The Washington Post

Here’s how you spend your days, America — in 10 charts

You may feel like the workweek is just a succession of monotonous days that pass in a blur, each one indistinguishable from the next. And according to the American Time Use Survey, you'd be right -- by and large, the only major difference between Monday and Friday is three letters.

But peel back the top-level data and you'll find some interesting daily rhythms at the margins of American time use. On Tuesdays we work the hardest, and have the hardest time falling asleep. We really don't like running errands on Wednesday. We devote our weekends to our friends and our pets. We watch a ton of TV every day, but especially on Sunday. The 10 charts below reveal these trends and more.

Everybody really is working for the weekend.


Americans are at their most productive on Tuesdays. We spend about four hours and 12 minutes working each Tuesday, compared to three hours and 52 minutes on Fridays. Keep in mind that these figures, and most of the ones noted in this piece, are averages across all Americans, age 15 and up. If those work hours seem low, it's because they factor in students, retirees and the unemployed.

But overall, the time we spend working, sleeping and playing varies by no more than 20 minutes from weekday to weekday. The big change comes on the weekend, when we work less, sleep more, and play more.

We have a harder time falling asleep Tuesday night.


We don't spend much time tossing and turning in bed -- just a couple minutes a day on average. But that time peaks on Tuesdays, not coincidentally the same day we work the hardest. Sleep comes easiest on Friday nights, when we rest easy knowing the weekend is ahead. But sleeplessness creeps back up as we head into Monday.


Pro-tip: Go to the laundrymat near the end of the workweek.


Laundry time peaks on the weekends. If you want your pick of the laundrymat, go on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday

Wednesday is the best day for grocery shopping.


At least it is if you don't want to deal with crowds. I'm not sure why we're averse to laundry and groceries on Wednesdays - any ideas?

Sunday is for couch-potatoes.


We watch nearly an hour more TV on Sundays than on midweek workdays. Which is astonishing to me, because when was the last time anything good was on TV on a Sunday? Overall the average American spends 20 hours per week watching TV -- like having a part-time job on the couch.

Our eating and drinking behaviors are pretty consistent.


There isn't much variation in the amount of time we spend eating and drinking per day -- even on weekends.

We're most social on Saturdays...


We spend almost twice as much time socializing with friends and family on Saturday as we do on a typical Tuesday.

...but we don't dress up for it.


When it comes to hygiene and personal grooming, we max out on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and slack off a bit on Saturday. But overall we are pretty consistent when it comes to grooming time.

We socialize more with our pets on the weekends, too.


Pet owners spend about 10 more minutes per day with their pets on the weekends compared to earlier in the week.

Monday is the least spiritual day.


We average just four minutes on religious and spiritual activities on Monday -- about the same amount of time we spend tossing and turning in our sleep. Not surprisingly, religious practices spike on Sunday. But even on Sundays, Americans spend more time grooming themselves than they do praying or going to church.


Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.



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Rebecca Robbins · June 27, 2014

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