How Americans Spend Their Day


The Times recently posted an interactive graph illustrating how different groups of people spend their day.  It’s fascinating to toggle through the various sorts to see how different segments of the population spend their time at various hours.  For instance, those with only a High School education seem to have work schedules that last throughout the night, whereas at 3am, nobody with an advanced degree is at work.

The activity I was most interested in viewing across segments was the baby blue section toward the bottom: Relaxing and Thinking.  Theoretically, this pocket of time is where the most innovative ideas could be spawned.  However, on average, only 1% of those employed engage in this activity throughout the day, versus 4% of those who are not in the labor force.

Obviously, there are numerous implications for these data.  Identifying opportunities in the market based on various daily behaviors.  If you’re targeting a specific segment of the population, it’s helpful to know how they spend their time and what, on average, they’re doing at a particular time during the day.  In a simplistic example, the combination of certain activities — for instance, household cleaning and TV &  Movies — could offer insights into when commercials for a Swiffer Duster should air.


4 Responses to How Americans Spend Their Day

  1. Qin Han says:

    well, interesting comments on the relaxing and thinking section, guess why they are relaxing and thinking? cause they are not in the labor force – they are not working… working just kills it, does it? it is a sad thing that we seem to stopped thinking while working, we have to take time out of working to think – who should we blame really?

  2. Gordon Henderson says:

    I recently read through 7 habits of highly successful people and I would agree with the sentiments of the author. Most creative activity is generated through right brain engagement and the activities could be characterized as important but not urgent, therefore most people do not dedicate the time necessary to think, create and innovate because of the seeming lack of urgency. After reading through 7 habits, I try and dedicate time specifically to right brain exercises in an effort to breed an environment ripe for creativity. (No, I do not work for Stephen Covey.)

  3. Andrew Der says:

    It does seem like a vicious cycle where people, particularly Americans, are expected to be extremely productive and thus work long hours, yet are also expect to innovate in order to leap ahead of the curve. The less time they have to think and let their mind wander, the less effective they are at being innovative, which leads them to work even more to catch up.

    To your point, Gordon, I think the key is knowing when to stop, step back and take some time to think. People tend to get too caught up in putting out fires rather than devising ways of preventing them in the first place.

  4. […] personas or seeking an understanding of your customers’ lifestyles. It’s helpful, as Futurethink says, to consider “they spend their time and what, on average, they’re doing at a particular […]

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