for a meeting that you forgot was later that day. For a calendar to be effective for time management, however, you must consistently note important dates. An incomplete or inaccurate calendar is useless. If part of your daily organization includes documenting important dates and times and reviewing events on a calendar scheduled for the following days, time management will be achieved more easily.
Multitasking makes it possible to achieve a great deal in much less time than handling one task at a time. When you bring tasks together that can be achieved simultaneously, you enhance your productivity and minimize the time it takes to get through your to-do list. Multitasking is not for every person, nor is it for every task. In order for multitasking to be effective, knowing how to prioritize and which tasks can be done with partial concentration is imperative. For example, collating papers while on a phone call is acceptable and effective multitasking, while writing a speech and taking a conference call simultaneously is not. Multitasking that involves getting multiple things done based on location seems to be the most effective for most people. For example, if you have three things to do away from your desk, getting them all done in one trip away from your desk may be the best time management strategy. Likewise, saving things that can be done from home for one evening a week can be more productive than taking home one item every single day.
Some people multitask very effectively by pairing tasks that must be done for work with leisure activity: walking on the treadmill while browsing e-mails on a BlackBerry, or listening to office voicemails on a Blue-tooth headset while commuting home. As with all techniques, knowing your limits, prioritizing and staying aware of deadlines will make multitasking an effective tool in your arsenal of time management.
FIND YOUR PRODUCTIVE TIME
Each person has a time of the day when they are better able to concentrate or to do certain types of work. And, most people have a time of the day at which they have difficulty staying focused and getting things done. Some people are very productive in the mornings, but less able to concentrate in the afternoons. Others cannot tackle difficult tasks in the morning and prefer to wait until later in the day to do work that requires attention to detail. By determining when you are best able to do certain types of tasks, you can schedule them throughout your day so that you are most productive. For instance, if you are able to read and evaluate best in the morning, schedule those tasks for when you first arrive at work. If you find yourself getting sleepy in the afternoons, then reading quietly is not the best task for this time of day. Instead, you may choose to do tasks that involve a little bit of physical activity or that do not require as much mental concentration. Perhaps returning telephone calls or meeting with co-workers is better for afternoons.
By scheduling tasks during the times of day when you are best able to do them, you can complete your work in a more timely manner. Many people waste time trying to concentrate or solve difficult problems at times that are ineffective for them. Re-reading a memo three times because you lack concentration in the late afternoon is a poor choice when you could read the memo once in the morning.
Stress is a major barrier to effective time management. Stress created by the workplace or by personal concerns can create anxiety and worry that are distracting from work. Even ineffective time management can lead to stress, since anxiety over completing tasks in a timely manner can hinder their accomplishment. To manage stress, it is important to first recognize what is creating the stress. Is it a worry over a particular task, a work situation, or an issue at home? Once the stressor is recognized, it can be better managed. If the source of stress is unidentified, then it cannot be managed.
Once the source of stress is identified, you must determine which parts of the situation can be controlled and which cannot. For instance, if the source of stress is a looming deadline for a project, tackling or delegating elements of that project or scheduling some of the tasks may relieve stress. However, there may be parts of the project that are causing stress that cannot be managed. For instance, if part of the successful completion of the project depends on the work of another person, this may create stress that cannot be controlled unless you have
Exhibit 1 Tips for Improving Sleep
- Create an environment in a bedroom that reduces distractions; don't do work or watch TV in the bedroom
- Make your bedroom as dark and as quiet as possible
- Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day
- Avoid caffeine late in the day
- Relax before bedtime by taking a warm bath or listening to soothing music
- Reduce worry at bedtime by writing a list of things to do the next day before going to bed
- If you are in bed but cannot sleep, get up and do something boring until you are sleepy
some ability to monitor the work of the other person. For stressors that are out of your control, knowing how to cope and how to communicate with officemates will make all the difference.
