Shadow work illustration man wearing many hats.

With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Sunday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in August 2015.

Meet Mike, an average American.

The first thing Mike does when he rolls out of bed in the morning is look at his phone. He checks for new texts and emails, peruses his social media feeds, and then surfs around to various news sites.

Then he grabs a quick breakfast and it’s out the door for a 20-minute commute to work. But first he stops at a convenience store to fill up on gas.

Once at the office, Mike makes himself some coffee and settles into his desk. His computer prompts him, as it does every 90 days, to change his password. He then spends an hour going through his work email, before doing some copy making and filing.

At lunch, Mike eats at a “fast casual” establishment where he orders at the counter, brings his food to a table, and then cleans it off when he leaves.

Back at the office, there’s more email to answer and tasks to take care of.

After work Mike stops by a grocery store, and swipes and bags his items in the self-checkout line.

Once he arrives home, Mike makes himself dinner, and then cleans up the kitchen. Next he sits down at his computer to figure out which flights would be best for an upcoming trip he’s planning, and to book a hotel and rental car as well. Two hours later, Mike makes those purchases, and then shops for a new bag he’ll need for the trip, looking at numerous sites and reviews, and then putting in his credit card and shipping information once again to complete the transaction.

Next, Mike logs into the online portal for his bank and transfers money from one account to another. Then it’s a little more web surfing and one last check of his social media feeds. Right before he turns in, Mike gets a text from a friend: “Hey man! Want to go mountain biking this Saturday?” “Sorry,” Mike replies, “I’m too busy. Maybe another time.”

While Mike hasn’t done anything physically strenuous during the day, he crawls into bed feeling exhausted. And with good reason — for in addition to performing his “real” job at the office, he also worked a wide variety of other positions: driver, news editor, gas station attendant, banker, waiter, bus boy, secretary, cashier, grocery bagger, cook, housekeeper, travel agent, and salesman.

Though Mike nominally only works a 9-5, he has in fact been toiling around the clock.

re We Really Busier Than We Used to Be?

In the modern age, we have the same 24 hours a day that every human has enjoyed for thousands of years. But when you look around, you might be forgiven for thinking that time has somehow sped up and that our days have grown shorter. People seem harried and worn out. If you ask them how they’re doing, “Busy, busy, busy!” is often the answer.

40% of Americans say they’re overworked, half feel there are too many tasks to complete each week, two-thirds feel they don’t have enough time for themselves or their spouses, and three-fourths say they don’t get to spend as much time with their kids as they’d like. And as far as the other parts of life, well, they can’t be bothered with them at all.

Making small talk? Too tiresome.

Going out and socializing, even with old friends? Ditto.

Throwing a party? Too much work.

Going to church or doing service? Too busy.

Following basic manners and acting civil? Too tired to make the effort.

Cooking homemade food? Too time-consuming.

Putting on pants without an elastic waistband? Why bother?

Having hobbies? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

To explain what’s behind this apparent time crunch, the instinctive hypothesis is that we’re all simply working more — that jobs these days require us to toil for more hours than they used to.

Yet perception is not reality. Since the 1960s, work hours have actually decreased by almost eight hours a week, while leisure time has gone up by almost seven hours. Many will likely find this hard to believe, and that’s partly due to the fact that people routinely overestimate how much they really work by 5-10%. We also greatly