Time Confetti and the Broken Promise of Leisure | Behavioral Scientist


It’s true: we have more time for leisure than we did fifty years ago. But leisure has never been less relaxing, mostly because of the disintermediating effects of our screens. Technology saves us time, but it also takes it away. This is known as the autonomy paradox. We adopt mobile technologies to gain autonomy over when and how long we work, yet, ironically, we end up working all the time. Long blocks of free time we used to enjoy are now interrupted constantly by our smart watches, phones, tablets, and laptops.

This situation taxes us cognitively, and fragments our leisure time in a way that makes it hard to use this time for something that will relieve stress or make us happy. I (and other researchers) call this phenomenon time confetti (a term coined by Brigid Schulte), which amounts to little bits of seconds and minutes lost to unproductive multitasking. Each bit alone seems not very bad. Collectively, though, all that confetti adds up to something more pernicious than you might expect.

To get a sense of how you shred your time, consider this simple calculation. You have one hour of leisure at 7 p.m. During that hour, you receive two emails, check both, and respond to one; four Twitter notifications about useless pontificating or terrible people saying terrible things, and you thumb through the replies for one of them; three Slack notifications from colleagues asking you questions or a favor, of which you answer one and ignore two; one alarm reminding you to call your mother tomorrow on her birthday; and four texts from a friend trying to make plans for next weekend, all four of which you reply to.

Full article is available on Behavioral Scientist.