By Marta Ziosi
The more valuable something becomes, the scarcer it seems. The utility of leisure time is an emerging topic in our society and it is of overall importance. Technological development along with a greater accessibility to a range of different goods and services in developed countries provides people with the ability to appease their everyday-desires instantaneously. Even though this on-going process may stream into a positive tendency to reach satisfaction, it concurrently breeds impatience.
Our belief in multi-tasking abilities perpetrates the wrong conviction that free-time’s existence is solely justified by our duty to fill it with not one, but several activities. The pervasive nature of this thought fostered the idea that even what we consume or enjoy in our daily life should be invested with a utility function. Even though time seems not to have given credit to the famous prediction issued by J.M Keynes in 1930, stating that two generations after his, people would work around 3 hours a day and mostly by choice, the developed world has witnessed an increasing tendency towards less hours of work per week. The average leisure time has been rising since 1965 both in America and Europe, for men as well as for women.
Consequently, a question naturally arises; why is everyone so busy? An answer might be found in our societal set-up. Indeed, Individualistic cultures inflict the wrong idea about leisure and people are lured to value success over affiliation. As economic prosperity escalates, the sensation of time-richness decreases. Already back in 1965, the economist Gary Becker dealt with the definition of ‘leisure’ as the assimilation of ‘productive’ consumption. He was utterly fascinated by the rising ability of people to effectively combine the use of time and material goods to produce leisure. Promptly, the economists’ pervasive grip covered the World of education.
Indeed, the educating process has started paradoxically been looked upon as an activity which prevents students from producing goods rather than an investment in future human capital. As a consequence, quarterly and trimester systems were unhesitatingly introduced. Inadvertently, students were burdened with a pressing urge to economize on their time and were compelled to prematurely value free-time in terms of utility. Thus, a time-is-money ethos has become thoroughly accepted as it conquered the previously unblemished world of education. Nowadays, current students feel the urge not only to invest their time in a part-time job, but especially to dedicate a significant part of it to activities which will be part of their CVs. Furthermore, even just the choice of University is depicted like an imminent quest for the highest future return in terms of job revenue instead than an enriching experience.
The problem does not lie in a lack of leisure time but, conversely, in the way we make use of it. Until going out for a peaceful walk, wondering about the future in front of a sunset or taking an afternoon nap will be considered to be procrastinating activities, people will keep on picturing their busy schedule as the norm or, even worse, as the right thing. Therefore, this week between exams, papers and tutorials take a moment for reflection and invest on a surely valuable thing: yourself.