Even when stressors have been identified and controlled to some extent, you may still experience stress. Getting an appropriate amount of sleep, exercising regularly, and eating well all contribute to minimizing the effects of stress. Many Americans are sleep deprived—skipping even an hour of sleep each night can have noticeable consequences at work. Sleeping less to allow for more time at work is not an effective approach. Getting enough sleep makes a person more productive during their working hours, requiring less time on the job. There are many suggestions for improving sleep, as detailed in Exhibit 1.
Physical exercise can also reduce stress. Sports and aerobic exercise can reduce a person's resting heart rate and blood pressure, which can help to alleviate the negative effects of stress. Many people forgo physical activity, believing that time invested in exercise will waste time needed to complete other tasks. However, much like getting enough quality sleep, even minimal physical activity can make a person more effective during working hours due to decreased stress and anxiety.
LEARN TO SAY NO
Many people who struggle with time management have too many obligations. People agree to take things on, knowing that their time is limited, but feeling that they cannot say no. People agree to take on tasks that they have little time for because they want to help others, they feel guilty for saying no, feel obligated by a superior, or misjudge the time they have available. Saying yes to people who make requests can feel good, but not having time to accomplish tasks can be a letdown to the person and the organization. So, often times, saying no to a request is a better option than taking on a task for which there is not adequate time. Knowing when to say no is as important a time management tool as any other.
When do you say yes and when do you say no? First, you must consider what the actual commitment is; that is, how much time, effort, and energy it will take. If you do not fully explore the possible commitments required by a certain request, you may be agreeing to do something that takes much longer than you originally anticipated. Second, you must decide if agreeing to the request is a good use of your time. When comparing the proposed commitment to already scheduled tasks, which is more important? Those tasks that have very meaningful outcomes may be worth agreeing to do even when time is limited.
Even when a person knows that they do not have the time available to say yes to a new commitment, saying no can be difficult. To decline a request more effectively, you should do four things. First, explain why you are saying no. Not providing a good reason to decline the request can cause others to draw incorrect conclusions. Second, be tactful when you turn someone down because the denial may make him or her angry or hurt. Third, suggest an alternative that takes less time. By offering another option, such as a different employee who might do the task or another time when you can help, you show that you want to cooperate, while still protecting your time. Finally, tell the person “no” as soon as possible. By asking for time to think over a decision when you know that you will ultimately say no, you may cause more problems or even find yourself obligated to say yes.
REDUCE THE INTRUSION OF TECHNOLOGY
The availability of e-mail, texting, instant messaging, and wireless devices has greatly improved the ability to get work done and multitask. However, if you find that e-mails or a ringing phone is interrupting your work, you may want to ignore them, scheduling time to take calls and respond to e-mail. Setting up a system for emergency calls and messages is always a good idea if you choose to have a “no communication” time each day.
ORGANIZATIONAL APPROACHES TO IMPROVING TIME MANAGEMENT
Because time management can have an effect on employees' productivity in the workplace, some employers are now offering information and assistance for employees who want to better manage their time. Some organizations now offer time management workshops that teach skills such as those listed above. Additionally, seminars may be developed around particular models of time management, such as those presented in Steven Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Another approach employers can use to assist employees in time management skills is through wellness programs. Wellness programs are opportunities offered or subsidized by the organization to promote physical and emotional health and well-being, thereby reducing stress. They are intended to prevent and reduce health risks and/ or emotional stress. One of the outcomes that may be associated with a wellness plan is the ability to better manage time—if people are physically well, many of the stress-related barriers to time management are reduced. Wellness plans may involve free or reduced-cost health club memberships, on-site health clubs, relaxation courses, stress-reduction courses, smoking-cessation courses, and even time-management courses. Some organizations even take the step of reducing health insurance premiums for employees who participate in a wellness plan.
Finally, many organizations now offer benefits and services intended to help employees manage non-work activities. Flexible work hours, on-site day care, leave banks, and even valet services are now being offered in some organizations. These types of services, while often improving employee recruitment and retention, may also help to reduce distractions at work, reduce employee stress, and assist employees in being more productive during working hours.
