As the world becomes increasingly obsessed with efficiency and productivity, a curious phenomenon has emerged: time poverty. Even though technology and conveniences save us time, we still feel stretched thin. After all, we’re bogged down by overflowing inboxes, endless to-do lists, personal obligations, and that constant pressure to do more with less time.

So, let’s explore time poverty, its causes, and, most importantly, strategies for reclaiming control of your most precious resource—time.

What is Time Poverty?

As a result of various demands on one’s time, one may experience “time poverty.” This occurs when one cannot fulfill responsibilities, pursue interests, or engage in activities that contribute to their well-being.

“Time poverty” is also characterized by a feeling of being overwhelmed by the perpetual feeling of being rushed or under pressure. Although they have objectively enough time, competing obligations can exhaust them and leave them feeling powerless over their own lives. As a result, people are discouraged from making the most of their time positively or efficiently.

Moreover, “time poverty” has been on the rise for some time. This should be a concern since many people constantly feel ‘time poor’, which negatively impacts well-being, health, and productivity.

In addition, research shows that it can cause higher levels of stress, burnout, self-neglect, income poverty, poorer food choices, lack of exercise, as well as an inability to participate fully in meaningful activities.

The Causes of Time Poverty

So, what’s behind time poverty? Two main factors are at play: external and internal.

External factors.

  • The “always on” culture. Technology has blurred the line between work and personal life. A constant stream of notifications, emails, and notifications makes it hard to disconnect and recharge.
  • The glorification of busyness. In modern society, busyness is often equated with productivity and success. As a result of overflowing schedules, there is constant pressure to do more and a fear of missing out (FOMO).
  • Increased work demands. As a result of globalization and technological change, the workplace has become more demanding. We are often under constant pressure to stay connected, which leads to longer working hours and blurry lines between work and personal time.
  • Commuting and long hours. Long commutes and long workdays eat into our free time, making spending time with family, friends, and hobbies hard.
  • Shifting family dynamics. Families with dual incomes, single parents, and increased expectations for parental involvement in children’s activities can feel time-pressed.
  • Information overload. Social media, news outlets, and entertainment constantly bombard us with information, leading to a sense of staying current, further fragmenting our attention.

Internal factors.

  • How we perceive time. Some people view time as a scarce resource that is constantly running out, while others view it as more abundant and flexible.
  • Your priorities and values. What is most important to you? Do you prioritize your family, work, and leisure? Spending time on these areas depends on how you prioritize them.
  • The habits and routines that we have. A structured routine helps manage time more effectively, whereas a chaotic schedule leads to wasted time.

The Impact of Time Poverty

Our well-being is affected in several ways when we feel constantly time-poor:

  • Stress and anxiety. Chronic stress and anxiety can result from constantly meeting deadlines and fulfilling obligations.
  • Burnout. Burnout occurs when people feel emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted as a result of being overwhelmed with tasks.
  • Strained relationships. Our relationships with family and friends can suffer when we are constantly pressed for time.
  • Neglecting self-care. The lack of time to exercise, eat healthily, or relax often leads to ignoring our physical and mental health.
  • Reduced productivity. As a result of feeling constantly rushed, we become overwhelmed and make more errors, leading to decreased productivity.

Beyond Burnout: The Hidden Costs of Time Poverty for Businesses

Stressful or disengaged employees certainly negatively impact morale, but the impact goes much deeper. Here are some ways that time poverty quietly erodes a company’s success.

  • Lost productivity and revenue. Continually juggling tasks leaves us with little time to focus on our work. As a result, deadlines are missed, errors are made, and rework is needed, ultimately hindering progress and impacting your bottom line.
  • Innovation is put on hold. When employees are overwhelmed with daily tasks, they do not have time to brainstorm or explore new ideas. This inhibits their ability to stay on top of the game, which stifles creativity and innovation.
  • A revolving door of talent. Employee dissatisfaction and high turnover rates can result from feeling constantly overwhelmed. The results are more time and resources spent on recruitment and training, which further impacts the efficiency of your business.

The ripple effect on your bottom line.

Many consequences of a time-poor workforce go far beyond the individual employee. The following are some ways it hurts your business:

  • Lost revenue. Teams that are demotivated and stressed are unlikely to perform at their best. Lost sales and missed opportunities are directly correlated with reduced productivity.
  • Reputational damage. It reflects poorly on your brand when time poverty leads to sloppy work or missed deadlines. As a result, trust takes a nosedive, and customers become dissatisfied.
  • Falling behind the curve. To remain competitive, you need to innovate. The problem is that time-poor people don’t have the time to explore new ideas if you do not keep up with the times, your business risks falling behind.

