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Women Need More Free Time Says Real Simple Study

Real Simple commissioned a national survey about women and time. Because, just in case you didn’t know, most of us feel like we don’t have enough of it. Ever.

The study “Women & Time: Setting a New Agenda,” designed by Families and Work Institute surveyed about 3,200 American women between the ages of 25-54 in October and November of 2011.

It revealed that much of the time pressure that women feel is actually self-imposed.

The top culprits: poor delegating and not letting go of control.

To help contextualize the study, Real Simple held a breakfast this week at the Time & Life Building in New York City that featured a panel of super accomplished, super busy women (pictured above from L to R):

TIME senior editor Ruth Davis Konigsberg
ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman
Yale Law professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Amy Chua
founder & CCO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics Bobbi Brown

The panel was moderated by Real Simple managing editor Kristin van Ogtrop (pictured far right). “There is a startling connection between scheduling free time and happiness – and an equally startling connection between the ability to delegate and happiness,” said van Ogtrop. “We hope these findings will spark a national dialogue to help women everywhere reclaim their free time and use it in a way that will ultimately make their lives better.”

For Brown, finding more time required an attitude adjustment where she enjoyed the little things. She recommended that everyone rent the movie Click (yes the one with Adam Sandler) to help put the whole time thing into perspective.

Chua said that declaring that she was bad at a lot of things has been very liberating. She outsources the things that she isn’t good at as well as those things she doesn’t enjoy, like grocery shopping.

During research for her new book about women and confidence, Shipman said that girls are often raised to be perfect, because we’re able to be perfect (duh!), but at what price? She says women often lose their ability to be in the moment and just enjoy life. So now she focuses on being good enough. She doesn’t worry about being perfect at work or parenting. She recommended that women stop dwelling on things that don’t really matter.

Regarding work though, Shipman reminded the audience that people are more effective in the workplace when we can work the way we want to work – flex time, telecommuting, etc.  At one point in her career, she battled against the traditional mold of a television job, when you’re supposed to want to be on television all the time and she didn’t. She got a reputation for being difficult and complicated because she wanted to work less. A boss told her, “Everyone jumps when we say jump. You don’t jump.” Shipman says that we’d be surprised by how much we can be accommodated when we ask.

For Konigsberg, she’s positioning the lack of time issue as a health issue – the increased stress, the tendency not to take care of ourselves. There’s a real need to reprioritize for restoration and our overall health.

There was the question of what is free time? For women who love what they do and love being with the kids, does working or taking care of the kids constitute as free time? According to Konigsberg, what devalues our free time is interruptions. You know, the phone buzzes; the computer pings. Those constant interruptions do actually add up over time.

Bottom line: The quality of our free and leisure time is worth protecting and keeping sacred.

Or just wait until you get older. Brown says that when you get older you just don’t care as much and that’s something that we can all look forward to.

Some stats:

  • 49 percent of women say they do not have enough free time.
  • Women who set aside regular free time are ultimately more satisfied with their lives – 50 percent report being satisfied versus 41 percent of those who regularly postpone their free time.
  • 68 percent of women say that work does not interfere with their personal lives.
  • 32 percent of married/partnered women often feel that if they did less around the house, they would not be properly taken care of.
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