Time Poverty Is Half Of The Issue

An article in the Economist entitled, "Why Is Everyone So Busy?" got my attention with the term "Time Poverty." The word "poverty" is one I don't use often because I most often think of those "living in poverty." Listening to my mother and father talk about growing up during the Depression is what I think of when I hear the word poverty. Seeing the conditions that many in the world live in is my visual of the word. So, I wasn't completely comfortable when I began learning more about this term, "Time Poverty."

Then I had to remind myself that the word poverty, according to Merriam Webster, means "scarcity or dearth of something." I can work with that. However, I was still a little perplexed because unlike financial or food poverty, we are all provided with the same amount of time each day. So, I googled time poverty to get a better understanding of the phrase. Turns out that it has its origins way back in the 20th century to describe individuals who were financially wealthy but had little leisure time. Now we're getting to the bigger issue.

When we speak of time poverty, I think we are really saying that there is a scarcity of something we want in our work or life. In many cases, it's not that there isn't sufficient time; the challenge is that we have made (and continue to make) other choices with that time. Maybe I'm still stuck on my original thoughts about poverty. If someone is living in poverty, they do not have the money or food to sustain life at a certain level. When it comes to time, we all have the same amount; it's just how we use it that makes the difference. Granted, some people have control over more of their time than others.

I bring this up because I think to accurately solve any issue you have to correctly identify it first. To simply say you are suffering from "Time Poverty" doesn't address the full challenge you're facing and seeks answers in trying to find more time... which there isn't. A more comprehensive approach is to specifically identify where you are sensing a scarcity as it relates to your daily activities or desired goals. Some examples might include:

  • Focus poverty
  • Time with family poverty
  • Personal time poverty
  • Professional growth poverty
  • Creativity poverty
  • Sleep poverty

Once you have identified your specific poverty you can take any number of specific actions to address the area. They include:

Evaluate your current choices of how you are using your time. Where could you spend less time on something to give you more time for the area of scarcity?

Revisit your priorities. Because of limited time resources we have to make choices about where we want to excel and where we are willing to fail, or at least not be the best.

Determine if this is a short term or long term poverty situation. As I wrote about in my article, When A Lack Of Balance Is Okay, there are times when we have to expend more resources in one area than another. A work assignment that creates "personal time poverty" for a few weeks is one thing. Work requirements that have been creating this type of poverty for a year are yet another.

In all the articles and blogs I read about time poverty, I found a strikingly similar solution in all of them: Start where you are. Like most people living in the "other" type of poverty, there is nothing that can be done about the past, and they don't know what the future holds. Our greatest opportunity lies in what we do in the next moment to improve our impoverished situation... whatever that poverty may be.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

-Asian Proverb