There’s a great irony to be found in the way technology has affected society. People find it easier than ever to communicate with others halfway around the world, yet feelings of loneliness and isolation are at an all-time high in developed countries.
Likewise, while most technological advancements were originally meant to save people time and energy, it seems to have had an opposite effect on society. As it is, people have never been so busy and short on free time. While you may have heard of the term “money-rich, time poor” before, the fact remains that time poverty is an epidemic faced by people on all levels of society.
What is time poverty?
Time poverty refers to a sense that someone doesn’t have enough time to do everything they want to. While feeling this way may just be an inherent aspect of the human condition, not until recently has it begun to reach a fever pitch. Again, it is funny to look at the effect that technology has had on this trend. Even if advancements have given us far more than they’ve taken away, historians’ studies have shown that people once had far more free time on their hands. In pre-industrial medieval England, for example, each worker would have as much as a third of a year free for holidays. This wasn’t a fluke either. Findings have reported that peasants in medieval Spain had as many as five months free of work annually.
It wasn’t actually until the Industrial Revolution in the mid-19th century where people first began to lose claim to so much free time. While the rise of industrial machines was meant to save labour, it ultimately had the effect of increasing workers’ expected productivity, as well as the amount of daily work meant to be done. And while workers’ rights have improved since its inception, the underlying trend certainly continues today. Just as certain obstacles have given way to convenience, the expectations have risen accordingly.
After all of this, the question remains: Is there any way to escape time poverty? Is there some way to regain our lost time without snubbing modern society altogether? While certain countries have taken it upon themselves to begin making changes they know will ultimately benefit the health and well-being of their citizens, the rest of us are left to our own devices.
Here are 5 simple ways to start getting your time back.
1) Plan ahead and keep a journal.
As simple as it may sound, writing your actions down will make you more conscious of the time you spend doing things. With so much on the go, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s actually important. By writing down what you’ve done on a daily basis, you’ll be able to judge the way you’re spending your time more effectively. Although your workweek may feel just as busy, an effective use of time can keep you from getting overburdened, leaving you the breathing room to recuperate between tasks.
2) Collaborate on tasks with others.
The time you spend on tasks can be halved if you delegate some of the workload to another person. Helping each other out ultimately saves time for everyone. This is particularly true in the case of women, who typically do significantly more unpaid work than men. This discrepancy ranges from 45 minutes more in Scandinavia, to a full five hours difference between men and women in India. If certain kinds of work (whether paid or unpaid) are more evenly delegated between people, everyone will find they have more time for leisure in the long run.
3) Cut down or eliminate time-wasters.
Although the average workweek has decreased since the time of the Industrial Revolution, the amount of distractions has gone up significantly. This is especially due to the rise of computers and handheld electronics. Although defeating procrastination is easier said than done, it’s easier to cut down on time wasters once you become conscious of the ways you spend your time. Make a habit of identifying time-wasting activities (like social media or television) that sap up hours without giving much back. If you manage to cut away the dead weight, you’ll find you start getting some of that sand from the hourglass back in no time.
4) Maximize your downtime.
Although the modern day idea of time management typically revolves around work, the key to regaining time lies in applying that mentality to your downtime as well. People who place value on their time both on and off the clock will find they have significantly more time to do the things they’re looking to do with their life. Even in your leisure time, there are going to be lots of different things competing for your attention. It’s important to cut through the less important stuff and prioritize the things that bring you the most joy.
5) Change your perception of time.
Though it may sound counterintuitive at first, part of feeling time-rich also has to do with your perception of time itself. You can improve the way you experience time by taking time regularly to sit back and figuratively smell the roses. If you’re feeling overworked and pressured, it can be the hardest thing to break away from the pattern and take time for yourself. Nonetheless, it may be just the thing you need to take control back of your life.
This is a guest article by contributing writer Conor Fynes.