Daily routine

Theun van Tienoven 18 August 2018

Shaping daily life

There is an ongoing sociological debate whether daily behaviour is determined by social structures (e.g. temporal norms) or by individuals (e.g. when fulfilling their needs). Probably, the truth lies somewhere in between. On the one hand, temporal rhythms structure our society, as there are shop opening hours, working times, school times, mealtimes, bedtimes, and so on. This is the temporal context. On the other hand, individuals have different social roles (e.g. employee, parent, friend), that tomen with different responsibilities. These are individual needs. Daily life gets shaped when individuals try to fulfil their needs while taking into account the needs of others (i.e. through social interaction) and the temporal context of the society the live in. For example, dropping children at school can only be done when school is open; you can only play a teamsport if you and your teammates are available at the same time.

Daily routine

In a publication in an academic journal, we show that the more responsibilities someone has and the more needs one has to fulfil, the more one wil rely on daily routines. We clearly show that someone who works, runs a household, and cares for children, has the highest degree of daily routine. Indeed, this person has to take into account school times, working times, waiting times (e.g. because of congestion), shop opening hours (e.g. to do grocery shopping), mealtimes (e.g. feed children on time), and bedtimes (e.g. put children to bed on time).

“A society has numerous temporal rhythms within which daily life gets shapes: working times, school ties, shop opening hours, waiting times, mealtimes, bedtimes, …”

Take home message

Daily routines are thus an important factor when shaping daily life, bu that does not hold for everyone. Students and employed people that live alone rely much less on daily routines. They have less responsibilities and less temporal rhythms to take into account. In fact, our research shows that the extent to which days are alike varies within our society. Put differently, daily behaviour can either be part of a strong routine or can be highly varied. An important take home message is that behavioural research needs to take this into account. For this reason, we advice to capture behaviour using 7-day time-diaries.