Time Anxiety is the pervasive feeling of being rushed, causing feelings of overwhelmingness and panic1. It can be in relation to current time, future time or existential time – fear of time slipping away without meaning.
Though many people experience these various forms, they are all connected. While I am consistently fighting this anxiety, it is always fighting back.
In Time Anxiety, there is an overwhelming sense of time lack. There is a process of thoughts taking up a lot of mental bandwidth. This anxiety impacts functioning in other areas of life. Due to this anxiety, I haven’t engaged in relationships as well. I haven’t accomplished as much as I’d like. And finally, I haven’t done a lot of the things that I wish that I had at this point in my life.
But, I’ve made serious headway in dealing with it and I’ve almost beat it.
Here are three steps to minimize Time Anxiety.
Step One, Be Aware
Be aware of how you’re feeling.
Many of us aren’t born with this ability. If not, think about it like this. If you’re not as productive as you’d like or if work (or some other large, time-taking obligation) is not allowing the freedom for you to do what you would like, you may want to dig a little.
- Do you get up each day and just “wait” to go to work?
- Do you not make plans with friends because you “have work”?
- Do you often not do the things that you wish because there’s not enough time?
- Do you rush through tasks, not completing them to the best of your ability?
- Is there something important you’ve failed to do, because you don’t have time?
- Are you ALWAYS in a hurry?
While on the surface these seem like innocuous questions, the thoughts that drive them are problematic.
For years, if I worked a certain day, I did little else. At the time, if you would have told me I had some sort of anxiety I would have said something like “I don’t have time to think about that. My job is a lot, I need to rest.” In hindsight, I was so overwhelmed with the thought of there not being enough time, that I wouldn’t put anything else on my list. An so, there was nothing but work on my list. No friends, hardly any hobbies and my relationships were left failing.
Now, I work more hours than ever, I do more of the things I love and I’m happier than ever! But the first step was being aware of what I was feeling.
You can do this by meditating, journaling, yoga or just going on walks. These activities help bring ideas or thoughts to the surface.
To think: “I feel overwhelmed with the quantity of tasks I have to do in the time allotted, and that’s a problem…” was a breakthrough for me. Especially, the last part – identifying this was a problem.
Step Two, Gain (Some) Control
So now that you’ve become aware of some of the roots in your Time Anxiety, you’ve got to understand that it most likely comes from a lack of control.
So, what can you do?
*Maybe most importantly, you should realize that you’re never fully in control. Throughout my learning process, I’ve had days so rigidly planned (to the minute) in my fight for control, that when a surprise inspection shows up at work, I am thrown into a full fledged panic attack. My day is ruined and I performed like a moron in the inspection. So, it’s important to understand this. But the point is, do something to help you gain some control.
With Time Anxiety, the most effective thing you can do is plan. The planner I use is fully customizable and requires some serious thought. It helps me keep track of what’s important and where to spend my energy. I’ve used planners before, but they just helped me create lists that I’d rush through. I wasn’t really doing anything very well, just feeling…rushed. And overwhelmed.
Each week, I have a set of priorities. They are pretty general. For example, ‘publish blog’, ‘get my team on board with the new company initiatives’ or ‘run five times’. Each day, based on those general items, I plan activities that support them.
I have made the lists too large. Also, too short. I have avoided the lists. And, I have completed nothing the whole day, just adding to the list that I’ve never started. In the end, the behaviors about this are driven by Time Anxiety.
Planning is also a skill. Be patient. You have to give yourself time to learn. You’ll schedule too much, too little and some days you wont plan. But be tenacious, keep coming back to it.
Decide what you want to accomplish for the next ninety days. Break it down into thirteen weeks of smaller chunks. Take each week and break it into days. The days, hours.
This will help you realize what you really want, value and are willing to sacrifice for.
Oh and also…
Get up early, like no later than 7.
Just do, don’t think.
Eat less sugar- More greens, nuts and olive oil.
You will feel powerful.
Step Three, Monitor & Improve
As with any new venture, there is trial and error. And for this, you’ll need to find a way that works for you to track yourself. It could be as simple as taking mental notes… “I don’t feel as anxious about time as a I have previously, today.”
Or, you could physically document it in varying degrees. I recommend the latter.
Each day, I take note of the volume of activities that I attempt. (I often take on more than is possible to do in one day. )
I note when I am best able to complete tasks effectively. Early in the AM, most admin tasks go off with a hitch. In the early afternoon, physical tasks are favored. If I don’t accomplish my task list, I take note of why. Common causes are that something emotionally draining happened at home or at work. Or, something unexpected comes up such as a visit from my boss or human resources issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Sometimes, I’m just fatigued and the tasks lose their meaning.
I take notes on how I could have been more effective given the circumstances. This ‘view from 10,000 feet’ approach also gives you a sense of control. It’s uncomfortable at first, but once you make it a habit…it becomes easier to view yourself in this way.
I recommend the #THISISMYERA planner. It has all of the tools to help you succeed in this. Creating this habit of revisiting your activities daily can transform your life.
Use these ideas and tools to create a habit of improvement.
The benefits of reducing Time Anxiety are great. Less stress, muscle aches and a greater desire to do. I am more productive, more flexible and better at every activity I take part in. The more I release the anxiety the more ambitious, social and more likely to reach out to my family and close friends. Also, I eat better, exercise more and enjoy life to a greater degree, moving forward a little bit every day.