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You have more free time than you think

(MoneyWatch) Every year in late June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the results of the American Time Use Survey. This time diary study looks at how Americans spend their days. Since the BLS researchers don't ask how much time you devote to any particular activity, but rather talk you through "yesterday" on the phone, this study is widely deemed to be more accurate than other methods of figuring out how people spend their time.

The takeaway? One big one is just how much leisure time even busy people have.

Leisure time includes TV watching, socializing, reading, exercising or playing sports, relaxing, playing computer games and other similar activities. These are counted only if they are primary activities. Watching TV while making dinner would be counted as food preparation, not watching TV.

It probably comes as no surprise that people who aren't employed have a lot of leisure time -- 6.97 hours per day. But even full-time workers have 4.09 hours per day, including 3.34 hours on weekdays (and 5.87 hours per day on weekends).

People without kids at home likewise log some serious leisure hours: 5.93 per day. But even parents of kids under age 6 report 4.12 hours per day (parents of teens report 5.00 hours).

Now, to be sure, an average doesn't mean anything about any particular person. It is possible that you don't spend much time watching TV or playing computer games. But if so, you're an outlier. The average American has plenty of time to relax and, it turns out, time to sleep. We log, on average, 8.73 hours sleeping each day. Perhaps that's not the picture we often get of American life, but impressions are fuzzy. Data? Much better -- and pretty eye-opening if you think about it.

Photo courtesy flickr user Mark Fischer
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