The use of more efficient techniques and processes at work as well as in private life promises to initially save time. In many cases, however, the subjective feeling of having less and less time at one’s disposal prevails. The new possibilities of communicating asynchronously via apps, searching for information or making purchases in ever shorter time has so far tended to lead to an increase in activities per time unit instead of more time wealth. This paradoxical negative effect of the use of supposedly “time-saving” techniques and processes on the subjective perception of time is what we call the “direct time-rebound effect” in the ReZeitKon project. The increasing concentration of our activities and the resulting time shortage can lead to a further increase in resource consumption, for example through compensation purchases: we reward ourselves with the purchase of a good book after a stressful week or buy the latest fitness equipment to keep up with the raising demands. But then there is no time for the actual use of these things. The unread books as well as the unused fitness equipment can even further increase the subjectively perceived and experienced lack of time. In the ReZeitKon project we call the additional consumption of natural resources as a result of subjectively perceived time scarcity an “indirect time-rebound effect”. Time-rebound effects can also be the result of a reduction in working time, if the “free” time is again filled with resource-intensive activities. By taking the subjective perception of time into account in the ReZeitKon project, time rebound research undergoes a significant expansion.
The ReZeitKon project aims to empirically analyze and quantify the significance of time-rebound effects for the sustainability of consumption. We will develop new survey methods for key constructs of time research, such as “time scarcity” and “time wealth”. Practice-relevant goals include the development and evaluation of measures in three intervention areas that potentially counteract both direct and indirect time-rebound effects. For schools, we will use a transdisciplinary approach to develop an educational intervention for the development of competences in dealing with time, consumption and sustainability. In cooperation with companies, transdisciplinary measures on corporate time policy will be developed and evaluated that contribute to increasing the time wealth of employees. Finally, the project will produce a guidebook on time and sustainability that – based on our studies and critical evaluation of time management literature – points out possibilities for strengthening one’s own time competence in private life.
We will empirically test the relation between the key constructs “time rebound effect”, “objective use of time”, “subjective perception of time” and “sustainable consumption” with the help of a first comprehensive nationwide representative survey on the topic. Together with innovative partners in practice, we will design participatory measures that aim to reduce time-rebound effects. The measures to be developed will address both the objective use of time and the subjective perception of time. We use the measuring instruments developed in the context of the representative survey in all three intervention areas to investigate determinants and effects of time scarcity. In line with a mixed-method approach, this quantitative evaluation is supplemented by qualitative surveys, particularly in the case studies with partners in practice, which allow a deeper understanding of the identified interrelationships.
Timetable and financing
The project runs from September 2018 to August 2021 and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the “Sustainable Management” programme of the Social-Ecological Research (SÖF) funding line with a total budget of EUR 1.15 million.