Economy,  Productivity,  Work

Are you creating an illusion about your lack of time?

2 Minute Read -

It’s that time of the year again. You’re rested, motivated, and ready to take on the world. I am sure you also have a few New Year’s resolutions jotted down next to the plans you have for taking over the world! But, I am going to urge you to take 2 minutes or so, to re-look those plans and decide whether everything you have planned is really necessary.

While doing some work on the concept of leisure time, I recently came across a journal article about the ‘Time-Pressure Illusion’. Robert Goodin and a few other authors wrote the following about the time-pressure illusion:

They work longer than necessary merely to escape poverty, they spend more time in unpaid household labour and personal care than strictly necessary to keep themselves and their households up to minimally acceptable standards. That is to say, they choose [my emphasis] to spend some of their discretionary time1 in these ways: and there is no reason they should not do so.

Goodin, R. E., Rice, J. M., Bittman, M., & Saunders, P. (2005). The Time-Pressure Illusion: Discretionary Time vs. Free Time. Social Indicators Research, 73(1), 43–70.

The authors make a point in the article about how ‘they’ 👀 do more than what they need to, to live fruitful, fulfilling, and poverty-free lives. Does it sound like ‘they’ are you? The answer is probably ‘yes’, because ‘they’ are most of us! In fact, the authors find that people who genuinely tend not to have enough time (or suffer from time poverty) are single parents, and people who think they don’t have enough time (i.e., those who suffer from the illusion of time poverty) tend to be dual-earner couples.

So, my question to you, as you ponder those resolutions and plans you have jotted down for the year, is how much is too much? Is it really necessary to reach all those goals that you jotted down for the year, or will 2 out of the 5 be sufficient? Will you have enough time for the stuff that matters if you pursue all of them? When I talk about the stuff that matters, I’m talking about the things you’ll be thinking about when you’re on your deathbed. No one, for instance, asks to see their degree certificates or letters of promotion just one last time when they’re on their deathbed. They ask to see their loved ones, their children, cherished friends, and others whom they deeply care about. Do the plans that you have jotted down for the year involve any of these people? Okay, you don’t have to answer now. But do take some time to think about it!

Sometimes, we become so absorbed by our goals and professional aspirations that we forget why we wanted to do these things in the first place. We also tend to forget that there is more to life. There are people and other experiences, but we have to make time for it! Time is a finite resource and a non-renewable one too!

As you re-look your planning, I urge you to read a blog post I wrote last year (around this time) about the value of your time. You may find that some of your plans require revision. If you realise that your plans are a bit short-sighted, don’t stress, you know what they say: rather late than never!

  1. Discretionary time can be thought of as the time you have available after having done everything reasonably necessary to continue a functioning existence in society, like paid work (the work you do in your job), unpaid work (cooking, cleaning, laundry, usually performed in the home) and time spend in self-care (sleeping, eating, bathing). Outside of these ‘necessary’ activities, lies your discretionary time. ↩︎

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