Is time poverty affecting your team?
We’ve all heard the adage, “time is money.” And when there’s a lack of it — well, that’s called time poverty. Time poverty, the feeling of having too many tasks and too little time to complete them, is an experience that can happen on the individual and team level. It affects productivity, performance, and well-being — and experts say it affects women at disproportionate rates. Whether you’re a manager or a team member, it’s important to understand time poverty in case it ever affects your team.
In this quick guide, you’ll learn:
- What time poverty is and why it matters
- How to identify time poverty in teams
- Strategies and tools for overcoming time poverty
What does “time poor” mean for teams?
Experts define time poverty as the chronic feeling of having too many tasks and not enough time to do them. Sound familiar? Time poverty infringes mostly on our discretionary time, meaning we sacrifice hobbies, downtime, and other “non-essential” activities in the name of our to-do list.
The pandemic heightened this feeling of being time poor. In fact, a 2021 study from the Harvard Business Review found that the amount of time employees spent in meetings went up 13%, with 56% of employees reporting feeling that their work demands had increased. Additionally, the average workday had extended an extra 48 minutes compared to pre-pandemic numbers. Two years later, while our global circumstances may have changed, the same issues that led to time poverty remain.
What this means for teams is that they have to work harder to keep up with the demands of their jobs and the expectations of their managers. And for managers, it means that they have to work overtime to ensure their teams are productive and effective while also ensuring they have the time to be effective themselves. Both situations lead to burnout and frustration, which leads to performance, engagement, and retention issues.
Signs of poor time management
As always, awareness is the first step. Here are a few signs that suggest your team might be need more support in the area of time management:
- Procrastination: Opting to do the easiest tasks instead of the most important tasks, or putting off the most important tasks until the last minute, are both signs of procrastination.
- Missing deadlines: When things get overwhelming, people tend to let deadlines slip. If you or someone else are missing deadlines on a consistent basis, it may be a sign of time poverty.
- Racking up overtime hours: Constantly working extra hours can lead to burnout and impact mental health and well-being.
- Errors and inconsistencies: Making mistakes at work is a normal part of being human. However, when you make mistakes repeatedly, or your work is inconsistent, you may need to take a deeper look as to why. Multitasking, distractions such as social media and unnecessary phone notifications, and poor planning can all contribute to poor time management.
Time Management Strategies
All is not lost. By implementing a few simple time management tips and strategies, managers and employees can work together to overcome time poverty at work, create more sustainable work environments, and find greater work-life balance.
Strategy #1: Prioritizing tasks
When it comes to managing time, it's important to understand that not all tasks are created equal. While some tasks may be very important, they may not be as urgent or time sensitive as others. To give yourself enough time to complete your most important tasks while also maximizing your productivity, prioritize tasks from most to least important. By organizing tasks into a ranking system, you can easily identify what's most important and what can wait.
Strategy #2: Creating routines
It can be hard to get into the flow of work when you're constantly moving from one task to another. To help improve your productivity and reduce the amount of time spent managing your work, create routines that allow you to focus on one task at a time. For example, if you know that you're most productive in the morning, set aside time to complete your most important tasks before you begin your day. Similarly, if you're more productive after lunch, schedule your tasks accordingly. Working through your toughest tasks at peak productivity times can help you achieve more in less time.
Strategy #3: Automating tasks
Another great way to become more time rich and better tackle work tasks is to automate them. While it may seem counterintuitive to spend time automating tasks when you're trying to free up more time, automating your work can actually help you become more efficient and productive in the long run. This is because you can use the time you used to spend on repetitive tasks to focus on more important, value-adding work.
Strategy #4: Time blocking & tracking time
Two pillars of effective time management, time blocking and time tracking, are critical to overcoming time poverty at work. Time blocking is the process of scheduling your tasks into a specific time slot while time tracking is the process of monitoring the time spent on each task. It’s important to track your time to get a better understanding of the amount of time you spend on different tasks, which can help you identify areas for improvement and make better use of your time. Getting into the habit of time blocking and tracking your time can help you nix procrastination while also increasing your quality of life.
Strategy #5: Delegating tasks
When it feels like you have too much to do, it can be tempting to try to do everything yourself. However, delegating tasks can be a great way to free up more time in your day. Delegating tasks can help you manage your workload more effectively and decrease the amount of multitasking you do throughout the day.
Tools to help overcome time poverty
Now that we’ve got the strategies down for better time management, let’s dive into the tools you can use to tackle your to-do lists and get more done.
Notion — best task management software for teams
When it comes to organizing your tasks and to-do lists, Notion is a great tool to use. Notion is a cloud-based productivity tool that helps you get organized by allowing you to create to-do lists, notes, databases, and more. While it may be a bit more complicated than other tools on this list, it can be incredibly useful for helping you stay organized while also giving you back your free time.
Asana — best project management software
Asana is a project management platform that lets teams and organizations plan, execute, and track their projects from start to finish. It’s a must-have tool for collaboration and communication in our remote-first world.
Slack — best tool for overcoming communication challenges
If you’re wasting too much time in email, Slack is the tool you need. On the surface, it functions as a messaging platform, but at its core, it’s a powerful communication and collaboration tool for any team. With plenty of integrations, it’s also a great way to streamline your workflow.
Focus To Do — best for minimizing distractions
If you’re a fan of the Pomodoro Technique, check out Focus To Do. Focus To Do is a time management app that helps you to stay on track by integrating the Pomodoro Technique with a to-do list interface. This app allows you to break up your larger tasks into smaller to-dos, giving you more manageable goals to accomplish throughout the day.
Teamwork — best time tracking software for teams
If you need to get an idea of how long initiatives in your organization or team are taking, consider Teamwork. This app is great for tracking and managing projects. Teamwork allows you to track tasks by allowing you to estimate the time you think it will take to complete the tasks, and then provide data about how long each task actually took.
Clockwise — best free scheduling tool for time zone differences
This time orchestration platform helps you to create your ideal workday by using AI to optimize your schedule. Clockwise finds the best meeting times for all attendees (even across time zones), while creating more Focus Time in everyone’s calendars. It’s packed with features that help individuals and teams make time for what matters.
Balancing life and work can be challenging. But with the right strategies, it’s possible to take back your time and spend it in a way that’s more aligned to you.