To Live Is to Multitask

I was reading through a PowerPoint the gigantic Interep radio rep firm gave at the DMA's recent annual meeting (what can I say, it was the only thing in the dentist's waiting room without a Paris Hilton story), when I came across a slide that used a variety of sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau to estimate how Americans typically spend their day.

Activity Hours Spent
Work 8.6
Sleep 7
Household Chores 1.8


Grooming 1
Commuting 1
Remainder 3
(Remainder includes; Exercise, Time w/ Family, Meals, Time w/ Friends, Work Preparation, Shopping, etc.)



While the presentation overlaid media fragmentation on busy lives to show that radio was as good as any medium in reaching mass audiences, I kept coming back to that bar graph.

If anyone I know in the media or advertising business worked merely 8.6 hours a day, they'd soon be auditioning to be department store Santas because their unemployment benefits ran out two weeks ago. Not that we can't all take an occasional two-hour lunch with Brady at the Four Seasons or Myers at Michael's, but in contrast to NYP Blue, there ain't no "lost time" in the ad business. The days of the TimeIncers catching the 4:45 to Darien or the Conde Nasters cruising in at 10 AM have gone the way of the Friday afternoon open bar.

If you get 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep, you: 1) are childless, 2) don't have cable, 3) are undate-able, 4) don't have a spouse who snores or steals your covers, 5) are non-exempt, 6) don't care WHO wins Monday night football games, 7) send spam for a living, need to cut back on the Librium, 9) have a boss who forgot to up your goals and objectives the usual 7.5%, or 10) are on vacation.

Isn't it a sad commentary on our lives that we spend nearly as much time brushing our hair and cleaning our fingernails as we do raising our children? On the other hand, a half hour of Sponge Bob can be an eternity, and who cares if the wheels on the bus still go round and round after the 712th time?

A long time ago, before I commuted home to my kids, I had a boss who lived in Redding, CT and spent an hour and a half each way on the train. "Isn't that a waste of time?" I youthfully asked. Said he, "Are you kidding? It is the only time I have to myself all day. I can read, sleep, or just stare out the window. No employees, no kids. It is the best time of my day." Were he alive today, one wonders how he would react to the cacophony of cell phone chatter during "his time" on the train.

I am not certain how they would break out 1.8 hours of household chores, but at my house it is consumed by convincing the dog to go out or come in; arguing over whether "Where's Waldo" meets the "read-to-your-children-at-bedtime" mandate; traveling to and from hockey practice with the obligatory "why- didn't-you-bring-a-clean-shirt-to-wear-home-so-I don't-suffocate-from-your- stench lecture; and reassuring children that there are no monsters under the bed (or in the closet), (or in the bathroom), etc.

Now we are down to Remainder, which consists of three whole hours. Into this we are expected to cram meals, exercise, social intercourse, family time, shopping, and presumably the consumption of media that requires our attention (movies, TV, online). The most conservative studies claim that we watch an average of three hours of TV a day. Instead of paying attention to those commercials bought during last year's record $9.2 billion upfront, we must be multitasking - you know, like George Costanza eating a sandwich during sex.

Maybe cramming an entire life into three hours a day is possible by multitasking. I killed two birds with one stone (sleep and quality family time) by taking a nap while my kids sat through Looney Tunes: Back in Action. I simultaneously consume media and conduct social interaction by keeping the game on during dinner parties. Now that my gym has installed plasma TV, I can score a three-fer by watching Judge Judy render verdicts while I'm on the trend mill, listening to a music channel. I often eat while shopping. That's not only a two-fer, it eliminates the need to take time for sex from this precious Remainder pool when I turn down my wife's carefully prepared roast chicken saying, "No thanks, I had a hot dog at Costco."

Next story loading loading..