Time is now most precious asset of all

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The Independent Online
MORE PRECIOUS than gold or diamonds, time is becoming our most valuable commodity, a senior analyst of consumer behaviour said yesterday.

As the demands of increasingly sophisticated technology erode our free time, we feel more and more driven to try to cheat the clock, said Stuart Harris, senior vice-president deputy director of Young & Rubicam's brand futures group (BFG), Europe.

"There are no limits to our capacity to increase the other two human commodities, money and knowledge, but even the richest and most knowledgeable people can't get more than 24 hours into a day," he said.

In a survey by BFG of some of the country's high-flyers, more than one- third (36.5 per cent) said they were very conscious of time limitations.

When a sample of 2,500 people were asked to rate the statement "I am very conscious of time" from one up to seven, most rated the need for time as an import factor in their lives, at an average of 4.5, while the "trendsetters" averaged an even higher score of 5.2.

Mr Harris predicted that "time is going to become the scarcest and most valuable commodity", and one symptom of this was our inability to relax in our leisure hours.

"Work used to be about managing time profitably and thinking up ways to save time. Leisure was about spending time. But now leisure is too precious to be just spent, it has to be planned and managed," he said.

Paradoxically, he added, the less time we have to relax the more driven we are to fill it with something stimulating.

"Whereas in the past, the British approach to work used to be leisurely, today it is driven by the need to improve productivity and performance. And these same imperatives are insidiously shaping British attitudes towards leisure."

Mr Harris believed that the popularity of more extreme sports and activities was driven by the fact that we had become deprived of stimulation in a less physical work environment. "For the time-pressed, immersion in a memorable experience for a few leisure hours will be an imperative," he said, adding that people will need to feel "they've stepped outside time and cheated the clock".