You’ve got a full hour until your next meeting. But you probably won’t make the most of that time, new research suggests. In a series of eight studies, both in the lab and real life, researchers found that free time seems shorter to people when it comes before a task or appointment on their calendar.
According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, free time seems shorter when it precedes a meeting, appointment, or even lunch with a friend.
So, if you ask a person how much time they had to read in a free hours, on average they’d say 50 minutes. They pad it with a "just in case factor." If they have a meeting scheduled an hour from now, they double the padding and estimate 40 minutes. These results were consistent with real life studies and, by the way, the opposite was true also. People get more done when their time is not bounded by stop time.
So how do we get that time back? The author has two suggestions: 1) stack meetings close together for part of the day and leave the balance for unbounded work, and 2) train yourself to remember you actually have more time than you think.