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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 14, 2003

UI Joins National 'Take Back Your Time Day' Effort, Oct. 24

If you're too busy answering email, writing memos, doing laundry, preparing dinner and shuttling the kids to school, sports, music lessons and play dates to read this story, then you are exactly its target audience. Stop, take a deep, calming breath and read on.

The University of Iowa, in conjunction with a national movement, will recognize "Take Back Your Time Day," on Friday, Oct. 24, with a symposium on how overwork and lack of time affect us -- at home, in our workplaces and communities. Modeled on Earth Day, which brought a new environmental awareness to America, Take Back Your Time Day seeks to launch a national conversation about work/life balance and how to reclaim it.

The symposium runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free and open to the public. All sessions will be held in the Illinois Room at the Iowa Memorial Union and people are free to attend any or all of the events, as time permits.

Benjamin Hunnicutt, UI professor of leisure studies and of literature, science and the arts, said that in the early part of the 20th century, historians and others who had observed the shortening of the work day over time predicted that by the 1980s Americans would be working an average of two hours per day. Instead, at the end of the century, Americans were putting in some of the longest work hours in the industrialized world.

"I think many people are afraid of unstructured leisure time because they have allowed themselves to become defined by their work," he said. "Work is where people find meaning and identity now -- it's like a new religion."

Take Back Your Time Day is set for Oct. 24 because that date is nine weeks before the end of the year, calling attention to the fact that Americans work on average nine weeks (350 hours) longer each year than peers in Western Europe.

"Take Back Your Time Day is not anti-work," said Hunnicutt. "Useful and creative work is essential to happiness. But American life has gotten way out of balance. Producing and consuming more have become the single-minded obsession of the American economy, while other values -- strong families and communities, good health and a clean environment, active citizenship and social justice, time for nature and the soul -- are increasingly neglected."

In addition to Hunnicutt, participants include Jennifer Glass, UI professor of sociology, speaking on "Overwork and the Family"; Richard MacNeil, UI professor of leisure studies, "On Our Deathbeds, Few of Us Ever Lament, 'I sure wish I had worked more"; Al Gini, professor of philosophy at Loyola University of Chicago, on "The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure, and Vacations"; and Robert Sessions, Kirkwood Community College professor, and Lori Erickson, Iowa City author, speaking on "Some Traps of Consumerism."

More information is available online, or

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Hunnicutt in advance at 319-335-1326.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Program: Benjamin Hunnicutt, 319-335-1326,