Why we don’t have enough time.
Increased heart rate, a lump in your throat, a ticklish feeling in your stomach.
The feeling of not having enough time.
For me it is amongst the most unpleasant feelings to have. Earlier this year it came to an extreme. No matter what I would do, the feeling would only grow stronger. So I decided to give myself a break to get back on track. I already knew that it was more my perceived reality than my actual one and I also knew that I needed to act.
Today my understanding of time is much better but I would lie if I would say that the feeling of not having enough time is gone completely. And it’s not because I am afraid of the future or that I will run out of time. It is mainly because it seems that there’s too many great things I want to do and too little time to reconcile.
I am sure everybody knows this feeling, regardless of the specific reasons.
So the question is, how we can manage that feeling with care.
Fighting it is not the answer as it will not go away. As it is with negative emotions, the more we think about them, the more we focus on them and the stronger they get.
And as we move along with technological progress, it will only get worse. So what we should do, is to change our attitude towards time.
And I believe that we need to learn to prioritize. Our mindset needs to shift from endlessly collecting moments to pursuing the truly valuable ones. Moments that matter in the constant fight for hyper entertainment and extraordinary experiences.
I also think that the time we spend with not making decisions is amazing. I myself am a great expert of thinking about option A and option B for quite a while, only to then postpone the decision to another moment - and start all over again.
So I would like to challenge this perception and argue that we have enough time. Or rather say, we just have the time we have. If we can’t manage to let go of the feeling that we don’t have enough time, it will never be enough.
Where does the feeling of not having time come from?
Everything is running faster. There’s too many options for everything and plenty of things to do, right at our doorsteps. There’s always a better and it it shown to us quite plainly every day - by social media, marketing departments, our friends, families or co-workers.
We know this already, so I do not need to repeat facts & figures here.
What seems to happen though, is that although we know all these facts, we decide not to deal with the consequences. Because dealing with consequences would lead to corrections and adaptations. We need to adapt to the fact that there are more and more decisions to take but we hardly do, because it is to easy to just go on as before. One great way to adapt to more demand, is to make more space and create more freedom for ourselves. But take a moment to think about it, how often do you really take time for yourself, actively? (Please note that thinking about it does not count here).
At the same time, I believe that there’s a global but subtle unhappiness finding its way through to western civilizations.
There’s a growing emptiness inside many of us. An emptiness that we seek to fill with consumerism, while consumerism includes many non-tangible things. We run and run, do and do, so we don’t need to hold on, to reflect, to look at ourselves and the lives we have built.
Being busy is a great excuse for a lot of things. It is also an excuse for not taking care of ourselves. Unfortunately being busy has turned into some kind of a special status symbol and often being busy is a synonym for being important. If we don’t have time it means that we are much in demand and live an exciting life.
Needless to say that our online behavior is a black hole for time.
On average we spend around 2 hours per day on social media. I thought about this quite some times already, why so many people (including myself) seem to use their infinite scroll as an art of meditation. I think it’s a little bit like meditation, that although we bombard our visual sense with intense input, it seems to relax us. But I do not think that this is a sustainable way of relaxation. Despite the fact that it’s very exhausting for the brain to constantly filter as we long for the unknown, it’s valuable time lost for sure, which is counterproductive for our overall understanding of time we have available. Also, time seems to run way faster while scrolling through countless events, because we consume a multitude of information than we would normally do.
Often it is also the fact that we spend a lot of time in our head. We spend valuable time and energy by getting lost in our thoughts. Some times, this also means that we are stuck in a situation that we'd be better off leaving.
What can we do to deal with it?
A good start would be to shift our mindset towards less need-to-do’s and more want-to-do’s. Often we use not having time as an excuse to ourselves and others, an excuse for actually not wanting to.
As a result, we end up in a circle of cancelling, postponing and then feeling bad about it. There’s nothing worse than doubt followed by regret. Besides congratulating ourselves that we were right in the first place, wasting time has little advantage. Now, of course not all seemingly unnecessary activities are really bad ones. But it’s definitely worth to separate the ones that draw energy from the ones that give energy.
It helps if we can set some guiding principles for ourselves. If we don’t get excited by something, we should simply not do it. We need to listen to ourselves and dare to say no.
As hard as it might sound at first, we also need to start to cut out activities and be selective again. Over the last few years, it has almost become a pastime to collect (and share) as many special experiences as possible. Terms like oversharing have just entered our vocabulary and are an indication for the extrovert lifestyle many of us are living. Often it seems as we do more for our public image than for ourselves. Not difficult to understand, considering that affiliation and belonging are amongst the deepest human needs.
It’s hard to decide, but if we try to be reasonably involved in everything we get pulled in too many directions. We risk to burnout or end up in deep frustration and despair. Because we will never be able to find the energy it needs to be truly engaged. Let’s take an example from the plant world. Many plants need to be regularly trimmed in order to prosper. It’s better to cut some branches in order to funnel the plant’s energy. Some plants, like for example roses, would even exhaust themselves if they would grow without restriction.
However, to be able to cut branches, we need to be brave and take decisions. In all aspects of live, remember that any decision is better than no decision.
For a better understanding of the different things we spend our time with, it’s helpful to get a proper overview first. You can do this by creating a list of bullets or take a more visual approach. In his book ‘finding your element’, Ken Robinson advises to take a large paper and write down the typical things we do throughout a week. For this matter, I would extend this to the little things, because it is often the those things that can be very time consuming or, on the other hand, matter quite a lot for us. List all things from your private and professional life, things like sports, reading to your children, spending time in traffic, scheduling, being in meetings, being on the phone and so on. The next step is to draw circles around it, varying in size, according to the time they claim. This first step of visualizing helps you to get a better overview or your activities. You can now observe this throughout a longer period to see if the pattern is flexible or rigid and also to see if your estimations were correct.
And this is the secret. Only by visualizing, hence by making spent time tangible, we can move from perception to reality.
Only by being more conscious about the time we take for certain elements in our life, we can slowly learn to adjust according to the significance we want to attribute. We are the only ones who are responsible for our lives and nobody else can tell us what we really need.
Lastly, our goal should be to be satisfied with what we have instead of always long for more. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a rather new term for a phenomenon that finds its place in a range of phenomena that came with the rise of modern technology and social media.
It is coming down to the fear of being left behind, or worse, being left out. This fear is an existential one, as in prehistoric times, it would have meant that we would starve in the cold because our tribe had moved on without us.
In the meantime, it also helps to understand that we don’t need our tribe for hunting and gathering any more and that we are not depending on other people for all means. And I personally also find it very pleasing to see more and more people who navigate through live in their own specific ways.
After all, there can even be a joy of missing out. If you learn to change your mindset, you can see that there’s more time for the things that are valuable and maybe even appreciate that less is more.
At the end of day, time is a subjective matter.
Einstein said, time is an illusion. I say time is a perception - so it’s you who can control it and use it for your own advantage.