American commuting patterns negatively impacting individual achievement

In Robert Pagliarini’s best-selling book The Other 8 Hours, he discusses how we use the eight hours of our daily lives, outside of the eight we presumably spend at work and at sleep, are what determine our success in life. Pagliarini urges readers to look beyond their job to find success in their life whether it be through starting a business, losing weight, developing a hobby or even getting control of your finances.

Pagliarini states in his book that, “You lose 8 hours to sleep and you sell (at least) 8 hours to your job. That leaves just 8 more. What are you doing during the other 8 hours, and more importantly, what are the other 8 hours doing for you?”

The book relies on the assumption though that each person has a clearly delineated, and evenly balanced, three-slice pie. This is obviously not reality, but if we were to follow Pagliarini’s advice by maximizing The Other 8, what would we find?

With 16 hours of the day already ruled out for work and sleep we have just 8 valuable hours to improve our lives in the way we choose. A 2005 study by the Telework Exchange showed that Federal employees spent an average of 233 hours of their life commuting each year – a number that does not factor in the time spent driving on daily errands. The study found that if Federal employees were to telework three days each week, that they would get 98 hours of their life back each year. Citing an average savings of an hour per day, the Telework Exchange study identified that those teleworking can earn an MBA 35 percent faster, read 25 books in a year, clean out 83 closets, or train for a marathon with the time saved by not commuting.

This data is supportive of more than just teleworking, but reduced commuting and travel times in general. Those who are able to walk to work due to close proximity experience such savings, as do transit riders who are able to utilize their commute time for other enriching purposes that Pagliarini identifies as ways to improve your life.  Those who walk benefit doubly as they not only save themselves free time, but the time they do spend commuting helps to improve their health.

“Look around, anyone who is successful and lives a rich and meaningful life has used the other 8 hours,” Pagliarini exclaims. “Day in and day out, while others squander this time, they have invested it.”

The majority of people have overbooked schedules that do not have any more room to develop these personal attributes and improve their life. As a result that means each individual seeking success should look to maximize the free time they do have. Americans’ current commuting patterns dictate that approximately 15-20 percent of their “free time” is immediately wasted sitting in a car. If that time could be cut in half five to six days a week, the average American would experience similar time savings to the aforementioned federal employees who telecommuted three days a week, and experience similar benefits.

It appears that a clear option for Americans trying to improve their lives socially, financially, health-wise, or educationally is to cut out identified “life leeches” like commuting that suck up individual free time.

  • Very good points, and now I want to read the book. Telecommuting, though, is a double-edged sword in that it is a sprawl enabler. People who do not view themselves as physically needed at work tend to live farther from the regional core than do on-site workers. One of the federal agencies here in the DC region has an aggressive telecommuting program, requiring employees to be on-site only one day per week (or every two weeks, depending). The result is that many live in new exurbs as far as a hundred miles away or more, figuring they can put up with the long drive if they don’t have to do it very often.

  • The Provost

    The biggest problem is that people live in suburbs in part to provide a safe environment for their kids, but it’s often deemed unsafe, or at least eccentric, to have those kids walk or bike to school and activities. This means mom and dad, even if they work near one another, must commute separately in order for one of them to drive home early to ferry Junior from point C to point G. Paradoxically the WWII generation recalls with a sparkle in their eye walking long distances and riding streetcars to school or downtown as a sign of independence but then have often retired to remote condo complexes and oppose the current streetcar plan.

  • Bryon Martin

    Kaid, I agree with the telecommuting point. I took the highlight of the piece to be the identification of the major problem in our society of lost time (productivity is key for all 24 hours). The end goal answer is obviously communities that are self sufficient and support living, working, learning, playing etc all within close proximity (hopefully walking or biking), but I think telecommuting is still a better option than having someone in their car for an hour commute each way, each day.

  • Kaid,

    I’m not a big fan of telecommuting either, but the study did provide evidence to support the claims being made by Pagliarini. The other item that telecommuting ignores in terms of Pagliarini’s points, is that it takes away social time which he views as being valuable in both your professional and personal life. Conversely, riding transit or walking have positive impacts on those categories while also reducing the amount of wasted time during The Other 8 Hours.

  • Zack

    This is far from the correct place, but what are the chances we can get the updated headlines for new postings under the Cincy Cultures link list ala the old version of the site? Im already finding myself looking at the other sites less because i dont know whos updated and dont want to dig through each one 3 times a day.

  • Zack:

    Far from correct place indeed, but no worries. That’s a feature we are trying to work out, but have not yet been able to solve. I too loved that previous feature, so we will continue to work on it along with several other tweaks we are making even as we speak. Be patient. Thanks.