Do powerful people have more time?



The reason powerful people feel they have an abundance of time…is that their feelings of control over many aspects of their lives spill over onto their sense of time.

Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic

Motivational literature often points out that every person on the planet has twenty four hours in a day and 365 days in a year.

It’s true.

However, the way we perceive our time directly relates to our sense of power. Writing in The Atlantic, Joel Pinkser examines several studies which reveal that powerful people feel that they have more time and they feel in greater control of their time.

The real world application is that who have less power often feel that they must quickly make a decision. Quick decisions are often rash decisions:

The Berkeley study concluded that an increase in the perception of available time leads powerful people to be, on the whole, less stressed. The flip side of this is that the powerless feel the pressure of time’s inexorable march, and research has found that poverty-related concerns like being short on time can lead people to make worse decisions.

In addition, wise decisions often involve delaying gratification. Those who feel pressed for time often have no awareness of their future selves and future needs:

This lack of pressure is not the only reason why feeling powerful can lead to a financially favorable outcome. Another new study, this one out of the University of Southern California, found that feelings of power led people to make more responsible long-run decisions. When faced with a choice like receiving $100 now or $150 in a year, just about everyone—powerful and otherwise—engages in what’s called “temporal discounting”: They undervalue the additional $50 simply because it’s so far out on the horizon.


In other words, “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps” is a monumental effort. It requires overcoming actual economic scarcity, but more difficult is overcoming the internal and mental paradigm says any “gain” should be enjoyed today because tomorrow is uncertain.

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