The True Cost of “Time Poverty” (perhaps the most important article you’ll read this year!)

This week, Beth Teitell at the Boston Globe wrote an outstanding article summarizing a study that showed vividly how a lifestyle grounded in consumerism and time poverty makes people disconnected and miserable.

Her article is here and below is my letter to the editor summarizing my viewpoints on the topics raised.

Relatedly, please check out my new Psychology Today blog post on How to Help Your Kids Overcome Video Game Addiction and Have a More Meaningful Summer.


Dear Editors,

As someone who has taught time management at many venues around Boston and elsewhere for more than a decade (see below), and who has written books on the topic, I want to commend you on an article that really vividly illustrates a key barrier to many people’s living happy, fulfilling, and self-directed lives.

Frugality is a vital part of what I call “values-based time management,” the goal of which is to align your actions with your values as much as possible. You don’t have to be in Occupy (though it helps!) to see that everything we buy costs us twice: the time we spend earning the money to buy it, the time (and money) we spend maintaining it. And as your article vividly illustrates, there are frequently other costs, such as to our health, relationships, community, and (through wasted production and disposal) the environment.

What’s really sad and perplexing is the degree to which the families mentioned in the article have given up their power, without even thinking about it, to corporate marketing and conventional ideas about success.

As they have learned to their apparent chagrin, success and happiness do not arrive from purchasing and hoarding stuff. Nor, as values-based time management teaches us, do they come from grasping some gold ring at the end of the race. True success is getting to live your values and priorities NOW in the minutes and hours of your life. Doing so not only helps you be calmer, healthier, and more productive; it’s a sublime pleasure.

My key challenge as a time management teacher is to get people to recognize the true value of their time. Once I help them do that, they are far less likely to squander their precious hours on consumerism and other trivial pursuits.

Once again, thank you for a terrific article.

Hillary Rettig

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