Breaking Free from Time Poverty

Adding more hours to a day won’t solve the problem of time poverty. After all, that’s just not possible. The key is becoming more intentional with our use of time. Here are some strategies to help you take back control.

Identify your time thieves.

For a few days, track your time to find out what activities consume the most of it. Be honest about your social media scrolling, unproductive meetings, and frivolous activities.

In other words, by conducting a time audit, you can have a better picture of where you might be wasting time doing non-essential tasks.

Prioritize ruthlessly.

It is important to remember that not all tasks are created equal. As such, you need to be able to distinguish between urgent and important tasks and focus your energy on the latter.

It can be challenging to prioritize, so you can use techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix to help.

Set boundaries.

It’s okay to say no to requests that do not align with your priorities or that feel like they are stretching you too thin. That can be awkward for some people. Boundaries, can help you maintain a healthy working relationship with your colleagues and keep your time, energy, and ethics intact.

Similar tasks can be grouped together.

The concept of multitasking is often a myth. It is best to group similar tasks, such as emails and phone calls, to focus attention and reduce context switching.

Schedule “me time.”

Self-care isn’t a luxury. Don’t forget to schedule time for activities that will bring you joy and rejuvenate you. Exercise, reading, spending time in nature, or pursuing a hobby can all fit into this category.

Embrace automation.

Leverage technology to your advantage in your personal and professional lives. If you use tools for scheduling, automatic bill payments, and grocery delivery, you’ll have more time for more meaningful activities.

Don’t know where to start when it comes to automation? Check out these 15 AI tools for productivity.

Delegate and outsource.

Despite your thoughts, you do not have to do everything yourself. If possible, delegate tasks to colleagues or family members.

You may also want to consider outsourcing tasks that aren’t your strong suit or that someone else can handle more efficiently.

Get comfortable with “enough.”

Change your mindset to one of abundance rather than scarcity. In other words, think about what you can accomplish with your limited time rather than what you can’t.

Embrace minimalism.

By getting rid of clutter, minimizing commitments, and avoiding unnecessary purchases, you can simplify your life. The less stuff you have and the fewer obligations you have, the more time you have.

Learn to disconnect.

Dealing with the constant barrage of notifications can be incredibly time-consuming. As a result, it’s essential to make time to disconnect from technology. You might want to turn off your notifications and silence your phone when you are focusing on a deadline or having dinner with the family.

Be present.

No matter what you’re working on, focus on the task at hand and avoid distractions. Doing this makes you more productive and less likely to feel rushed.

Also, being present can enhance leaders’ effectiveness and impact their teams.

What employers can do to break the cycle?

Even though time poverty is often a personal goal, there are ways to become a time-rich employer as well.

  • Communicate effectively. When leadership communicates clearly, misunderstandings and wasted time can be avoided.
  • Streamline workflows. You should identify and eliminate the tasks and processes bogging your team down.
  • Prioritize well-being. The happier and healthier the team, the more productive it will be. As such, offer stress management resources, promote work-life balance, and encourage breaks.
  • Empower your team. Let your employees make decisions and take ownership of their work. This will reduce micromanagement and free up valuable time.

You’re not just investing in your employees’ well-being when you recognize the hidden costs of time poverty and take proactive steps to address it; you’re also investing in your business’s future.


What is time poverty?

Time poverty refers to having too much to do and insufficient time to complete it all. It’s the subjective experience of not having enough leisure time, leisure activities, and hobbies beyond basic needs and obligations.

Who experiences time poverty?

Anyone can suffer from time poverty, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Working parents, students juggling work and school, and even busy professionals can suffer from time pressure.

This problem may be especially acute for those without the resources to outsource tasks or whose schedules are inflexible.

What is the relationship between time poverty and overall well-being?

Time constraints make us less productive. It has been shown that people who feel time-poor are less healthy, states Cassie Holmes, a professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management and author of Happier Hour. As a result of feeling pressed for time, we spend less time exercising, go to the doctor later, or eat unhealthy food.

Moreover, we are less likely to help others when we feel busy. As a result, we become less confident that we can accomplish what we set out to do. “I also have data that show that when people feel that they don’t have enough time to do what they need to and want to do, they experience less happiness and less life satisfaction,” adds Holmes.

How can I overcome time poverty?

You can take steps to feel less overwhelmed and manage your time more effectively.

To start, you may need to set priorities, delegate tasks, and learn to say no to commitments that drain your energy. You can also use time management techniques to maximize your working hours.

Image Credit: Eugene Shelestov; Pexels