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Overcoming “Time Poverty” (Even If Think You Don’t Have Time)

The days may be getting shorter, but that isn’t a reason to feel “time poor.”

Are you time poor?

Time poverty is defined as the lack of available time for pursuing discretionary activities. And yet, after work and household chores are done, many Americans feel like they don’t have any time remaining to do things that contribute to their social, economic and personal well-being. Weren’t all these productivity tools supposed to give us our time back?

In fact, a recent study found that the average American has more than five hours of daily free time. And still, where does the free time go? Screens. Screens. And more screens.

Americans report they spend most of that time looking at screens (televisions, phones or other devices) with no gender or economic group spending even 7% of their free time on physical activity.

“Americans Have More Free Time Than Generally Recognized; Study Suggests Lack of Leisure Time Is Not a Barrier to Physical Activity” – RAND Corporation study

The irony! It’s precisely our relationship with technology that creates this feeling of being time poor. All of our connected devices and smartphones (purported to give us time back) have created “time confetti — fragmenting our leisure into small distracted minutes of free time that are easily squandered and lost,” writes Ashley Williams, author of Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life.

And all these feelings of time poverty have a direct impact on our health, happiness, and relationships.

What’s the solution?

“Make decisions that allow you to have more free time — even if it comes at the expense of working and making more money,” writes Williams.

For starters, consider your screen time alone. iPhone users can quickly and easily track the amount of time spent staring at their phones. One study in 2019 found that Americans pick up their phone 96 times a day (a 20% increase from a study two years prior). Could that time be spent doing something else? Time is our most valuable resource—more than money. And yet we build our lives in service of one (money) at the expense of another (time).

Wealth of time or money are both a function of management. Those who manage their money, typically have more of it. Same with time.

The time-rich among us make small simple decisions in their everyday lives that allow them to have more and better time. For one thing, they prioritize time over money. No matter how much money they make, they are willing to give up some of it in order to have more and better time.

So Much to Do, So Little Time: Living With Time Poverty Ashley Whillans

If you still feel like you don’t have time—especially as those days get shorter—consider taking advantage of the darkness. It’s an opportunity to stargaze with your children in the backyard, do activities or play games outside (a fun way to rethink play with your children). Once again, instead of seeing obstacles to free time (it’s dark early), see them as opportunities!

If you want to find ways to create time in your schedule toward achieving your fitness goals, schedule an appointment with Dr. Sonja Stilp.

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