I'm Too BUSY!
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 12:00 AM

We measure our own importance — and the importance of those around us — by how much we can pack into our days. We attempt to outdo, outhustle, and outperform one another. We are in the midst of a busyness epidemic. There is just “to much to do!”

How can we create more time in our lives? The answer is that we already do have more time in our lives than ever before. On the whole, people in developed countries are actually working far fewer hours than in past decades. This even holds true in the famously work-inclined US; in 1940 the average American work week clocked in at 43.3 hours. In 2016 it was just 34.4 hours. Yet we feel busier than ever. 

Here are a few good places for busy-ness junkies to start:

Identify the values you’re sacrificing to busyness

The 19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard saw busyness as a means of distracting oneself from truly important questions such as who you are and what life is for. Busy people will fill up their time and always find things to do, but often they have no principle guiding their life. Everything is important, but nothing is important.”

That’s not to say everything done is meaningless, but if we’re too busy to ask if our values drive our actions, the inertia of busyness can lead us down a very different path than we intended.

Do you value spending time outdoors, but haven’t actually gone for a walk outside in months? Do you value learning, but haven’t taken the time to practice a new skill? Do you value relationships with friends, family, and coworkers, but are too rushed to be fully present when you spend time with them?  It may be worth sacrificing some efficiency to make space for those things that you’ve decided are important.

Accept that you can’t do everything

Instead of letting dozens of anxiety-inducing, unfinished tasks or projects snowball on your to-do list day after day, just remove them from the list. Focus on the far more manageable question of which things to deliberately neglect and allow others to fall into the “someday” timeframe.

Do one thing at a time (even the unpleasant stuff)

This one is difficult for a committed multi-tasker!  With our already overbrimming schedules, it’s tempting to cram more and more into smaller amounts of time. We answer emails while trying to get work done. We browse the Internet while we eat. We talk on the phone while we drive. We switch from task to task in a near constant state of partial attention. But is partial attention in quantity as satisfying as full attention with quality?

One Harvard study of 2,250 adults found that we spend just over half of our time focusing on one thing.  Yet the same study also revealed that we’re most happy when we’re focusing on what we’re doing in the moment.  It noted that “mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness. In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”

Stop and wrap your head around that for a second­. What we’re doing is less important to our happiness than how present our minds are while we’re doing it. We’re happier when we focus on just one task than when we multi-task. Its true. 

Turn everyday activities like cleaning, eating, and cooking into mindful activities. When you find your thoughts wandering, take a breath and bring your attention back to whatever you’re doing in the moment. Full attention, high quality will make you happier than scattered attention and “passable” quality. 

Invest in aimless acts of creativity

When time feels scarce, it’s tempting to fill our days with tasks that feel urgent and immediately useful. But acts of aimless creativity were more likely to generate positive emotions and greater “flourishing” — a term researchers use to refer to an overall sense of purpose and engagement in life — the following day.  Taking the time to create something is more positive than avoiding creative endeavors.

Take the time to do something creative just for its own sake. 

Read a real book to feed your mind

Even book lovers fall prey to the harried distractions of the Internet. One author decided he needed the creativity of more books in his life. Now when he gets home at night, he puts away his phone and laptop. Instead of turning on the TV or opening Netflix or browsing the Internet, he reads a book.

Reading books gives more time to reflect, to think, and has increased both focus and the creative mental space to solve work problems. My stress levels are much lower, and energy levels up, he reports.  Instead of making a futile attempt to keep up with all the content on the Internet, make time for slower forms of consuming information.

Spend time with real-life friends

If you’d like to be reminded of how little you’re doing with your time, check Facebook. Social media feeds are filled with peers who promote themselves as happier, more successful, more fulfilled, and more worldly.  Yet research backs up what many of us already feel to be true — being on social media is stressful. By Facebook’s own admission, passively scrolling through posts can make us feel worse.

On the other hand, numerous studies show that true friendships offer a mental and emotional buffer against the daily pressures in our lives. Feeling supported through our relationships lowers both our cortisol levels and blood pressure — two key physiological indicators of stress. 

Remember to make use of the “buddy-system” from time to time and spend real time with real friends.

Give your time away

Stress and busyness have a way of turning our thoughts and concerns inward — it’s hard to care for others when you feel like you’re barely keeping your own head above water. Yet at least one study shows that people who give time away actually end up feeling like they have more of it, not less.  People who give time feel more capable, confident, and useful. They feel they’ve accomplished something and, therefore, that they can accomplish more in the future. And this self-efficacy makes them feel that time is more expansive.

Instead of hoarding your scarce time, try giving it to someone else — volunteer, help a coworker, do a friend a favor.  

Spend 15 minutes outdoors

According to an Environmental Protection Agency survey, the average American spends 93% of their time indoors — 87% in enclosed buildings and 6% in enclosed vehicles. Yet being outdoors has been shown time and time again to have a uniquely relaxing effect on our nervous systems.

One study conducted at Chiba University in Japan found that subjects who spent 15 minutes walking in the woods showed significant decreases in the major physiological signs of stress — a 16% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2% drop in blood pressure, and a 4% drop in heart rate.

Make the time to stop and smell the roses.

Make space for stillness and solitude

We never seem to have to spend time with our own thoughts. We walk around with a 24/7, all-you-can-eat buffet of distractions in our pockets. Life gives the sensation  that we’re standing about two inches away from a huge screen, and it’s noisy and it’s crowded and it’s changing with every second, and that screen is our lives. And it’s only by stepping back and then further back and holding still that we can begin to see what the canvas means and to catch the larger picture.  Try going nowhere and doing nothing. Sitting still has a way of promoting falling in love with the world and everything in it.

In Summary 

Here are just a few simple points to consider:

  • What fills you up? What leaves you feeling exhausted? Do more of the former and less of the latter.

  • Try to not take your busy thoughts too seriously. It may be asking too much to get them to shut up entirely, but you can smile at them and then turn back to whatever you were doing before they so rudely interrupted.

  • Spend some time every day away from screens.

  • Resist the temptation to constantly distract yourself.

  • See free time as a gift, not as a moral failure  or an opportunity to further optimize your life .

  • Our time is finite, give your permission to slow down and savor it.

Source: https://blog.doist.com/9-ways-to-create-more-time-12634dce2f35