Clock © Monkey Business Images |

© Monkey Business Images |

The Time Poor Mindset: Our Default Position

Leaders today often operate out of a time poor mindset. This has a detrimental impact on leadership effectiveness. By a time poor mindset I mean we have developed a default position that we are busy and we never have enough time to get everything done. At times, of course, this is absolutely true. For the most part, however, our own work practices are the determiner of the timeframes within which we operate. I am sure you have heard the expression work smarter not harder. When you are leading people in an organisation of any type it is rarely a smart work practice to operate from a time poor mindset.

Work Smarter Not Harder

There is no doubt we live busy lives. Work pressures and expectations seem to multiply almost on a daily basis. The requirements of governments grow nonstop with the growth in compliance demands seeming to have reached exponential speeds. While we are very busy we have also received so many messages from the media, from our co-workers, and from our peers that being time poor has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy – a nocebo.

Most of you will have heard of, and understand, the term ‘placebo’. You know about the placebo effect. The context we see this term used most often is where a Doctor treats a number of patients with the same illness. The members of one group are given a drug to help them, the others are given a sugar pill. No one knows which group they are in. The placebo effect is when people who have received the sugar pill experience the positive effects experienced by those taking the drug.

Nocebo is the term used for the opposite effect. Some years ago I went for a scan on my kidneys. The procedure involved injecting a dye into the blood stream to create a contrast in the images taken. As the drug entered my system I was overwhelmed by a sense of nausea, to the point of nearly bringing up my breakfast. The nurse was by my side straight away with a bowl. She told me they were always prepared, as the dye had a nauseating effect on some people. I asked why they hadn’t warned me of this possible unpleasant side effect. The nurse chuckled, apologised and explained that they found when they warned people far more people actually got sick. That is the nocebo effect.

Another example is when you are given an injection. Just before the nurse pierces the skin of your arm she will likely say, “Just a small jab now”. Apparently it hurts more when they tell you it is coming! Amazing!

Applying the concept of nocebo to our time management practices – it is highly likely we feel more time poor than we actually are just because everyone tells us how busy we are (we certainly tell ourselves often enough). This contributes to the growing problem of the time poor mindset in leadership today.

The time poor mindset is very short sighted.

A Time Poor Mindset © Pablographix |

A Time Poor Mindset
© Pablographix |

When a leader operates from a time poor mindset the leader will function as the source of solutions, the fixer, or the provider of all the wisdom. It is just quicker to tell everyone what they should do, how to fix a problem, or what the company policy should be, than it is to lead people to those decisions for themselves. The time poor mindset is very short sighted. It only sees the immediate need for a decision or a solution and gives no consideration to the longer term consequences of such an approach.

It takes time to listen and reflect your understanding of people’s views. It takes time to ask people what they would do in a situation, or how they would address an issue. It takes time to reflect on mistakes, on what happened – so that it should not happen again. It is seems much quicker to talk than to listen, to tell than to ask, to draw out the combined wisdom of the room than to just provide what you think is the inevitable outcome anyway. It seems quicker… In the short term it may well be quicker and there are times where that approach is required. Such times are few and far between.

The time poor mindset seems quicker in the short term… but, in the longer term?

Seeking to purposefully develop the skill base of your team members by deliberately concentrating on not operating from a time poor mindset will, in the longer run, actually save you a tremendous amount of time. At the same time you are developing leadership skills in as many members of the team as possible.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I certainly believe life is very full and very busy. Most leaders are often short of time and struggle to get their work done. What I am saying is that when a leader operates from a time poor mindset it ends up using more time. When a leaders makes a conscious, strategic, deliberate effort to move away from a time poor mindset team members receive the valuable feedback and mentoring opportunities they need to develop the knowledge and skills which eventually save the leader time and create time for the leaders to think, vision, plan and position the organisation for the future.


  • Operating out of a time poor mindset has detrimental effects on leadership effectiveness.
  • Be aware that our sense of being time poor is exacerbated by the nocebo effect.
  • Seeking to purposefully develop the skill base of your team members will, in the longer run, actually save you time. 

Additional Resources

How can People Thrive in a Time Poor Society?
Why is Everyone so Busy?
Who is Really Time Poor?