How Do Americans Spend Their Time?

by Deputy Team, 5 minutes read
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OG image for how Americans spend their time, over time

Time flies, doesn't it? Of course, we all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but have you ever stopped to think about just how much time you spend on the various tasks that make up your day, week, year, and beyond?

At Deputy, we know that understanding how and where you spend your time is essential to managing it effectively. That's why we analyzed U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data to determine how much time the average American spends on tasks — like working, cleaning up around the house, or catching up with friends — throughout their lifetime. So don't just watch the clock tick by! Join us as we delve into the minutes, hours, and years that define our existence.

Key Findings

  • Over the course of a lifetime, Americans on average will spend more time working (15 years, 3 months, and 7 days) than they will relaxing (13 years, 11 months, and 9 days).

  • On average, residents of Washington DC will work the most over a lifetime and residents of West Virginia and Alaska will work the least.

  • In a lifetime, Americans spend on average:

    • 28 years, 2 months, and 5 days sleeping

    • 15 years, 3 months, and 7 days working and doing work-related activities

    • 13 years, 11 months, and 9 days relaxing and doing leisure activities

    •  7 years, 7 months, and 6 days doing household activities

    • 6 years, 3 months, and 15 days caring for children

    • 5 years, 7 months, and 13 days socializing and communicating

    • 4 years eating and drinking

    • 1 year, 5 months, and 16 days traveling to work


Using BLS American Time Use Survey data, we found the average amount of hours Americans spent on eight different activities each year (of those that engage in the activity), over the course of ten years (2011-2021, with no data for 2020 to reference due to COVID-19 pandemic affecting the study). 

Using this data and CDC data on average life expectancy, we then determined how many days in a year, and then years in a lifetime, Americans (overall and by gender) spend doing these activities to ultimately determine the percentage of their lifetime spent doing specific activities.

To localize the data, we then calculated the number of years in a lifetime residents in each U.S. state spend working. To do so, we compared our BLS data on "Working and Work Related Activities" and "Traveling to Work" with the average number of years Americans work by state (average retirement age by state subtracted by 18, the average age to join the workforce). We referenced Forbes Advisor for the average retirement age by state data.

How Much Time Americans Spend on Different Activities Each Year

Graphic depicting how much time Americans spend each year  on activities

While over 10% more men (50.0% on average) partake in work or work-related activities than women (38.5% on average), our study revealed some interesting differences between the two. For example, while women spend on average 2 weeks less time working than men over the course of a year, they still spend about nine fewer days relaxing. 

Despite progress in gender equality, women still take on more responsibilities at home, such as caring for children or elderly parents, which may leave them with less time to relax. Women also spend less time socializing. Over 10 years, men spent about five minutes more time each day socializing than women (1 hour and 48 minutes/day on average compared to women's 1 hour and 43 minutes/day).

It's important to note that the pandemic significantly impacted BLS time spending statistics in recent years. For example, in 2021, the first year after the pandemic, men spent a record amount of time engaged in childcare activities — an extra 80 hours and 18 minutes that year (1 hour and 50 minutes per day compared to the average over the last 10 years, 1 hour and 37 minutes a day).

According to BLS, the need to travel to work sunk 6.7% below average nationwide, from 35% (averaged over the course of ten years) to just 28.3%. Time spent caring for children went up across the board in 2021, spiking to 2 hours and 5 minutes a day after averaging 1 hour and 58 minutes a day over 10 years. That's about 40 more childcare hours that year! The rise of work-from-home arrangements that year likely contributed to both men and women having more time to spend with their children. 

It's no surprise that the amount of time Americans spent on household activities like yard work, cleaning, laundry, and home improvements also peaked in 2021, undoubtedly another result of the pandemic and the rise in work-from-home arrangements.

U.S. States that Spend the Most And Least Amount of Years in Their Lifetime Working

Graphic showing how much time Americans spend doing activities by state.

After looking at how much time Americans spend working, we wanted to dive deeper and see what kind of differences appear state-by-state. So we converted the BLS statistic by attributing each state’s retirement age to calculate the total number of years Americans in each state spend working.

Residents of Washington, DC, spend more of their lives working than other Americans (about 16 years, 5 months, and 8 days total during their lifetime). This may be because, as the capital of the United States, DC is home to many government employees and political professionals who often work long hours. Additionally, the high cost of living in the city may also contribute to the need for longer working hours to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. 

In contrast, Alaska and West Virginia residents spend the least time working over a lifetime (about 14 years, 5 months, and 5 days on average).

Full Data

Our study got much more granular than we could include in this write-up, so if you want to dig deeper into the data, check out our interactive data table below. Search for the activity or click on the heading of each column to sort findings by that demographic.

Closing Thoughts

Time is a non-renewable resource, and how we choose to use it shapes the course of our lives. We hope this data gives you a helpful perspective for understanding how time shapes your life and the lives of those around you. How we invest our personal time and, as a society, invest our collective time are major factors contributing to our nation's overall productivity, collective well-being, and prosperity.

Technology has the potential to greatly enhance how efficiently and effectively we use our time. At Deputy, we make it possible for business owners, managers, and employees to reclaim more time for themselves every week. Instead of spending hours managing work schedules and timesheets, they can automate those tasks with the Deputy app and invest more hours into growing their business, delighting customers, or getting some well-deserved R&R.

Ready to see for yourself?