Everyone has a routine of some kind in their daily lives. Even those of us living what we might perceive to be lives of pure and unending chaos are still likely to be governed, to some extent, by eating, sleeping and working, not to mention hobbies and other leisure activities that fill space in between.
But our lives and routines are changing all the time, often in ways that happen so slowly that we might not notice day-to-day or even year-to-year. Our data, collected as part of a pan-European Study of Time in conjunction with the University of Oxford, suggests that two big factors are driving these changes - Deregulation and Digitalisation. These trends are challenging traditional associations of place, time and activity and mean our ever changing routines will continue to evolve.
Deregulation refers to an individual's ability to live their lives where, how and when they choose. In the context of time use and daily routines, specific days and specific times of day are no longer tied to certain activities, such as meal times, work or leisure.
This deregulation is driven in part by our greater use of mobile and connected technology. Digitalisation may come as no surprise, but the sheer extent and pace of the change is staggering. In 2000, at its highest point during the day, around 0.6% of people in the UK were using the internet, making it at best a niche activity. Today, 77% of adults in the UK have their phone on them constantly between 9am and 6pm, and for much of that time, at least 40% of people are actively using a connected device of some kind.
The recent referendum result may be forcing the country to revisit its place in Europe but on this score we will continue to be firmly European. There are important differences across the continent, dictated by cultural preferences, climate and the nature of our economies, however we look at this study, we see evidence of there being a great deal that unites us. Just about anyone across Europe - who is likely to go about their day while carrying a smartphone, laptop, tablet (or all three) - is testament to the remarkable extent of digital technology in our daily lives. The connectivity such devices provide makes them utterly pervasive - we use them at home, at work and everywhere else in between. They are both adjuncts to old activities and creators of new ones - embellishments and additions.
The combination of these factors give us great freedom to live our lives on our own terms, but with this freedom comes greater time pressure and a less solid demarcation between work and life, which takes careful balancing to avoid negative consequences for our wider wellbeing. But balancing these pressures is essential if we are to retain the enormous benefits that social connectivity brings us.
Greater digitalisation affords us more unconventional and creative use of time, effectively boosting the amount we are able to enjoy the free time we have. It allows us greater opportunity for leisure, the ability to work on our own terms, and enables us to connect with friends and family instantly.
Digitalisation is disruptive, but then, at the moment in Europe, so is just about everything else. In uncertain times, digitalisation must be embraced.
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