Spending Time

Daniel S. Hamermesh’s new book on how what we do with our time.

Spending Time: The Most Valuable Resource”

by Daniel S. Hamermesh

Oxford University Press (2019)

220 pages

Seven dollars, twenty-five cents.That’s what the federal government says is the least an employer must pay you per hour now, more or less, depending on your city and your job. So what will you do in the 60 minutes that seven bucks buys? Read “Spending Time” by Daniel S. Hamermesh, and you’ll wonder what an hour is really worth.

Given that you’re already behind this week — isn’t everybody? —why would you take time to read a book about time?

Says Daniel Hamermesh, it’s because we need to start looking at time differently. Our incomes, for instance, have risen in the last three generations, but the amount of time we have each week? No change there.

And that, he says, forces us to make big decisions: do we choose to buy something with the money we’ve made, which is often a choice not to buy something else; or do we prefer an experience — which also costs, but in a different way. If you choose to purchase, will you have time to fully enjoy the item? If you buy it on credit, what’s the cost of your time to fill out the application or wait on the phone with customer service?

Ack. Maybe it’s time to go lie down.

The biggest time-spender in America is sleep, says Hamermesh. Second is work, which he breaks down in four categories: “work for pay” (in which you are paid), “home production” (you could pay someone else to do the work), personal care (in which you must do the work) and leisure (you want to do the work). In the last category, says Hamermesh, TV-watching is our biggest time-spender and “While most vegetables are not gendered, the American couch potato is male.”

Indeed, time diaries show that gender, sexual identity, age, and income affect how we operate within those categories. Daylight Savings Time is another contributor, as is race and the country in which we live (other nations give their workers far more vacation time). And if we suddenly found ourselves not having to work at all?

Hamermesh says we would be the better for it.

So, here’s a book you should absolutely make an effort to read: “Spending Time” will make you look twice about your daily habits.

And yet, this is not a time-management book, although author Daniel S. Hamermesh does brush up against the subject in many paragraphs. It’s more of a primer for seeing time from different angles, acknowledging that you may seem to be wasting time when you’re not, and learning how to be vastly more mindful of time-usage through understanding and cognizance of the pressures clamoring for some of that resource.

Reading this book is like giving yourself permission to goof off, knowing why doing so is beneficial, and knowing that it’ll make you feel oh-so-much better when you finally do buckle down. For sure, “Spending Time” will make you more protective of that which you can never take back.

Don’t buy this book, in other words, and it may cost you a lot.

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