time poverty

Society Running Low on Time

If you had an extra hour a day, how would you spend it? Actually, it would take me at least 30 minutes to come up with anything.

But can we in reality even find some extra time to begin with?

Do we take tasks off your to-do list? Or do we literally schedule every minute of the day?

What’s the best way to achieve healthy productivity and time management?

In case you have a few minutes to spare, read on to find out to satisfy our hunger for more time.

What is Time Poverty?  

If you’re one of those people who never have enough time, you’re suffering from time poverty.

Time poverty is having too little time and too much work. The opposite feeling is time affluence, and it seems like something modern humans can only dream of.

Work, school, partner, family, and friends, hobbies, pets… Does the list ever end?

In 2018, 80% of working Americans said they never had enough time. Globally, I bet that percentage is over 80%.

And there are many reasons we’re starving for more time.

There are certain things we have no control over. Work or school projects take more time than expected. Daily commutes are a nag. Waiting in line to fill out some paperwork takes forever.

Let’s assume we all get 8 hours of sleep (which we don’t), and spend 8 hours a day working (again, not remotely true). Now, if you take away things like shopping, eating, cleaning, sleeping, etc., you end up with roughly 4 or 5 hours per day.

What Role Does Money Play?  

When it comes to money, busy people prefer more time over more money.

Single parents who work multiple jobs to support their kids would pick time wealth over material wealth any day.

Working fewer hours is not an option for most people. And since last year, working from home has resulted in people pulling even longer hours.

Obviously money makes all the difference, right? Can money buy time?  

That is a possibility, to some extent. Take food delivery, online shopping, gardening services, or Uber. These services give you more time. But most low-to-middle-income earners can’t afford to hire someone to clean their house or mow their lawn.

So, it’s easy to assume that rich folks have more time at their disposal because they can “buy” it. But that’s not entirely true. Wealth and time affluence don’t always go hand in hand. Regardless of income, squeezing in some extra free time makes people happier.

The Irony of Super Busy People  

In western culture, over-busyness has become a symbol of high status. Hyper-productive people use productivity as a measure of their own and other people’s worth.

You know, that annoying person whose mission it is to call you on stuff? They’ve spent the entire weekend studying, but you went out with friends.

Yeah, you can keep it to yourself without putting others down, my guy.  

And to tell you the truth, the most hardworking people I know don’t walk around town bragging about it. I’m all for celebrating success, but sometimes we forget to do it in a way that inspires others.

People have their reasons for being productive or not being productive. Chugging coffee at 4 a.m. or sleeping like a log, your value should never be measured by your productivity. It’s indisputable.

Hustling ≠ productivity  

Hustling doesn’t equal more productivity, as much as some YouTube ad “entrepreneur” would like you to think.

When overworking yourself becomes a habit, all hell breaks loose. In the long run, what you get from working too much are health issues, anxiety, and burnout. Maybe even a heart attack before your 50th birthday.

So then, what’s the purpose of productivity?

Productivity isn’t drowning yourself in countless hours of work. It’s prioritizing things that deserve your time and managing that time in a workable way.

My planner used to be full to the brim. I had this unhealthy belief that long to-do lists show how productive I am.

Half the stuff from the list, unnecessary and unrealistic. And I would call myself a lazy idiot before going to bed. So, yeah, not all that useful.

I’ve got a few tips on managing time.

1. Calendar Clutter is a Nightmare

You don’t have to schedule your entire day. And I kid you not, I once met a guy who had a special time at of every day reserved for putting on socks.

Planning every minute in advance makes no sense. It makes you even more time-anxious.

What belongs in your calendar are doctor’s appointments, deadlines, meetings, exams. Things you can’t risk forgetting and things that have a fixed date. Everything else comes down to your own preferences.

2. Set Clear Priorities

It’s tough to decide what needs to be done right away and what I can do later. I use a system called the Eisenhower Matrix. Here’s how it works.

Put down all your tasks and activities. All you need to do is match each task and activity to one of the following categories:

  • Important and urgent–do it now
  • Not important but urgent–have someone else if possible
  • Important but not urgent–find a time to do it
  • Not important and not urgent–delete it from your list

Next, color-code each category (red for important and urgent, yellow for not important but urgent, and so on).

The last thing you should do is open up your calendar (Google Calendar is just fine) and put together your schedule.  

3. Keep it Simple  

If you’re more into simple to-do lists, put down things that matter to you. Three achievable goals a day are a good start.

It’s not about crossing off as many tasks as possible. It’s about finding a system that works for you.

When you have a major assignment or project coming up, break it down.

Try putting similar tasks into easy-to-understand groups.

Make a list of action steps and arrange them into a logical timeline.

4. Make Time by Taking it Easy  

This part is what I had the most trouble with. Anytime I’d have some free time just for myself, I felt like I had to do something productive.

Being a workaholic is so exhausting. It took me quite some time to realize that sometimes the best way to have more time is to waste it.

Take a breath, slow down. Sleep in on those rare days you can allow yourself such pleasure. Say “no” to things you don’t feel like doing.

We all need to be lazy from time to time.

It Is What It Is  

Our hunger for the time comes from our own expectations and social norms. But the time we have is the amount we have been given. It’s just how it is. Still, that amount should be enough. It’s up to us to figure out who and what deserves our time and attention.

Yes, there is a ton of laundry waiting for you. But no, the world will not end if you spend 45 minutes scrolling Instagram. Otherwise, you’d spend reading pointless Twitter threads.

I need a nap after writing this. See you again. In good time.


Cover image: by Denny Müller on Unsplash