Stop complaining about ‘poverty of time’

Saad Dosari

By: Saad Dosari

If I had a riyal for every time I heard someone complaining about lack of time, I might be a millionaire right now, giving the next complainer a Bentley or something!

“I wish I had time to do this or that,” “Is there anyway to make the day a bit longer, 24 hours are not enough anymore?” “I am going to ask for a deadline extension, I am short on time,” these are the common phrases that we use, or hear people around us repeating in various formats. They all revolve around time, the only thing that we have, and it is irreplaceable; when it goes, it goes forever, we cannot stop the watch, we cannot retrieve a lost second, and we cannot travel back in time no matter how interesting the idea might seem after decades of reading sci-fi novels.

However, if we exercised the tiniest bit of efforts in logical deduction, we would find that time has nothing to do with our misfortunes, with our accumulated tasks, and lost deadlines. To begin with, we all have the exact same amount of it — regardless of the calculations of life and death; it is prescience no mortal can claim to posses. If you give three individuals a week to write a 1,000-word story about Mona Lisa, then you gave the three of them the same amount of time to do the job. How they are going to utilize that time is what would set them apart; one of them will be producing a draft for a review in three days and would produce the final piece before the deadline, the second one will be asking for an extension on the sixth day of the week, and you would be lucky if you ever heard from the third!

It is our decisions, our choices, our sense of time, and ability to manage it that makes all the difference. Life would never stop giving us more tasks and deadlines; errands to make, family obligations to meet, social links to maintain, and work tasks to complete, it is us who are responsible about how to invest in the time available between our hands to juggle all these responsibilities.

Maria Konnikova, in her article “No Money, No Time” in the New York Times, makes a very interesting argument about, what she calls, the poverty of time. “When we think of poverty, we tend to think about money in isolation: How much does she earn? Is that above or below the poverty line? But the financial part of the equation may not be the single most important factor,” she argues.

She quotes Sendhil Mullainathan, an economist at Harvard who co-authored the book “Scarcity,” who said, “There are three types of poverty: There’s money poverty, there’s time poverty, and there’s bandwidth poverty.” The first one is the well known kind of poverty and it is the one usually associated with the word, and the time poverty is the feelings of time shortage and the pile up of unfinished tasks and deadlines, and the bandwidth poverty if the mental ability to focus and to do the job at hands.

The book describes how these three elements interact and affect each other; for example, If you do not have enough money, your attention span will be overburdened by trying to figure out how to meet your immediate expenses leaving little time for you to sort out other priorities and to use your time efficiently, while if you organized your time well, you could focus on the job at hands, which could be producing some monetary rewards.

“Under scarcity, you devote a lot of resources to the thing you’re lacking,” says Eldar Shafir, a psychologist at Princeton and the co-author of “Scarcity.” “When people are juggling time, they are doing something very similar to when they’re juggling finances. It is all scarcity juggling. You borrow from tomorrow, and tomorrow you have less time than you have today, and tomorrow becomes more costly. It’s a very costly loan.”

The bottom line is that we may need to rethink our perception of time; how to keep it, how to manage it, and how to invest in it. If there were a common denominator between success stories, it would be the good management of time. Scrutinize your daily schedule, the hours in front of the TV, the hours spent in gossips and tea and coffee are all lost, unrecovered, and then, you might stop complaining abut scarcity of time.




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