The problem of summer (and many other) days: too many fun things to do

As summer winds down and school starts up again, I am reminded of something I experience every summer and throughout much of the year: there are more fun things to do each day than I am able to do. Here is an incomplete list of activities I want more time for each day:

Photo by Tran on


-Watching interesting TV shows and movies

-Seeing more of family and friends

-Playing board games

-Enjoying the outdoors

-Playing and listening to music

-Advancing writing/research projects

I do not often feel bad about not being able to do all this. Rather, I am excited to get to the next day(s) and to continue these activities. I cannot keep up with everything I want to do but with steady progress there is much to enjoy.

(As a side note, the conversations in recent years about a glut of content in television and online hint at a bigger glut: life offers a lot of possible experiences. For example, I read regularly but there is not enough time to get to everything I want to read, should read, and need to read to keep up with my field and interests.)

Next hot topic in sociology: one journalist suggests Quidditch

I am always interested to see what people in the media think sociologists should study. According to a blog at Time, some sociologist should link the study of emerging adults (and particularly those who ones who delay real adulthood after college) and the growing game of Quidditch:

A sociologist looking to underscore the narrative of Generation Y’s prolonged immaturity would have had a field day with the fourth annual Quidditch World Cup, the Harry Potter–inspired sports competition that drew legions of muggles to midtown Manhattan this past weekend. Quidditch is, after all, an event inspired by a magical sport in a line of far-fetched children’s books that most of this weekend’s competitors read way back in elementary school. Indeed, at the event’s opening ceremony, many of the 700 athletes arrived dressed in costumes, capes and T-shirts, singing songs from 1990s Disney musicals while masses of media surveyed the endless Potter in-jokes proudly scrawled on their attire (“Pwning Myrtle”). The high point of these people’s lives, it might have appeared, was sometime around 1998.

But this sense of nerdish camaraderie came to an abrupt end right around the time of the first gang tackle.

Quidditch is a sport striving for legitimacy.

It wouldn’t surprise me if a sociologist is indeed studying this. This phenomenon has been growing for a few years as I remember hearing about competitions at Notre Dame at least four years ago. (The story suggests it began at Middlebury in 2005.)

But if sociologists did take this seriously (and perhaps there could be some nice ties to ideas about the sociology of sport with leisure games that begin at elite private colleges), would they just be laughed at and become another light viral news story like the recent stories about the sociology class about Lady Gaga?

(A final question: is it really worth playing this game without flying brooms?)

How much fun should one have at work?

Schumpeter at The Economist takes a look at the idea of having fun at work:

ONE of the many pleasures of watching “Mad Men”, a television drama about the advertising industry in the early 1960s, is examining the ways in which office life has changed over the years. One obvious change makes people feel good about themselves: they no longer treat women as second-class citizens. But the other obvious change makes them feel a bit more uneasy: they have lost the art of enjoying themselves at work…

This cult of fun is driven by three of the most popular management fads of the moment: empowerment, engagement and creativity. Many companies pride themselves on devolving power to front-line workers. But surveys show that only 20% of workers are “fully engaged with their job”. Even fewer are creative. Managers hope that “fun” will magically make workers more engaged and creative. But the problem is that as soon as fun becomes part of a corporate strategy it ceases to be fun and becomes its opposite—at best an empty shell and at worst a tiresome imposition.

A good point: forced “fun” is hardly fun at all.

A question: what really makes work satisfying for people? Having fun? Collegial relationships? Meaningful tasks? Praise from bosses and higher-ups?

Another question: what can’t this “fun time” at work be left up to the employee’s discretion? One might prefer a half hour to quietly read a book while another might prefer a volleyball game. While this means managers may not be able to rave about how their group came together in an activity, it might provide even higher levels of productivity.