Are you running out of time?

A small hourglass is set in the center foreground of a brown pebbly ground. The background is blurry. The hourglass is in motion and half full, with blue grains of sand.


Time scarcity is a phenomenon that many individuals experience, but not many understand. In exploring the concept of time scarcity, researchers Carol Kaufman-Scarborough and Jay D. Lindquist explore the ways that people think about and use their time and experience time scarcity. The researchers believe that individuals who feel at ease with their time supply have two possible advantages over those who feel pressed for time.

  1. Their personality is predisposed to be ‘at ease’ with time
  2. They are proficient with organizing and using their time

Research on time management shows that overall, individuals report having increased free time but experience a sensation of time scarcity. This perception of time scarcity can be worsened by work from home conditions as the line between work and home is severely blurred. 

To study time scarcity, Kaufman-Scarborough and Lindquist created a Time Personality Indicator (TPI) scale, which focuses on Leisure Time Awareness, Punctuality, Planning, Polychronicity (multitasking), and impatience. 

To test out what could be the main reason for time scarcity, the following four hypotheses were created. 

  1. High scores on time scarcity are likely to be related to inefficient time-use behaviors.
  2. High scores on time scarcity are likely to be related to inefficient mental actions, processes, or feelings.
  3. High scores on time scarcity are related to external time demands on the individual’s time.
  4. Inefficient time-use behaviors and inefficient mental actions, processes, or feelings are expected to be correlated with inefficient consumer activities in the marketplace.

From their research on 168 participants, the researchers found three emerging themes that indicate an individual would have a negative relationships with time:

  1. Thinkels – “When I’m doing something, I often think of something else.”
  2. Expect – “I more or less expect that nothing will go according to schedule”
  3. Seldom – “I seldom have any idea how much time I spent on things I did yesterday”

These three themes exhibited by individuals had the highest correlation with individuals assuming time was scarce. And these three themes are all tied to Hypothesis 2 of the study. Where high scores on time scarcity are likely to be related to inefficient mental actions, processes, or feelings.

What the research from Kaufman-Scarborough and Lindquist points out is that the three main themes emerging from their research are perceptions held by the individual. The study encompassed other factors such as hours worked per week and children in the household, and these did not have the same correlation value as Thinkel, Expect, or Seldom. 

As coaches, it is important to consider what implications this research has for you and for clients you work with. How do you/they perceive available time? Consider the language and feelings you or a client are processing when busy, what does the internal dialogue look like? From this preliminary research, switching perspectives on time may be the most important first step. 

Image is of a red quote in the center of a white background. The quote reads: "Time is created thing. To say 'I don't have time' is like saying 'I don't want to'" by Lao Tzu.

IOC's Tips of the Week are authored by Austin Matzelle.