Who wants more time?

Bet you wish you had more time, I certainly do! There seems to be a scarcity of time. As I write this I’m wondering if I’ll have enough time to finish before I have to leave for a meeting and whether I’ll have enough time on the way home to get to the shops to buy something for dinner (I didn’t have enough time to get to the supermarket yesterday).

Where has all the time gone?

Time, if only I had more time! Do you feel the same? It seems that everyone complains about the scarcity of time nowadays. If enough of us petitioned the government do you think we could slip in another day of the week, somewhere between Wednesday and Thursday? We could call it Do Day and catch up with everything we can’t fit on the other days. I remember when Sunday was a “don’t” day, a day when we didn’t do much mainly because most things closed apart from Church. Now shopping malls seem to have replaced Morning Service and there is little to differentiate the days of the week. Lazy Sunday seems to be a thing of the past for many of us.

It’s all an illusion!

Of course, this time thing is all an illusion (we don’t need to be Einstein to work that one out!), there are still 24 hours a day and 7 days in a week. In fact, time is one of the few things that is shared on an equal basis — we all get the same amount each day regardless of who we are, what we do and where we live. So why does it feel like time is shrinking?

A new perspective

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine said, “Don’t worry about sending me an email if you haven’t got enough time because I know how busy you are.” I was suddenly struck by the absurdity of this. I was able to send him an email that took no more than 2 minutes to write and send and he replied almost immediately. Not so many years ago, sending him the same information would have meant finding a writing pad, writing my message, writing his address and placing a stamp on an envelope, before going to the post office or postbox to send it. It would have taken one or two days to get to him and I would have needed to wait a couple of days for his reply. Communicating with him would have cost more time and money (for the stamp). Sending an email felt almost effortless but thinking about this has led me to the conclusion that this is the part to the problem of why many of us feel so busy nowadays.

Technology, friend or foe?

Technology enables us to do much more than we used to do and we end up doing much more than we used to do, to the extent that it now feels normal. It isn’t! For instance, once our news was brought to us by a team of people including, a cameraman, a sound recordist, journalist and an editing team in a central office. The same job is done today by one individual, writing the script and then using their phone to both record and send their report instantly. A simple press of a button can now link them, live to a studio on the other side of the world.

Setting Limits

I’m available almost 24 hours a day seven days a week. Whose fault is this? Well, embarrassingly, it’s mine! I can’t blame an employer and no-one makes me, but because technology makes this possible I have let it happen, and like a lot of people I am rather addicted to it. Although I complain about the amount of emails I get, I can never resist the “ding” of another one appearing, always slightly curious about who it is from. Aware that this is often a distraction and interrupts the flow when writing, I installed an App on my laptop that prevented me from accessing Facebook, Twitter and my email account for a set period of time. Once, when I set it to 2 hours, I regretted it because I wanted to retrieve some information without waiting for the banned time period to elapse. I then spent 40 minutes unsuccessfully trying to hack my way back into my own account, which was a complete and ridiculous waste of both time and effort.

When time stacks up

I am not a robot. I have not been technologically modified by some sort implant, so why do I sometimes (most times) forget that I can simply unplug myself? One explanation is that checking emails and messages rewards us with a dopamine rush. Dopamine is the brain chemical that encourages us to search for new things like information, but stops as soon as we take action. This encourages us to repeat the behavior and so can easily become addictive. Another, is that this habit can stop us from being mindful, so we don’t really notice how much time is passing. We might be aware that time appears to have disappeared, but we don’t appreciate how much time is taken up by “just” answering emails and “just” doing other things. These things that take very little time individually represent up an enormous amount of time when you add them up all together. So what can we do?

You can’t change what you don’t know

One thing that I have learned both as an applied positive psychologist and clinical therapist is you can’t change what you don’t know. However, once you do know, then it becomes your responsibility to either change what you don’t like, or accept it. Now that I’m aware of my self created time problem I have gone into action mode. I have started to time all my activity on line by installing a different App that can be used to record how long I spend on individual tasks. Interestingly, this has helped me be more efficient as I now focus on doing one task at a time, rather than dipping in and out of task like writing emails, blogs, website administration, etc. As I’m more aware of how long I spend on each activity, I’m more likely to decide earlier that is enough is definitely, enough. I’m also aware that unless I learn to say NO! or at least “later” more often, I will always carry this feeling of time scarcity. I am practicing the art of closing my laptop, turning off my phone and going out into nature without any technological aides, including my watch and I’m reacquainting myself with the pleasure of reading a book — a real one, made of paper!

Lesley Lyle MAPP: Author, Writer, Positive Psychologist, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Associate lecturer, Laughter Facilitator Director Positive Psychology Learning. Follow her on Twitter & Facebook

Creating positive change through the application of science based processes