You are probably one of the poorest people in the world when it comes to time. There is an eighty percent chance that you have too many things to do and not enough time to do them.
In a ten-year-old study, about 50 percent of working Americans reported they were “always rushed,” and 70 percent “never” had enough time. Just three years later more than 80% said they didn’t have enough time.
Time poverty isn’t just a first-world problem. Researchers show a correlation between misery and being time-poor. When we don’t have enough time, we are less happy, less productive, and more stressed. We who are time-poor exercise less, eat low-quality food and have a higher rate of cardiovascular disease. We compromise when we don’t have time. So instead of a nutritious homecooked meal, we eat out.
Why are we time-poor? Our time poverty is the result of how we perceive our time, not from the lack of hours in the day. Time poverty is psychological. We are connected all the time. So when the opportunity arrives, we waste it.
Why do I feel like I don’t have enough time?
Time trap #1: Sleeping in
Waking up early gives us an edge over those who don’t. There are a host of studies showing a direct correlation between waking up early and success. If you analyze the morning routines of the most successful people in the world, you will see that they wake up before most people. Make a daily routine that you can follow. This will help you stay organized so that you can prioritize where you spend your time.
Time trap #2: Technology
We have more tantalizing, accessible, shiny things than ever before that lead to our distraction. Technology saves us time, but it also takes it away. This paradox is illustrated by mobile technologies that give us autonomy over how and when we work but result in us endlessly working. The free time that we used to have is now constantly interrupted by technology. This creates fragments for our rest time in a way that makes it difficult to use. Studies show that multitasking makes us less productive.
Your time spent responding to emails, chats, Twitter notifications during downtime creates two effects. The first is the sheer volume of time they take away. A few innocuous breaks can seize a substantial percentage of your time. The more invasive effect is the way these time interruptions create fragments for your hour. These interruptions undermine the quality of your block of time by reminding you about all the other things going on simultaneously. Our minds need time to rest from the present to a stress-inducing activity. So we end up enjoying our free time less. This leads us to calculate that we had less free time than we did.
Time trap #3: Focus on money
Our culture teaches us that money will bring us happiness instead of time.
Studies show that money shields us against sadness but doesn’t gain us joy. When we earn enough to pay our bills, save, and have fun, making more does little for us.
Money stops predicting how much we smile and laugh once we make about $65,000 a year. And money stops predicting our perception of our own success after $105,000. This is because being rich is a moving target. We start comparing ourselves to those richer than us.
Having money shields us from certain stress. Money provides the answer when your car breaks down. But preventing negative consequences is distinct from building happier ones.
We wrongly believe that we will become more time wealthy as we become financially wealthy. How often have you thought, “I’ll work hard and make more so that I can afford more fun time later.” This is a mistaken expectation. When we focus on getting rich, it only leads to us focusing on getting rich.
Time trap #4: We undervalue the time
We end up protecting our money instead of our time because of our society’s desire for wealth. Working parents with young children who were financially comfortable, but time-poor, said they’d rather have more money than more time fifty-two percent of the time. When they were asked how they would spend $100 to be happier, just two percent said they would spend money to save time. These people had an average of $3 million in the bank. Would you pay $300 for an extra eight hours of vacation — a full workday’s worth — along with less stress and fatigue? That’s what you do when you choose to connect flights to get a $300 cheaper flight.
Measuring time is difficult. Driving out of the way to save money — like on gas — doesn’t feel bad. But that’s because we aren’t appropriately valuing our time. Let’s assume that you consistently travel an additional ten minutes to a gas station to save 10 cents per gallon, and you go in for a 25-gallon fill-up four times a month. It seems worth it — six minutes isn’t that much, and the savings will add up.
- 10 cents × 25 gallons = $2.50 saved per trip
- $2.50 × 4 visits per month = $10.00 saved per month
- $9.00 per month over 12 months = $120 saved per year
But someone aware of time traps would see it differently:
- 10 minutes per trip × 4 visits per month = 40 minutes lost per month
- 24 minutes per month × 12 months = 8 hours lost per year
Looking at it this way, you’ve spent almost eight hours–an entire workday–saving $120. How much do you make each day? This doesn’t factor the opportunity cost of what you could have done with that workday instead of driving out of your way to saving $120.
Time trap #5: Busyness as status
We wear busyness like a badge of honor. It’s driven mostly by the desire for money. Regrettably, most employers reward the busyness cult. Analysis shows that employees who boast about nonstop working and being extremely busy are seen by others as better workers who have more money and prestige, even if they don’t. They’re even thought to be more physically attractive. This is all busyness theater.
Time trap #6: We don’t want to be idle
Humans don’t want to be idle. In one piece of research, college students would rather get an electrical shock than being left alone with their own thoughts. Another study showed that working parents felt “bored” and “stressed” during recreation, indicating that even the most time-poor among us don’t know how to relax. When we can’t be in the present, we are more stressed.
When we feel busy, studies show that we take on small, easy-to-complete tasks because they help us feel more control over our time. In this case, it’s a false sense of control that doesn’t alleviate the root cause of our busyness.
Idleness is a vital kind of freedom. The mental and physical advantages of releasing the mind are notably more helpful than the stress produced by keeping the brain constantly occupied.
Time trap #7: We think we have more time tomorrow
We are too optimistic about our future time. We wrongly believe that we will have more time tomorrow than we do today. Haven’t you made plans a week out before, and then when that day comes you wonder what you were thinking? Our brains constantly overlook this vital point and fool us into thinking we’ll have more time later. This often means that we are careless with saying yes. And we want to say yes so that we feel productive. All that time to fulfill your promises comes from the leisure time you could enjoy with time affluence. Perpetual busyness threatens the purpose we set out to finish with all that busyness in the first place.
Because the time traps are different for all of us, it is essential to recognize and document the traps you often fall into. You can overcome the time traps we have fallen victim to. It takes deliberate, small steps to become time affluent. We have many forces from psychology and society keeping us from having more free time.
The most time-rich people are purposeful with their free time. Recognize the time traps in your life by intentionally creating more meaningful moments every day.