Time management is a challenge for many people, and there are a number of tips that can help employees to make better use of their time. By learning how to delegate, prioritize, set goals, meet deadlines, stay organized, and reduce intrusions, employees can improve their time management. Taking advantage of time management workshops and programs when available will also increase productivity.
SEE ALSO Goals and Goal Setting; Organizing; Stress; Technology Management
Covey, Steven R. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1989.
Mancini, Marc. Time Management. New York: McGraw-HillProfessional, 2003.
Mancini, Marc. Time Management: 24 Techniques to Make Each Minute Count at Work. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2007.
Reistad-Long, Sara. “How to Multitask Without Losing Your Mind.”O, The Oprah Magazine, August, 2007. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/how-multitask-without-losing-your-mind-task-without-losing-your-mind.
Tracy, Brian. Time Power: A Proven System for Getting More Done in Less Time Than You Ever Thought Possible. New York: AMACON Books, 2004.
"Time Management." Encyclopedia of Management. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3273100303.html
"Time Management." Encyclopedia of Management. 2009. Retrieved May 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3273100303.html
Time is probably the most valuable asset available to people and organizations. Understanding how to manage one's time can contribute mightily to the success of personal and professional lives. However, as with any other asset, it may be wasted if it's not valued.
Unfortunately, it is human nature to waste time. It is true that some people naturally have good time-management skills, having developed good techniques for managing themselves and their time. However, others have developed poor habits related to time. Needless to say, most people do not like to proclaim or admit these kinds of weaknesses.
Wasted time cannot be replaced. With increasing demands both in the workplace and at home, a great need exists for time to become more respected, valued, and balanced.
DEFINITION OF TIME MANAGEMENT
Time management may be defined as the discovery and application of the most efficient method(s) of completing assignments of any length in the optimum time and with the highest quality.
This definition of time management has widespread applications:
- It applies to the entire spectrum of activities ranging from (1) simple "do-it-this-morning tasks" assigned by individuals to themselves or to others (e.g., prepare several short letters) to (2) large projects developed for a large organization by many people with completion contemplated to take a long period of time (e.g., write a book or open a new branch office).
- It denotes the best time, which is usually but not always the shortest time.
- It pertains either to (1) continuing and repetitious activities (e.g., daily logging-in of shipments received) or to (2) occasional activities (e.g., selection of new CEO).
- It includes production of anything, such as manufacture of a tangible product, provision of a service, preparation of a written document, development of a procedure, or arrival at a decision.
- It may include a progress-point assignment (e.g., development of plans for the preliminary testing of a new product) or an end-goal assignment (e.g., a final marketing plan for a new product).
- Development of plans for time management must necessarily presume the existence and application of such desirable personal and work qualities as motivation, discipline, consideration for others, and the desire to succeed.
BENEFITS OF GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT
Many valuable rewards potentially await those willing to develop good time-management practices. In individual careers, increased job performance and promotions may result. In personal lives, individuals may achieve successful marriages, more family time, less debt, and less stress. In addition, all types of organizations—business, civic, school, political, and religious—may receive productive, competitive, and financial benefits from observance of good time-management practices.
ACHIEVEMENT OF GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT
Business firms and other organizations often find it profitable to take tangible steps to learn the best possible time-management strategies. Some or all of the following approaches may be considered:
- Call in an outside person or organization that specializes in time-management consulting and have a detailed evaluative study conducted of the practices being followed.
- Develop task forces within the firm or organization to undertake time-management studies with the goals of finding, analyzing, and "curing" areas experiencing wasteful time procedures.
- Have individuals within the firm or organization engage in educational and research activities related to time management, such as enrolling in college courses, checking the Internet, participating in correspondence courses, and/or attending seminars.
- Check into the possibility of visiting and studying other firms noted for their efficient time-management practices.
