Are the Unemployed Lazy?

Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 3:19 PM EDT

If you're unemployed, there's a good chance you are completely blowing a huge opportunity. I just read the 2008 American Time Use Survey that was recently released, and I have to say, I was saddened and shocked.

Every year the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues this report that details how Americans over the age of 15 spend their time. For a productivity and time-efficiency nut like me, this is mouth-watering stuff -- barely surpassing my delight of learning how President Obama spends his time.

If you're unemployed (nearly 1 in 10 are in the U.S.), you have the unique opportunity of not having "the other 8 hours," but the other 16 hours! So what do you do with this gift? How do you spend your time (other than reading superb articles like this one online)? The data shows you completely and utterly blow it.

In so many areas the unemployed mismanage their time:

  • Looking for work. Big shocker here . . . only 1 in 6 actually look for work. On average, the unemployed spend a meager 30 minutes a day looking for a job.
It can be frustrating and demeaning to be told over and over "We're not hiring." If you're in a good financial position, consider some alternative options. Otherwise, you need to spend more time each day hitting the pavement.
  • Sleep. With no need for an alarm clock, they sleep an extra hour a day.
Determine how much sleep you need and get just that amount. Don't get into the bad habit of sleeping longer just because you aren't working.
  • Housework and yard work. The unemployed waste, uh, I mean do twice as much house/yard work as their employed counterparts -- two hours per day.
When you're working, you see tangible results from your efforts. When you're unemployed, you do busy work to fill your time and to get a feeling of accomplishment. Organizing your paperwork and clearing out the garage can be good uses of time, but if you find yourself re-organizing over and over, recognize this and find a more productive project.
  • TV/Movies. They watch an extra 70 minutes of TV/movies per day. For example, at 10:00am, the unemployed are twice as likely to be watching TV as the employed.
Resist the boob tube if you're unemployed. Studies show that the more TV you watch the more you want to buy. TV also induces a sleep-like state. You need to be fresh and focused, not brain-dead from too many soap operas.
  • Socializing. They spend an extra 30 minutes a day socializing and three times as much time talking on the phone.
Misery loves company. Make sure you are filling your time with nurturing relationships and not socializing with negative people who drag you down.
  • Shopping. Even though they have less income, the unemployed shop an extra six minutes a day.
Save your money! It takes much longer to find a job. Make sure you have a nice emergency reserve.
  • Volunteering. Does extra time mean more time to help others? Survey says . . . nope. Employed? Unemployed? Doesn't matter. Both camps spend the same amount of time volunteering.
Being unemployed can be an amazing opportunity to do those things that you've always wanted to do but never had time to do. Volunteering can lift your spirits and you just might network with someone who can help you find a job.
  • Education. Finally some encouraging news. The unemployed spend five times as much time learning (one hour and five minutes versus just 19 minutes).
Use the 40 hours a week you now have to go back to school. Get that designation or degree.
Remember, these are averages. Maybe you don't blow an extra three hours a day sleeping, watching TV, and cleaning the house, but as a country, that's exactly what the unemployed do each and every day.

So, are the unemployed lazy? The data shows that they are trying to fill a void but they are not doing it wisely. Without the structure of work, it's easy to let a few minutes here and there slip by. To prevent this, your goal should be to create structure in your day. Schedule your day and your week in advance. Fill your "work" hours with activities and meetings. Schedule time to read, boost your skills, take a course, write a book, network, become a better public speaker, exercise, start a business, create something, etc. Do something that will get you closer to your goals.

Just because you are unemployed doesn't mean you shouldn't work.

(Foot image by Andrew', CC 2.0)
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    Robert Pagliarini is obsessed with inspiring others to create and empowering them to live life to the fullest by radically changing the way they invest their time and energy. He is the founder of Richer Life, a community of passionate people who want to learn and achieve more in life and at work. He is a Certified Financial Planner and the president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors, a boutique wealth management firm serving sudden wealth recipients and affluent individuals. He has appeared as a financial expert on 20/20, Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew's Lifechangers and many others.