Why Changing the Clocks With Daylight-Saving Time is Absurd

It’s an antiquated practice that has many people driving home from work (at around 5 o’clock) in relative darkness, likely leading to more traffic accidents and less quality time outside as well.

Daylight-saving time (not “daylight-savings” time) was created during World War I to decrease energy use. The practice was implemented year-round in 1942, during WWII. Not waking up in the dark, the thinking went, would decrease fuel use for lighting and heating. That would help conserve energy supplies to help the war effort.

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According to advocacy groups like Standardtime.com, which are trying to abolish daylight-saving time, claims about saving energy are unproven. “If we are saving energy, let’s go year-round with daylight-saving time,” the group says. “If we are not saving energy, let’s drop daylight-saving time!”

In his book Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight-Saving Time, author Michael Downing says there isn’t much evidence that daylight-saving actually decreases energy use.

In fact, sometimes DST seems to increase energy use.

For example, in Indiana – where daylight-saving time was implemented statewide in 2006 – researchers saw that people used less electricity for light, but those gains were canceled out by people who used more air conditioning during the early evenings.

(That’s because 6pm felt more like 5pm, when the sun still shines brightly in the summer and homes haven’t had the chance to cool off.)

DST also increases gasoline consumption, something Downing says the petroleum industry has known since the 1930s. This is probably because evening activities – and the vehicle use they require – increase with that extra daylight.

Changing the clocks also causes air travel synchronisation headaches, which sometimes leads to travel delays and lost revenue, airlines have reportedly said.

There are also health issues associated with changing the clocks. Similar to the way jet-lag makes you feel all out of whack, daylight-saving time is like scooting one time zone over.

This can disrupt our sleep, metabolism, mood, stress levels, and other bodily rhythms. One study suggests recovery can take three weeks.

In the days after DST starts or ends, in fact, researchers have observed a spike in heart attacks, increased numbers of work injuries, more automobile accidents, and higher suicide rates.

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The absence of major energy-saving benefits from DST – along with its death toll, health impacts, and economic ramifications – are reason enough to get rid of the ritual.

Why Upcoming Appointments Can Make People Less Productive

“People also seem to get more done when they don’t have a scheduled task hanging over their heads” is perhaps the most significant part of this research. It turns out that many people can be more productive when given more autonomy.

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.

“We seem to take a mental tax out of our time right before an appointment,” said Selin Malkoc, co-author of the study and associate professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

“We figure something might come up, we might need some extra time, even when there’s no need to do that. As a result, we do less with the available time.”

The study appears online in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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In an online study of 198 people, Malkoc and her colleagues asked some participants to imagine they had a friend coming over to visit in one hour and “you are all ready for your friend to come by.” The others were told that they had no plans for the evening.

All participants were asked how many minutes “objectively” they could spend reading during the next hour and how many minutes they “subjectively” felt like they could spend reading during that same hour.

“Regardless of whether they had a friend coming by or not, participants said that they objectively had about 50 minutes available to read,” Malkoc said.

People also seem to get more done when they don’t have a scheduled task hanging over their heads, the researchers found.

In a study of 158 college students, a researcher told participants when they arrived at the lab that study sessions were running faster than expected so she wanted to wait to see if more participants arrived.

Some participants were reminded that they had a task coming up soon: They were told “they had about five minutes before we could get started. You can do whatever you want before we will get started.”

Others weren’t reminded about their upcoming task and were simply told “they had about five minutes to do whatever you want.”

After the time had passed, all participants wrote down what they did during the five-minute interval. The students indicated they did things like sending a text message, checking email and visiting social media sites.

But those who weren’t reminded they had an upcoming task performed more activities (an average of 2.38) than those who were told they had a task soon (an average of 1.86).

“You don’t feel like you can get as much done when you have a task coming up soon. The time seems shorter,” Malkoc said.

These findings suggest that looming tasks on our calendar make us less productive, according to Malkoc.

“We feel that if we have a meeting in two hours, we shouldn’t work on any big projects. So we may spend time just answering emails or doing things that aren’t as productive,” she said.

That may explain why, on days when we have meetings spread throughout, we feel like we have accomplished little. The problem is that we aren’t maximizing the time in between those meetings, she said.

One solution, she said, is to try to stack all your meetings together. That way, you have longer, uninterrupted times when you feel you can tackle the bigger projects on your agenda.

It is also good to remind yourself of how much time you really do have available.