ACHIEVING AND APPLYING GOOD TIME-MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES
In most organizational and personal activities, three areas of endeavor play prominent roles in achieving and applying good time-management principles: (1) development of suitable personal qualities, (2) development of short- and long-range goals, and (3) effective use of computers.
Development of Suitable Personal Qualities
Good time management requires the utmost in organizational ability. Answers to questions such as the following must be found: Does the worker have all the necessary tools located conveniently? Can necessary tools be found without wasting time? Is provision made for replacement of items that routinely get used up? Are necessary lists placed in a handy location? Are lighting, temperature, and noise at proper levels? If reference materials are needed to perform the job, are they placed in accessible locations? Where direct contact with other persons is necessary to obtain information, can these persons be quickly contacted? Have procedures been worked out to reduce clutter and confusion? Is complete clean-up of workstations required daily or at other appropriate time intervals? Have job duties been arranged in order of priority?
Planning is necessary to achieve success in time management. Companies find that production moves more efficiently when procedures have been carefully worked out in detail.
Self-discipline and motivation play key roles in this process. Once a commitment is made to improve, an urge to proceed efficiently tends to follow, and it is necessary to apply this urge to the tasks at hand. Motivation grows as workers begin seeing the results of improved production.
Special efforts need to be paid to procrastination, one of the deadliest enemies of good time management. People who suffer from procrastination wait until the last possible moment to do almost anything. Some find it almost impossible to take the first step in any project. It can seriously affect work quality and heighten personal stress. It may create uninvited feelings of panic and chaos.
Perhaps the best cure for procrastination is imposition of strict time limits either upon one's self or upon others in the chain of command.
Development of good time-management practices may require inauguration of a program of self-evaluation. Personal habits may need to be studied carefully to see if any are faulty and need to be improved.
Development of Short- and Long-Range Goals
Establishing short- and long-range goals is essential to successful time management in both one's personal life and one's work life.
When establishing goals, it is necessary to determine and specify standards that must be achieved within stated dates and/or times. This involves identifying a series of specific steps designed to bring one closer and closer to a stated goal. A good plan must include amounts of time per day or hour (or other time measurement) that will be devoted to work geared to achievement of the goal. It should include estimated time costs that might result from barriers or obstacles encountered along the way.
Prioritizing, or ranking goals in order of importance, is necessary in situations where the most important of the possible goals may not be easily determined. For example, in designing a new refrigerator, there is often a clash between the engineers, who wish it designed to operate at the highest efficiency level, and the marketing people, who wish it to be given a price tag that will maximize its salability. Which is given the highest priority—quality or pricing? A time-management plan may very well be involved in determining the answer.
Effective Use of Computers
Computers can provide essential assistance in helping people to manage their time wisely by tracking details, coordinating schedules, facilitating communication, and securing and organizing data.
Computers greatly assist those who work with others at a considerable geographic distance. Written messages can be transmitted instantly through e-mail. Data can be researched comparatively quickly through the Internet.
In and of themselves, however, computers do not provide an automatic solution for time-management problems. They are most helpful to people who are already both knowledgeable and organized and therefore best able to apply the benefits of computers to time management.
In addition to computers, other technology exists that can contribute to the quality of time-management plans:
- Faxing is the instantaneous transmission of communications from one fax (facsimile) machine to another anywhere in the world.
- Priority mail and overnight-delivery service are offered by the U.S. Postal Service.
- Telephones, which once provided only voice-transmission service, now offer voice-mail recording, beepers, cellular service, and other services.
TIME MANAGEMENT AND LARGE PROJECTS
Complications inevitably arise with a large project that involves management and coordination of several organizations and people who are all contributing to its completion. A classic example is a construction project involving a building, dam, bridge, or road.
