Are You “Time Poor”? The Emerging Epidemic of the New Millennium (and How To Take It Back).

Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Click To Tweet

Are you ‘time poor’? Without even having to Google the term, you instantly know what it means, and most likely, the answer: yes. Most people are.

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 being time poor is an epidemic faced by people on all levels of society.

What does being ‘time poor’ mean, exactly?

As implied, being time poor simply refers to a sense that someone doesn’t have enough time to do everything they want to do. 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 being time poor? 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. And, as this article will explore, most of those devices remain at our fingertips — it’s just a matter of utilizing them properly.

Following are 5 simple ways to move from being ‘time poor’ to ‘time rich’, and, in the process, gain some peace of mind (and body) back, which will enable your ability to be truly productive with your time.

“…who is likely to be the more productive contributor to the company, and to the world — the person who is healthy, rested, well-balanced, full of energy, and clear of mind, or the sleep-deprived, overweight, heart-attack-waiting-to-happen, psychologically unexamined, self-critical maniac?” ~ Dan Pallota

1) Keep a journal and plan ahead.

As cliched 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 refer back to those notes over time, identify your patterns, and see more clearly see how to plan your days effectively.

From there, you can:

2) Automate, collaborate.

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

Yet we live in an age of advanced (and ever-less-expensive) technology. So before you even begin delegating or asking others to collaborate, explore what your computer, phone and tablet can do, e.g:

  • Sync your calendars, set up notifications and organize online notes that everyone can access on their devices.
  • Find the best deals on household necessities on Amazon or the like, and automate them for delivery to your door every month.
  • Set up all of your banking to take care of itself — money in, money out, savings, emerg fund, etc — mark the dates on your calendar, and then check up on it whenever you want.

The options are nearly endless once you begin to explore them.

Then, once your machines are fully tasked, you’ll have a much easier time identifying the work that should be shared with other humans. 

3) Use your logical faculties.

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 personal misuse of computers and handheld electronics.

Although defeating procrastination is easier said than done, it’s not so hard to cut down on time-wasters once you start getting more conscious of the ways you’re actually spending your time (see point 1).

In terms of efficiency, such as in your workplace, start developing a habit of identifying ‘time-wasters’.

How? Relevance.

Assess them in light of the bigger picture. What are the main aims of the project you’re working on? What are the end goals, the markers, the (structural) tension points? What matters?

Keeping these things in mind will help you from dawdling excessively over irrelevant details, or, as mentioned in point 2, identifying things that could be automated or collaborated on.

Learning to widen your vision in order to truly identify relational relevance is a massive step to shedding dead weight. If you can keep your ego out of it, yet at the same time remain sensitive to the ego of others, you’ll find that there will be very few people willing or able to argue with the pure logic you’ve brought to the table. Watch the time-travelling begin.  

4) Use your emotional faculties.

While the modern day idea of time management typically revolves around work, another key to regaining time overall 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.

When it comes to downtime, however, the keywords here switch from ‘relevance’ and ‘logic’, as in the last point, to emotional awareness. 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 minutiae and prioritize the things that, quite simply, bring you the most joy. And you do that simply paying attention to how it makes you feel. (Forget the outside world and its judgments. Nothing will ruin it for you more quickly than bringing them in on this, even if it’s ‘just in your mind’.)

If you are getting true relief, true relaxation or, better yet, a feeling of inspiration from whatever you’re watching or doing while you’re ‘wasting time’, then guess what? It’s NOT a waste of time!

On the other hand, if you’re only 1/2 there mentally, or feeling insecure, gossipy, negative, annoyed, enraged (as can often happen with mainstream news) it’s a sure sign that you’re wasting precious time on things that are simply unworthy of your cognition.

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 reminding yourself as often as possible (even in the midst of rushing around) that there is enough. There is enough time.

While this may feel like a lie at first, practice bringing things into the bigger perspective as you’re doing it. When you’re 80, and looking back over your life, you will realize how much time and opportunity was wasted simply by believing that there wasn’t enough time and opportunity.

Now try and see the present from that perspective.

As with points 3 and 4, you’ll slowly find yourself realizing what’s relevant and what isn’t, what brings you true joy and what doesn’t, who matters and who makes life more miserable for you. And slowly, you can begin to adjust accordingly.

Yes, when you’re feeling overworked and pressured, it can seem like the hardest thing to break away from the old patterns, but that’s why this post was written! Bookmark it and refer back to it whenever you can, and remember… take your time! 


This is a guest article by contributing writer Conor Fynes.