The Values Project Blog Series – Part 2

In this 3- part series we explore how our personal values relate to different aspects of everyday life

How do our values influence how we spend our time?

In our report, “What do we value? How our values influence everyday behaviours”, we examine how values relate to the ways in which people spend their time.

We asked people how they spend their time on a typical work day and a typical day off, based on the activity categories from the 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics Time Use Survey. We grouped these activities into four broad time use categories: (1) Work and education activities, (2) family and social activities, (3) Personal leisure activities, and (4) Personal needs.

The aim of this analysis was to see if people with different value priorities allocated their time differently. The findings highlight distinct patterns of time use that are clearly consistent with the motivational compatibilities and conflicts between values, as depicted in the values circle. We compare people who give relatively high importance to a value (i.e., top 25%) with people who give relatively low importance to the same value (i.e., bottom 25%). Further, in the analysis of time use, we only include those who reported being employed, which was just over 4,000 respondents. Of these, 3071 answered questions about time use. We asked about how people spent their time on a typical work day and a typical day off.

Since our values represent what is most important to us in our lives, they should also influence the ways in which we lead our lives. They do, and they do so in ways that are consistent with the circular structure of values. Specifically, we found that:

Those high on the Self-enhancement values of Power and Achievement spend more time on work and education activities and less time on family and social activities and necessary personal care than those low on these values.

  • In contrast, those high on the opposing Self-transcendence values of Benevolence and Societal-universalism spend more time on family and social activities and less time on work and education activities.
  • Those high on the Openness to change values of Self-direction and Stimulation spend more time on personal leisure activities and less time on either work and education activities or family and social activities than those low on these values.
  • In contrast, those high on the opposing Conservation values of Tradition and Conformity spend more time on family and social activities and less time on personal leisure activities than those low on these values.

Clearly, values matter in how we allocate our time. This is especially true when activities are more volitional, such as on a typical day off. Our report provides a glimpse into the potential for understanding the important role values play in people’s lives. Download a copy of the full report.



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