Suppose, for example, a building is being constructed for XYZ business firm. Often, in cases like this, the role of time is very critical. It may be that XYZ firm has found it necessary to get heavily involved in activities such as selling or leasing its existing location, making the myriad of moving arrangements for its employees and their equipment, and working out contacts with its customers.
XYZ firm very much desires the building under construction to be completed at the agreed-upon time. If not, XYZ firm could encounter large expenses in having to put up with temporary locations and increase the time spent in making large numbers of alternative arrangements. In fact, time in such situations is so critical that contracts often require builders to forfeit fees if the construction is not completed on schedule.
In cases such as this (and in many other applications), extensive use may be made of the Program Evaluation and Review Technique, usually called PERT. Developed in the 1950s, PERT groups various activities graphically. Activities in the construction of a large building, for example, might include excavations, various foundation workings, windows, air conditioning, heating, painting, and so on. Each activity requires not only estimates of time but also the costs of labor, material, and money. Some of the activities are sequential—the first activity must be completed before the second can begin. Other activities are concurrent—more than one activity can be worked on at a time. Many valuable rewards await people and organizations that are willing to develop good time management practices.
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Foley, Carrie. "Time Management." Encyclopedia of Business and Finance, 2nd ed.. 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-1552100309.html
The international comparative time-use surveys organized by Alexander Szalai (1966, 1972) are usually seen as the first modern time-use measurements. These surveys were followed by an increasing number of time-use surveys in many countries. Initially, these data were used descriptively for the valuation of household work and for information about leisure activities, commuting, and travel behavior.
Table 1 gives the average shares of a day allocated to various activities for both males and females aged twenty to seventy-four over two years for three European countries and the United States. Depending on the country and year, market work occupies on average about 15 percent of all available time, as does household work. Tertiary time, about 45 percent, is mostly sleep and personal activities, while the remaining 25 percent is devoted to leisure.
Economic analysis of the rationale for time allocation was inspired by the pathbreaking work of a group of economists at the University of Chicago. They were led by Gary Becker (1965), who saw the household as a unit that produced utility giving commodities from market goods and time input from household members. For surveys of the first decades of time-use analysis, see F. Thomas Juster and Frank Stafford (1991) and N. Anders Klevmarken (1999).
Becker’s revised theory of choice assumes that a household derives utility from commodities, say Zi i = 1, …, m, such as meals, a clean house, sleep, and going to a movie, which are produced by the household according to the household production functions,
The functions specify how much input of market time, Ti and goods, xi, is needed to produce Zi (The proportionality factors ti and bi are not necessarily constant.) The household is assumed to maximize utility subject to its budget and time constraints. These two constraints are not independent because time for consumption can be converted into money income by allocating more time to market work. The two constraints can be combined into one,
Total expenditures on market goods and household production time valued at the wage rate ω add up to the sum of nonlabor income V and total time T valued at the wage rate. The latter sum has been called full income . Substituting (1a, b) into the constraint (2), it becomes,
|Germany||Italy||The Netherlands||United States|
|Individuals in survey||6, 928||7, 239||25, 490||37, 882||1, 531||1, 586||3, 567||17, 668|
|Days surveyed||2||2 or 3||1||1||7||7||1||1|
|SOURCE: Adapted from Table 1.1. In Burda et al. (2006, p. 17); the source table contains means in minutes and corresponding standard errors.|
The expression in parenthesis is the full price of the i th commodity, and it is the sum of the prices of the goods and the time used per unit of the commodity i . The price of time input is the earnings forgone by using time to produce a unit commodity rather than to work in the market. If all ti are zero, the model reduces to a conventional model of consumer choice. Becker’s model thus generalizes the conventional model by including the cost of time input to produce the utility-yielding commodities.
