Not Enough Hours in the Day

In 2002 the marketing consultant Bill Geist invented a new phrase: time poverty.

Time poverty is the sense of not having enough available time to do everything you want, of constantly rushing to meet looming deadlines, and being overloaded with things to do, coupled with a general anxiety and guilt because you know you’re always too busy, and aren’t spending enough time with your friends and family, exercising, relaxing or even enjoying yourself.

Sound familiar ?

Do you remember that new technology was meant to make us more efficient and give us all more free time. Instead somehow we’ve shifted our expectations, and the constant ability to do work and endless opportunities and choices available to us have made us strive to do even more, over scheduling our lives as a result. We take work home, we run from one appointment to the next – always late, we try to cram more and more into every moment – multi-tasking ruthlessly. Yet whatever we’re doing, part of our brain always seems to be contemplating whatever it is we’re not doing.

We belong to the most productive and efficient civilization the world has ever seen – but many of us are simply struggling to juggle all the things we feel we should be doing in our lives. It’s easy to find news stories like children being too busy to playvoters too busy to voteChristians too busy to pray, or nurses too busy to nurse.

In the rich world most of us don’t have to face the harsh realities of extreme poverty that exist for many in the poor world – our fundamental material needs of food, clean water and shelter are generally met. Nevertheless our societies struggle to be happy, with poor diets, increasing levels of obesity and diabetes, stress and exhaustion, sleep disorders, guilt, depression, isolation, alcoholism and other addictions – the so called diseases of affluence. In addition our families, our social institutions and our community cohesion is suffering as we simply struggle to find enough time to engage. Even if we find the time, we all too often can’t summon up the energy!

Of course this is a problem entirely of our own making – we’ve chosen to lead such busy lives.

Time is not a resource – we all have the same amount available. We cannot spend it, save it, use it or waste it. To quote Douglas Adams; “time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so”.

Paradoxically the oft quoted solution to the problem of time poverty – becoming more efficient, having more lists, being better organised, using the latest technology more effectively, not only doesn’t work, but actually adds to our sense of time pressure! Completing tasks in as short as time as possible is obviously a worthy objective, but if we tend to simply refill our to do lists with more tasks as a result, we’ve simply maintained or increased the pressure on ourselves.

It’s obviously easier to say it than do it, but to overcome the stresses of time poverty we must simply do less and reclaim more of our time from our ‘to-do’ lists.

One way to start is by making a don’t-do-list – to identify and challenge all the things you’re currently doing, with the aim of de-cluttering your life. Only keep what you’re passionate about – or what is so essential to your life it’s not negotiable (and very few things are).

A few ideas:

  • Delegate or pass-on as much as you can, and then ‘let go’ the responsibility for it,
  • Stop trying to make everything perfect,
  • Stop doing things that used to be a good idea if they no longer are,
  • Stop doing things you are doing only through pride, insecurity, status anxiety, guilt or habit,
  • Stop spending time processing ‘junk inputs’, use filters to remove unwanted emails, post, phone calls, texts and social media messages, don’t watch TV programmes just because they’re on,
  • Stop procrastinating, just focus on completing the task in hand. Actively remove distractions to help increase your concentration (like closing down Facebook, Twitter etc open on your browser),
  • Stop rerunning past events, or pointlessly worrying about things in the future you can’t control.

Once again Zen Habits has some good advice.

For inspiration watch the video on the left – if you just want a laugh watch the one on the right.


RELATED ARTICLES – Time Management Doesn’t Exist

Photo by deflam, via Flickr

Time Management Doesn’t Exist

Unless you’re Doctor Who, it’s impossible to manage time.

Give up trying and manage your life instead.


When we talk about trying to ‘find time’ for something, what we mean is craming even more into our already full and over-busy lives. If we want to make better choices in our lives, about diet and exercise, how we relax and enjoy ourselves or how we spend our money, then we will help ourselves if we stop filling every minute of every day with more ‘stuff to do’.

Relaxed and stress free people are less selfish, less angry, more generous, more considerate and more connected with others. Taking on more and more ‘to do’s', squeezes out other things from our lives, time for: reflection, imagination, inspiration, relaxation, fun, and if we’re not careful even sleep! We might not even notice ourselves loosing these things at first, until we suddenly think one day – when was the last time I played my guitar?, spent time just playing with my children?, or simply daydreamed while watching the clouds?

Most time management books and courses focus on using time more and more efficiently, so you can get more and more done. Why ? Is the purpose of your life just to do as many things as possible ?

Swim against the tide a little – slow down and do less !


Life is complicated and sometimes difficult, but every day is filled with new possibility. We can change our direction and rhythm – our tomorrows needn’t be always dictated by our yesterdays. Many people drift into depression gradually, becoming trapped by routine, stuck-in-their-ruts, and loose touch with all the enjoyable parts of life. The key thing is to realise that you can make things different.

Even the act of mentally deciding to take control and direct your life can be tremendously liberating and empowering. Give yourself permission to change your life and you’ll feel better as a result.

Avoid the temptation to blame chance, events, or others – of course things go wrong and bad stuff happens, but how we choose to react is up to us.


Imagine yourself at the end of your life, looking back – what do you think will seem important ? What would you like to have achieved ? What would you like your relationships to have been like ? What kind of person would you like to have been ?

How can you live your life so that you will get to that point ? Having a sense of clear vision for your life will help prevent the feeling of ennui and being adrift in the world.

We’re all different. Take time to consider what the most important things in your life are, and what you want to spend the rest of your time doing. Identify some key goals and objectives to work towards.


But life isn’t that simple – one of the contradictory things about it seems to be, that although it’s important to have goals and objectives to strive towards (no matter how modest), to give life a sense of purpose. Much of the joy and happiness in life comes not from achieving goals, but from the process of working towards them.

Very often we can become so focussed on reaching our objectives, that we forget to appreciate the journey.

And ultimately our whole life is ‘journey’.


Three different videos – for whether you’re feeling in need of inspiration, spirituality or poetry !

The Power of Time Off               Shells                                         The Road Not Taken

Stefan Sagmeister                      Rob Bell                                     Robert Frost

Photo by Shining Darkness