By: Cheryl Viola, MBA, Executive Director
There is not a shortage of tips on how to manage time successfully. Everyone I have spoken with since the start of the new year has said how busy they are and how their to-do lists continue to grow. Time poverty is when you have too many things to do and not enough time to do them. Time poverty affects all cultures and crosses all economic strata. In 2012, 50 percent of working American’s reported that they were “always rushed”, and 70 percent “never” had enough time.
Time poverty affects our physical, mental, and emotional health. When we fall into time traps, we are less happy, less productive, and more stressed out. The one equalizer we all share is that everyone has 24 hours a day, 1440 minutes. How we use those minutes determines our work-life balance.
1. Constant Connection to Technology
Technology has been a great blessing but it has also added to the work-load, by not allowing people to unplug from work. We are too accessible. Cell phones, laptops, email, and other technologies constantly interrupt us. Both at home and Office. A few seconds or minutes to respond to messages add up. You need to be your warrior and protect your time, especially time away from work. Guard it carefully and don’t allow work to steal time away from family and leisure.
2. Obsession with work and making money
People wrongly believe that if they work and make money now, they will have more time to relax in the future. The reality is that making money leads to an increased interest in making more money. The more money you make, doesn’t increase the amount of time you get in any given day.
3. We Undervalue our time.
It is hard for us to measure time’s value. The time trap is when we reflexively go for the lowest cost when we shouldn’t. During my teenage years, I raised in a single-parent home. My mom would read all the shopping flier and making a shopping list. Her shopping would be a full-day event, several stores some of them were on the other side of the city just so she could save some money. In my view point the money saved on a few items wasn’t worth the gas and time driving across the mega-metropolis city. Inevitably mom always found additional items that were not on her list at each store, resulting in spending more money than she originally budgeted. Permit yourself to spend a few extra dollars to save the commute time and gas money, saving yourself some valuable time.
4. Busyness as a Status Symbol
In many cultures, our identities are often tied to our work. Many people look toward their jobs to find purpose. We carry busyness as a status, a badge of honor. Being busy, makes us feel good about ourselves. I have fallen into this trap more than once; have you forgotten how to unwind and relax without being on social media or in front of the television? The reality is that most everyone is busy. Instead of answering that you are busy, reframe your response by being specific about what your excited about. This will open up the doors to deeper conversations and more opportunities.
5. Aversion to Idleness
People don’t want to sit idle. They don’t see value in being mindful and doing nothing. Everyone handles stress differently. For some aversion to idleness is a way to keep from facing challenges. Idleness allows time to reflect and think. It is often in the quieter moments that the inspiration and creativity come. Permit yourself to be idle.
Are you a pleaser? Do you try to do everything that is asked of you? Commitment to the job and the company is essential. However, another time trap is overcommitment. When we overcommit, we take time away from family and friends to meet those commitments. At the end of the day over commitment does not add any extra value to your life.
Ways to Balance your Time
1. Know your time trap(s)
Be honest with yourself, and determine what time traps you fall into.
2. Document your time
Be mindful of the activities that you do. Are they productive or unproductive? Does it bring pleasure and meaning to your life? Ask yourself is it possible to spend less time on the activities that make you unhappy and stressed? If not is it possible to make them pleasurable?
3. Build downtime into your schedule.
At times we get stuck in activities that we do not like and can’t control. Identify the time that you don’t like and look for ways to improve it. Find ways to combine activities if you can.
Practice active leisure time. Free time spent on active-leisure activities like volunteering, socializing, and exercising promotes happiness for more than free time spent on passive leisure activities, like watching TV, napping, and online surfing. When you build downtime into your schedule try new things and put the technology away so you are unreachable.
When I worked in higher education, I had worked so much overtime that I scheduled a ten-day vacation. Just before I left for the day my boss asked how they would be able to reach me while I was on my much-needed vacation. I told them I would not be accessible as I was leaving the country. My boss was worried that they would not be able to get a hold of me. The reality is that nothing happened, what ever challenges they faced while I was gone, they dealt with. I was given the time I needed to recharge. Build down-time into your schedule.
4. Fund Time
You do not have to do everything yourself. Outsource some activities can save you time. For example, pay someone else to mow your lawn so you can give yourself some extra time. Many teenagers would love the opportunity to make some money.
5. Reframe Time
If we can change how we feel about our time, we can also make our time more affluent. For example, thinking of an upcoming weekend as a holiday will change your mind set on how you spend the weekend.
People who value time are happier and healthier and more productive. Account for your time, spend your time more proactively rather than just letting it pass. Remember that the one equalizer we all share is that everyone has 24 hours a day, 1440 minutes. How we use those minutes determines our work-life balance.
Whillans, A. (2020). Time smart: How to reclaim your time and live a happier life. Harvard Business Press.
Whillans, A. (2020, November 5). Which of these 6-time traps is eating up all your time? Retrieved from https://ideas.ted.com/which-of-these-6-time-traps-is-eating-up-all-your-time/