Understanding Time Poverty
Since the pandemic first made its appearance in 2020, it brought with it several changes. Some of these changes have now become the new normal. These changes have disrupted the work-life equations for almost all working professionals.
It is important to understand time poverty and its impact on people. In this changing work environment, time pressures are ever-increasing. It is making it difficult for both men and women to integrate work and home life.
The usual 9 am to 5 pm jobs are no longer so ,but stretch beyond and creep into people’s personal time. There are no defined boundaries. Technology has made it possible for all professionals to be available anytime, anywhere and everywhere.
The downside of this is that many of us assume that we can take on more work than we can complete during working hours. For some, it is their only hope of proving to their seniors and bosses that they are working very hard. Bosses are under pressure to deliver and do not realize the impact of such actions on the wellbeing and health of their team members.
Many of my coaching clients have effective time management as their goal. They even work on action plans to manage their time. The euphoria of acting on the planned steps does not last more than a week. No sooner does a high priority job or an urgent task hits them, and if something interesting to do catches their fancy, the time management action plan is forgotten. The intense desire to win at all costs and compete for work or promotions and the need for that sense of accomplishment drives them to work crazy hours. They are money-rich and time-poor.
What Is time poverty?
Time poverty is the experience of having too much to do and not enough time to complete everything in a day. It is impacting both men and women alike. Whether you are a working professional, a businessman, managing time poverty has become a big challenge. Time is a limited commodity for everyone. Many people spend their lives achieving success at the expense of more valuable things, like health and relationships. Time poverty affects everyone across all cultures and economic strata. The problem of time poverty is more acute in professional women. It’s because they have to manage their professional responsibilities besides their housework. Getting the correct work-life balance has never been easy for women.
Drivers of Time Poverty
The internet, mobile technology, social media have provided people opportunities. They get to experience and do many jobs in a single lifetime. The fear of missing out and the stress caused due to it increases the feeling of time poverty, as reported in the article published by Research Gate.
As professionals, we tend to say “yes” to any extra work. It could be at times to help your team, the boss or a colleague. Human nature is collaborative. It may also serve to expand opportunities. But by saying “yes” to everything, you are adding a task to an already full plate. Instead, it would be prudent to use the filter of your strategic priorities and say “No” to a job that does not align with your priorities.
The urgency addiction is another reason for time poverty. To prevent missing deadlines, artificial urgency is created. While this may help reduce the chances of missing deadlines, it invites burnout. As per the 2020 O.C. Tanner Global Culture Report,79% of all employees suffer from mild to severe burnout.
During covid, there has been an uptick in messaging tools and the volume of messages. Every message takes time to read and respond to. These interactions result in decreased focus time, thereby contributing to time poverty. Time spent doing collaborative work, attending meetings has skyrocketed.
Consequences of Time Poverty
We don’t have superpowers to make us impervious to fatigue. We need to be realistic about what we can achieve in a day.
Unmanageable workloads lead to burnout, lack of motivation, exhaustion, loss of productivity and irritability. People starved for time will fail to function properly at work and remain stressed. Continuous stress can lead to anxiety and depression, causing mental health issues.
How to overcome time poverty and become more productive
Overcoming time poverty is crucial to becoming successful in your career. A few things that can help are as follows,
· To be more productive at work or home, identify your distractions. There are several distractions like social media, emails, messaging applications, to name a few. They contribute to weaning away your focus from work.
· Build the ability to say “No”. It is essential to acknowledge that you cannot do everything. It will leave you time-starved and deplete all energy. Instead, focus on tasks and opportunities that align with your priority and goals.
· Use the Covey time management matrix to better organize your priorities in your personal and professional life. It helps you to rank tasks in relation to their importance and urgency. Using the four quadrants to understand the priority of a task was introduced by Stephen Covey, author of the book “Seven habits of highly effective people”.
· Remember we have only 24 hours in a day. How and where you spend it will decide if you are time poor or time rich. It will also decide how enjoyable and successful your life is.
“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator”. -Robert Orben