We all need more time, right? Staring down the empty page as I try and get this post completed within the next 90 minutes I’m certainly feeling like some more time today could be useful! But without resorting to less sleep, fast food or outsourcing, how can you find some extra time in your day?
First Way: Pay attention to what you’re doing
Nothing makes you feel more rushed than bouncing from place to place, telling yourself how busy you are. Imagine this: It’s early morning. You’re waiting on hold on the phone while trying to find your child’s shoes while half-listening to running water to hear if your partner’s out of the shower yet. Now add in your inner monologue ‘Ah why’s he taking so long I’m running out of time I’m sure I left those shoes in her room this hold music is terrible I’m going to be late why do they always lose just one shoe he’s not finished yet come on!’ Plus some crazy flinging about of clothes, toys etc. of course, in your desperate bid to find the shoes or at least jolt your partner out of their hot water reverie and back into the world where you’re running late!
You can do the same things (well most of them) without the feeling of rush by changing your mindset.
First, stop (don’t worry, just temporarily).
Stop and tell yourself ‘I can choose to be calm while I do this’.
Take a deep breath.
And then do the same things as before, minus the inner monologue. Instead just do what you’re doing. Listen to the shower running. Listen to the terrible hold music. Lift up toys and clothes (perhaps more gently than before) and search for the shoes (perhaps more thoroughly now you’re intending to be calm). Be in the moment where yes, there is a lot to do, but no, you’re not going to let that fact translate into a sense of rush for yourself.
Bonus: You’re more likely to find the shoes in this state. Coming off hold or your partner leaving the bathroom are not guaranteed.
Double bonus: When you get stressed, do you find yourself being more forgetful or having trouble concentrating? Then this technique will help improve your memory and concentration. Paying attention to what’s happening right now, at the expense of thoughts which weren’t helpful anyway, will increase your ability to notice what’s important, and your ability to retain that information in your short term memory.
Second Way: Do what’s important at the expense of what’s urgent
We have a tendency to attend to what screams at us loudest: new email – better read it! Pile of dishes in my kitchen – better wash them! Today’s newspaper in the lunchroom – better check the headlines! Nothing wrong with that either: if you’ve got lots of spare time.
Where this tendency gets us into trouble is that we end up constantly doing small things which have no value to us personally and which suck away our valuable time. The things we say matter to us in life, what’s important, gets tossed aside by what seems more ‘urgent’ and often, we never get around to doing what matters.
For example, if you value your relationships, then you don’t need to read that text/email/take that call right now if you’re with someone you care about. You’d be better off ignoring that pile of dishes and spending some time doing some sketching (dishes have a way of getting done, one way or another – pencils and paper can sit in a drawer for years without being considered for your time).
One of the most cited productivity hacks at the moment is to not check your phone first thing in the morning: there’s always going to be a ‘must read’ article or something you just have to comment about on facebook (and for you to keep checking to see who else replies). Checking your phone gets you hooked straight into other people’s priorities, instead of your own.
I strongly recommend that whatever matters to you most in life, do it first up in your day. Before other people can interrupt it! Not only will you have a more satisfying life because you’ve prioritised what matters to you, you’ll also be a nicer and more patient person because you’ve taken care of yourself already. But the most important reason to do so (well in the context of this post anyway) is that you will feel like you have enough time.
After all, if you have time for a coffee with yourself, or to go for a run, or to draw something, how busy can you be? It’s a mindset thing. You won’t have less to do, but you’ll feel like you have more time, because you’re no longer missing out on what you’re really craving – those experiences that make life worth living, that you do all the other stuff for to get to.
So try listing out what matters most to you in life (what you value). Find ways to act on those things each day (little ways are fine, not doing it every day is fine). Get these things done first, and then fit in work. Then your chores and obligations. Because having ‘enough time’ often means having enough time to care for ourselves. It’s the first thing to go when we’re feeling busy, but leaving it out of our lives is the single biggest thing that makes us feel pressured, rushed and stressed.
you need help staying present and focussed on what matters to you in life? You’re in luck, that’s just what I’m great at! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get started on creating a life you love and enjoy.
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.