The day of more time is coming, and this matters. For the last decade, digital technology has been stealing our free hours. We have social networks to maintain, apps to download, and lotsa Candy Crush to play.
In the coming years, we could find the trend reversing. The arrival of virtual assistants and automation will make a lot of everyday tasks much easier. In fact, I recently read that in the near future, as much as 20% of my own job will be automated, especially in the area of analyzing financial materials. Hear, hear!
So what exactly have we been missing since we’ve all become so busy? The answer is people. Real human connections. Millennials in particular are far more likely than previous generations to have friends they know only over the internet. Most of us spend more time connecting over social media than we do in person. If you check your social calendar from 10 years ago, I’d be willing to bet that it had many more coffee and brunch dates on it than it does today.
My big idea is to take the time we save and put it to good use. Don’t chitchat with your digital assistant, have her set up a date with someone. Grab a cup of tea, meet for beers, or go bowling. Seriously, bowling is one of the few things that gets more entertaining the worse you are at it.
I’m not, of course, predicting that everyone will use their extra time to get more face time. Most of us will likely use it to play more fantasy sports and video games, beef up our presences on Tumblr and Twitter, and watch more videos of people making impossible stuff look easy. But the smarter strategy is to invest that time in our personal relationships and emotional intelligence.
The reasons should be obvious. No matter how advanced technology gets, people skills and people reading are still vital to success in the world. In addition, studies show that having good relationships (either romantic or interpersonal) in general makes people happier. Studies have also shown that spending more time on Instagram in general doesn’t. Using Facebook probably isn’t going to make you feel better, but using Facebook Messenger to set up a girls' or boys' night out probably will.
For my part, I don’t really believe 20% of my time is going to be freed up in the near future. But if anyone can find a way to give 10% of it back to me, especially the time I spend looking at spreadsheets, please have them meet me at the nearest bowling alley. I’ll certainly buy them a beer.