Time and energy deficit

People increasing believe that they do not have enough time to do everything they want to do in their lives, despite the fact that they actually have more leisure time than previous generations. There are also large numbers who believe that they lack the energy to get things done. 48 % of people claim to have less time than they need and 56 % less energy than they need [1]. However, energy is perceived as a more important resource by women than men.

What are the implications?

  • A decrease in numbers of volunteers as people have less time to volunteer and need to prioritise their time more carefully
  • A further increase in short term or episodic volunteering
  • Pressure on all sectors to offer flexible working opportunities
  • Loosening family ties (see family networks)
  • An increasing focus on well-being as limited time available to individuals mean they want it to be quality time

Moving forward

People may prioritise personal time over volunteering time. 

  • What can your organization offer that will encourage people to choose volunteering over alone time?
  • Do you need to do some marketing to encourage continued engagement from the public?

Pressure on all sectors to make allowances for people’s work/life balance by adopting flexible working strategies. 

  • Do you need to look at your organisation’s working policies to see if you can offer different ways of working?

Want to know more?

The timesqueeze generation

Link: The timesqueeze generation

Published by:  Institute for Insight in the Public Services

Date: 2007

What is it? Report examining pressures on time and energy and how these impact on citizen engagement and participation in community life.

How useful is this?  An accessible report uses qualitative research to examine how time and energy pressures have changed since 1997, illustrating how increasing perceptions of time and energy deficits have negatively impacted on citizen engagement, and presenting practical suggestions on how to understand and overcome this issue for VCOs.

Other comments:

Time-Poor Britain

Link: Time-Poor Britain

Published by: Pollster - research consultancy and polster to the Times.

Date: 2004

Format: PDF

What is it? The results of a poll on time-poverty in England.

How useful is this?

This contains a large number of statistics, collected using a weighted sample size of 1002 adults, on a range of questions relating to time use including employment status, ‘free time’ habits, and attitudes towards current lifestyle.  It does not however contain any analysis.

Other comments:

Just too busy being busy?

Link: Just too busy being busy?

Published by: ON LINE opinion – Australian e-journal of social and political debate

Date: 2006

Format: Online

What is it? A short thinkpiece in which the author considers what ‘busyness’ means to society’

How useful is this?

Although a light-hearted piece this is useful in highlighting how being time-poor, juggling activities, and busyness have become common-place and celebrated phrases.  It considers how marketers target time-poor customers, how individuals talk with pride about how busy they are and how it is used as an excuse for not meeting deadlines or contacting people.  It concludes by warning that “Doing nothing much” has become an indulgent pastime to enjoy in the privacy of your own home.

Other comments: For further comments (or to post your own!) visit the website’s forums.

Busyness as the badge of honour for the new superordinate working class (press release)

Link: Busyness as the badge of honour for the new superordinate working class (press release)

Published by: Institute for Economic and Social Research – a research organisation specialising in the production and analysis of longitudinal data

Date: 2005

Format: PDF

What is it?

An academic study exploring the relationships between work, feelings of busyness and social status.

How useful is this?

The study explores how hours of work and productivity at work have changed.  It points out that although people feel busier now than in the past, the evidence suggests that overall they work less than previously.  The paper explores reasons for this, including that long hours of paid work are now associated with advantaged social positions in society, whilst previously high social status has been demonstrated by the amount of time available for leisure activities: busyness is regarded as a ‘badge of honour’.  It also looks at how the definitions of work and leisure have changed.

Other comments:

The full paper is available on ISER’s website.


  1. Planning for Consumer Change [back]
Last updated at 18:16 Tue 15/Mar/11.

Recent comments

Véronique's picture


Third Sector Foresight

In the recent ‘Helping Out’ report there’s quite a lot of interesting data on how time is hugely influential in encouraging and discouraging people to volunteer. But what has often puzzled me is why some people always seem to have the time or make the time to do things…surely it’s not just a question of personality.While having these fantastic people on board is hugely valuable to organisations, how can we avoid being too dependent on them?

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