If the wage rate, the time cost, and the cost of market goods are fixed, it follows from the maximization of the utility function under the constraint (3) that marginal utility is proportional to the full price at maximum. We can now derive a number of predictions from this model: An increase in the wage rate will increase earnings forgone, and the full price of time-intensive commodities will increase more than that of good-intensive commodities. It follows from basic choice theory that the consumer will substitute away from time-intensive commodities and toward good-intensive commodities if the increase in the price of time is income compensated. At the same time, consumption time is freed for market work, which will increase. The effect of an uncompensated increase in the wage rate will depend on the relative size of the substitution and income effects.
If productivity of consumption time increases—that is, if ti decreases—the relative price of time-intensive commodities will decrease, and consumers will substitute toward these commodities. For instance, when time-saving techniques are introduced into household work, we do more washing, cooking, and so on than we otherwise would have done. Whether or not we use less time in these activities will, as usual, depend on the relative size of the substitution and income effects, but if these commodities also become more good intensive, more market work is needed to generate the income required to buy the goods that go into these commodities.
Becker’s model is a good conceptual model for theorizing about time allocation, but it has weaknesses as a model for empirical work: One and only one good contributes to each commodity; the wage rate and the time and good productivities are not necessarily fixed and independent of the consumer’s choice; and the definition of a commodity is far from obvious. The model has been generalized to cope with these problems, but a more difficult problem is that the amount produced of each commodity is difficult if not impossible to observe. Without observations on the output from household production, it is in general not possible to identify preference parameters separately from the household production functions. All we can do is estimate mongrel time-use functions that depend both on preferences and household production technology.
In Becker’s model, the household is treated as a single decision-making unit, and there is no place for the separate decisions of the household members. Although Becker obtains some results from his model concerning the division of labor within a household—for instance, those who are more efficient at market activities use relatively less time at consumption activities—this issue is better analyzed within a bargaining model (see, for instance, the survey by Behrman ).
Time allocation is not only an issue of how many hours of the twenty-four-hour day or of the 8, 760 hours of a year are spent on various activities; it is also an issue of when in a day or in a year various activities are done. One could also extend the domain of time allocation research by asking how much time is spent with whom? These issues have only recently attracted the interest of social scientists, but it is clear that when we do things and with whom is a matter of choice. These choices are sometimes constrained by laws, such as those regulating the opening hours of shops; by nature—for instance, we typically sleep during the night; or by social and religious conventions, such as those associated with Christmas and Easter. For recent contributions in this domain, see Daniel Hamermesh and Gerard Pfann (2005).
SEE ALSO Becker, Gary; Labor Force Participation; Leisure; Utility Function
Becker, Gary S. 1965. A Theory of the Allocation of Time. Economic Journal 75 (299): 493–517.
Behrman, Jere R. 1997. Intrahousehold Distribution and the Family. In Handbook of Population and Family Economics, ed. Mark R. Rosenzweig and Oded Stark, 126–187. Amsterdam, NY: Elsevier.
Burda, Michael C., Daniel S. Hamermesh, and Philippe Weil. 2006. The Distribution of Total Work in the EU and the US. Unpublished manuscript. http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Hamermesh/BHW4.0.pdf.
Hamermesh, Daniel S., and Gerard A. Pfann, eds. 2005. The Economics of Time Use . Amsterdam, NY: Elsevier.
Juster, F. Thomas, and Frank P. Stafford. 1991. The Allocation of Time: Empirical Findings, Behavioral Models, and Problems of Measurement. Journal of Economic Literature 29 (2): 471–522.
Klevmarken, N. Anders. 1999. Microeconomic Analysis of Time Use Data: Did We Reach the Promised Land? In Time Use: Research, Data, and Policy, ed. Joachim Merz and Manfred Ehling, 423–456. Baden-Baden, Germany: NOMOS Verlagsgesellschaft.
Szalai, Alexander. 1966. Trends in Comparative Time Budget Research. American Behavioral Scientist 9 (9): 3–8.
Szalai, Alexander, ed. 1972. The Use of Time: Daily Activities of Urban and Suburban Populations in Twelve Countries . The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton.
N. Anders Klevmarken
"Time Allocation." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045302750.html
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