How Italians manage their time: more value given to the “empty moments”

4 out of 10 Italians have often the feeling of spending moments of little value. This perception is mostly shared by the youngest generations, and it results in an emotional impact difficult to bear: examples are a sense of boredom or, alternatively, states of turmoil ranging from frustration to anxiety. To cope with moments perceived as waste of time, Italians practice introspection or, alternatively, turn to the outside world, especially using the internet as a mean to connect with others.

This is the picture coming from the latest research carried out by BVA Doxa for Nescafé on “Italians and the value of time“.

In a moment of extreme difficulty for Italy, due to the spread of Covid-19 and the relative containment measures which impose to everyone a quarantine in their own homes, the topic of time management has become central in public debate.

In this context, the research carried on by BVA Doxa for Nescafé on the value and management of time among Italians has revealed a widespread common perception: 40% of Italians report the feeling of experiencing moments of little value. The share is largely due to the high percentages within the youngest age groups: 59% of Generation Y (between 18 and 24 years old) and 54% of Millennials (between 25 and 34 years old) admit to feeling living little value moments, while over 45 position themselves last in the ranking (22%).

MOMENTS WHEN ITALIANS FEEL TO LOSE TIME – But what are the moments considered of “little value”, when Italians feel like they’re losing time? According to the respondents, those empty moments of “waiting” typical of the everyday life: stuck in the traffic jam (for 74% of respondents), in the waiting room of a doctor/dentist (58%), in the queue checkout counter in a supermarket or even at night when you can’t sleep (48%). There are also particular social situations that are perceived as a waste of time, such as being in the company of people with whom you have no common interests (41%) or in shops, while your partner is shopping (34%).

Among the different situations indicated in the research, simply staying at home alone or while having not so much to do is also considered a particularly significant waste of time, especially in this period: for 40% of the interviewees consider this time of “little value”. Waiting at home would be perceived less negatively if it would precede a particularly pleasant occasion: waiting for a concert/show (19%), waiting for the movie to begin when in theatres (always 19%) or before a show, game or performance of one’s own children (17%).

EMOTIONAL IMPACT AND “COPING STRATEGIES” – “Wasting time” is an emotionally difficult feeling to go through: 6 out of 10 people express a significant emotional weight caused by the perception of experiencing moments of little value. This type of emotional weight generates above all a sense of boredom (41%) and impatience (33%) or is combined with states of nervousness (25%) and frustration (22%), up to restlessness ( 19%) and in some cases anxiety (13%) and stress (16%).

How do Italians handle all of this? There are several different strategies adopted to deal with the emotional consequences caused by the feeling of wasting time. The main one falls into the generic category of “introspection”: thinking, reflecting, looking around, smoking a cigarette. For 61% of respondents, this would be the preferred coping method.

If, on one hand, introspection seems to be a particularly popular strategy, on the other hand, turning outwards would seem to be a valid alternative to deal with moments of emptiness, in particular through the internet (59%): for example, the usage of the web to browse (53%), social channels to chat (37%), music, gaming or videos for entertainment (52%).

GIVING VALUE TO EMPTY MOMENTS – To satisfy the need of adding value to empty moments, Italians indicate two different ways: on one hand, greater investment in themselves and, on the other, a better connection with others.

As for the investment in themselves, 74% of the interviewees indicate physical and mental energies as a priority in these situations, followed by 73% who believe in the importance of following their passions and 71% who would rather read, keep up with the news and improve their cultural level. When it comes to the connection with others, some important activities stand out: pay attention to the world around us more carefully (68%), plan future activities such as travels, courses, etc. (64%), send affectionate messages to loved ones (60%), get in touch with people around us (53%) and get back in touch with people with whom we have not talked for a long time (41%).

FOUR SEGMENTS LOOKING FOR VALUE TO GIVE TO THEIR TIMEBy studying age and social behavior of Italians who indicate that they experience moments of little value, the research revealed four different clusters:

  • The indifferent (31%)

Young people who live in small towns, with limited economic and cultural means, who often feel having worthless moments in their day, which they face with apathy and passivity. They get bored easily, especially on occasions when they are not “active protagonists” (boring family celebrations, or under the beach umbrella doing nothing), but at the same time, due to their indolent attitude, they do not have particular ideas on how to fill their spare time, nor do they seem willing to find them.

  • The emotional (24%)

Grown-ups men who fear loneliness and are often affected by discomfort and anxiety that generate insomnia. They do not manage empty times well, and they would like to make use of their time in something more constructive and useful for themselves, for example by devoting their free time to their passions; however, their poor emotion management affects them and leads them to take refuge in undemanding activities, such as listening to music, video games or browsing the Internet.

  • The impatient (29%)

Grown-up women living in big cities with an organized life and not so much time to waste. When they face empty moments in their daily life – queues at the checkout, too long journeys on public transport, traffic – they easily become nervous or irritated. They’re not very keen to sociality, they prefer to use these moments to focus on themselves, reflect or look around, and maybe surf the internet and chat. According to them, the best way to capitalize on empty moments is to relax and recover energies.

  • The outgoing (16%)

Women who work as employees in smaller towns, serene and expansive in nature, become impatient when they waste time in daily life, such as in queues (at the post office, at the market, at the doctor’s), traffic, or while waiting for public transport. By virtue of their nature so keen to sociality, they take advantage of empty moments to communicate with others: they phone, chat, and if it happens they also start talking with strangers. Being able to choose, they would use the time available to stay in touch with others, while focusing on small cultural enrichment activities and some moments of healthy “hedonism”.

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