Time Poverty Is Here and it's Quite Damaging

Time poverty is here to stay. Work schedules and the way society operates lead to an endemic lack of quality of life, leisure time, and connection with the people you love.
Time Poverty Is Here and it's Quite Damaging
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Time poverty refers to the lack of time that leads to gradual and visible emotional pain. The white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland who runs with a watch and repeats, “I’m late, I’m late, I’m late” repeatedly is a great example of this. That feeling that you don’t have enough time to do what you want is a constant in most people’s lives.

Are you subordinated to your duties, a strict routine, never-ending tasks, and the unspeakable? Then you already know the limits it puts on your well-being and personal growth. People are often focused on one type of reality that they don’t even notice their surroundings. They’re missing out because there are more doors, worlds, and opportunities. Time isn’t gold, it’s a part of your life and you’re often giving it up for the benefit of others.

You lose your health due to the endemic shortage of rest, satisfaction, and psychological well-being inscribed in moments of leisure. In addition, you lose existential quota because the years go by so fast and take away your dreams. You’ll no longer be able to experience things on your own skin. Most importantly, you miss sharing moments with those you love.

A person looking at their watch.

Time poverty due to lack of time is a thing

Who hasn’t heard at some point or another that there’s no such thing as lack of time, only a lack of interest? It’s true that it might be the case sometimes. However, the current scenario is as complex as it is problematic. It’s also worthwhile to dwell on. First of all, modern societies think that being busy means being productive.

People learn and subscribe to this concept early on and truly believe that occupying their day with multiple tasks dignifies them. They believe that the more things they do, the better person they are. They also warn you about idleness and claim that those who allow themselves to rest are in fact avoiding responsibilities. All these ideas have undermined human physical and psychological health for years.

However, another factor has been added in recent times: that working conditions have become more complex. Teleworking is an example of this. This type of work still lacks adequate regulation and subjects the average person to high overload situations. Mainly because schedules dilute and extend beyond the stipulated working hours.

Add family and household responsibilities to it and time poverty is an overwhelming fact.

The feeling of guilt

People spend a large part of their waking hours working. Then, they use any remaining time to take care of any unavoidable obligations such as shopping, taking care of the children, and fulfilling any other essential tasks. After all this, they’re left with nothing but fatigue and an overbearing desire to go to bed and rest.

Repeat this dynamic day after day and the feeling of guilt inevitably arises. Guilt for not being there for and spending more time with your loved ones as you’d like. You may also project this feeling towards yourself.

You regret your lack of time to do what identifies you and postpone it. Unfortunately, it undermines your self-esteem and mood.

Social networks and the lives you’d like to have

Lack of time and its relationship with psychological distress intensifies with the use of technologies. People will always find a moment to browse their social networks, even when they’re always busy and have a whole list of tasks to complete.

Everyone seems to be happy in virtual universes. They’re full of images of the places you’d like to visit, experiences you’d like to try, things you’d like to discover, people you’d like to hang out with… These virtual windows can be motivating but bring you down most of the time. This is because it isn’t your reality, as your duties don’t always allow one of those opportunities.

Lack of time equals time poverty

You may have an excellent job and a good salary and yet you’re poor. This is because this type of poverty is emotional and personal. A psychological misery deeply rooted in today’s society. Think about it, a large bank account is of no use to you if you lack the time to enjoy it and use it to rest and to relate to others.

Lack of time takes away your happiness but mainly your life. Consider, for example, the term karoshi, a Japanese word for people who die as a result of overwork. Beware, as not all of these deaths are the result of heart attacks or strokes, a consequence of burnout. Many of said losses are, in fact, due to suicide.

A distressed man.

How to lead a life rich in time

Lack of time takes a toll on mental health and requires change. The complex part is that you aren’t always in charge of everything. The way in which society and schedules are articulated doesn’t always allow people to reconcile work with their personal lives.

Research work such as that conducted by Dr. Therese Macan of the University of Missouri points out that time management strategies aren’t always useful in these contexts. They may help you release some stress but job burnout will still be present.

It’s true that everyone needs to seriously reformulate their lifestyle. However, you can reflect on some of these ideas:

  • Differentiate between what’s urgent and what’s important.
  • Try to organize your day as soon as you get up and schedule times for leisure and rest in your agenda. You must have one or two hours at least to do anything you like (or do nothing at all).
  • Learn to delegate responsibilities.
  • Spend time with your family and friends during the week.

To conclude, reflect on this idea: lack of time equals time poverty and this type of emotional and existential misery progressively takes away your life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Macan, T. H. (1994). Time Management: Test of a Process Model. Journal of Applied Psychology79(3), 381–391. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.79.3.381
  • Rimmer AbiHow do I improve my time management skills? 

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.