By John Rampton
A couple of weekends ago, I was asked to join a Zoom meeting. My immediate response was, "I don't have time for that." The thing is, I could have squeezed the event into my schedule. I had to remind myself that, "No, I'm not crunched for time."
Like most people, I only perceived that I had a limited supply of time. In reality, we all have the availability to cross items off our to-do list or enjoy our leisure time. However, you probably feel like you don't because you're putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.
In short, you aren't really crunched for time. You've just tricked yourself into thinking that because of the following eight reasons.
1. You haven't created and stuck to your time budget.
Your time, just like your finances, is a valuable resource that needs to be managed. If you don't create and stick to your budget, then you won't have enough time for what's important to you. Even worse, you may end up putting yourself in debt.
For instance, if you work 60 hours per week, that means you won't have as much downtime. That means you're going to sacrifice quality time with your nearest and dearest. You may even be putting your health and wellbeing in jeopardy.
In short, a time budget as defined by Amanda Abella in a Calendar article is "a guideline that helps you spend your time the way you want to spend it." Obviously, this also includes the things that you aren't crazy about doing. But, the concept is that having a time budget will make you manage your time wisely and with more intention.
To get started, determine what matters to you in life. Often, this would be your relationships, health, and career. Knowing this, you would spend your workweek only on activities that push you closer to your goals. And during your downtime, you would work out or spend time with your family.
How can you stick to your budget? A calendar app and boundaries are important because if you have an activity scheduled, it makes it easier to enforce boundaries.
2. You're looking for control.
"When we say that someone "has more time' than someone else, we do not mean that she has literally a twenty-fifth hour in her day," notes Robert E. Goodin in Discretionary Time: A New Measure of Freedom. "Rather, we mean to say that she has fewer constraints and more choices in how she can choose to spend her time. She has more "autonomous control' over her time," he explains.
Why's this the case? Psychologist and behavioral scientist Susan Weinschenk believe it's because "we equate having choices with having control."
"Our survival instincts tell us that we'll survive if we have control," clarifies Weinschenk. "So it's our powerful unconscious that keeps us seeking control, and it's the desire for control that keeps us seeking choices."
3. You believe in the myth of multitasking.
When I talk about multitasking, I'm not referring to mindless or mundane tasks that are taking place in the background. For example, you can fold your laundry or wash dishes while listening to a podcast. Another example would be going for a walk while talking on the phone.
Instead, the type of multitasking I'm referring to here is tasks that require your complete attention. Case in point, it's not effective to work on your taxes while simultaneously writing tomorrow's meeting agenda. The reason for this is that the brain is set up to handle only one thing at a time.
It's also been found that multitasking can slow you down, and because you're more likely to make mistakes, multitasking can take you longer to complete tasks.
The solution? It's pretty simple, actually. Do one thing at a time, aka single-tasking.
4. Fueling conflicts, not passion.
Research shows that those who are passionate and doing activities that matter aren't as rushed and harried. The reason? It prevents inner conflicts.
"Employees lacking in passion said that their goals were competing with each other, fighting for time and attention," explains Kira M. Newman, managing editor of Greater Good. However, passionate employees were different, viewing their goals as supporting each other.
"Time pressure isn't just about how enjoyable our activities are, but also how well they fit together in our heads," adds Newman.
How can you resolve this in your own life? Well, there's no right or wrong way. But, you should definitely let go of the "have it all mentality." Instead, schedule your priorities and activities that you enjoy and find fulfilling.
If you still feel overwhelmed, Stanford GSB professor Jennifer Aaker and her team found that there are two simple interventions that can help. The first is "to breathe so that each complete breath (inhale plus exhale) lasts 11 counts." The second was reappraising anxiety as excitement, like saying "I am excited!"
5. You aren't heading for the hills.
Have you ever run a marathon? If so, you definitely had to do some training, and you may have used something called the Fartlek approach.
It's a Swedish term that means "speed play." It's a type of interval training where you alternate between fast segments and slow jogs in order to improve your speed and endurance. But, it's also recommended that you add hills to your run.
What does this have to do with time management? Well, just like increasing your speed and strength, you also need to challenge yourself. For example, learning how to concentrate your focus or block out distractions. Both require discipline, practice, and a balance between sprints and breaks.
Of course, don't just attack these hills. Gradually work your way up. After all, you don't want to burn yourself out before entering the race, right?
6. Ask if you'd do it tomorrow.
Have you read Laura Vanderkam's time management book Juliet's School of Possibilities? If not, you should. It's a solid read full of excellent advice. But, this is probably my favorite nugget of wisdom: The lead character informs a young consultant, Riley, that she only says "yes" to what she wants to do. "Most people, however, have a very vague sense of opportunity cost," writes Vanderkam. "When someone asks you to do something far in the future, you might look at your calendar and see that it seems pretty open."
But, she adds, this is actually a fallacy. The reason? Your future self is going to be just as busy as you currently are. "You'll feel just as swamped, only now you'll also have this other commitment competing for your time and energy (that you didn't want to do in the first place)."
He suggests that you should ask yourself whether you'd be willing to do something tomorrow, knowing how busy you are now. If the answer is yes, then say yes. And if the answer is no, well, "that's the best response for the future too. When you're more judicious with your "yes,' you can free up all kinds of space."
7. You're focused too much on the money.
You obviously need money to survive. And you kind of need it to engage in hobbies. At the same time, research from Sanford DeVoe of the University of Toronto and Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford found that those with higher incomes feel more time-crunched.
As explained in The Economist; "Once hours are financially quantified, people worry more about wasting, saving or using them profitably. When economies grow and incomes rise, everyone's time becomes more valuable. And the more valuable something becomes, the scarcer it seems."
Moreover, DeVoe and Pfeffer found that just the perception of affluence can make you feel like you don't have enough time. So, while you should certainly make a comfortable living, you also don't need to be obsessed about it.
8. Being busy is a status symbol.
Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time: "Psychologists write of treating burned-out clients who can't shake the notion that the busier you are, the more you are thought of as competent, smart, successful, admired and even envied."
The fix here is to stop worrying about being productive 24/7. For some, that may be a strange concept. But, the fact is that you don't need to maximize every moment of your day.
Instead, spend your valuable time on the people and projects that matter. Additionally, avoid falling into the busyness trap and just enjoy yourself. Remember, life is too short to work around the clock. Sometimes you just need to slow down and have a little fun.