Why We Never Seem To Have Enough Time and What To Do About It
Once upon a time, 30 or so years ago, the world didn’t have mobile phones, computers, nor the internet. Public transport was, at best, inefficient and cars were only for a select class of the population.
So people at the time thought that if only they could have one of those things, how much more free time they would have! Well, here we are, in 2012, the most productive era in human history bar none, yet still, we never seem to have enough time. Why?
To understand this, let’s look at Jevon’s Paradox. In theory, increased efficiency (like having a car) would lower consumption of a particular resource (time). But in reality, the opposite is true.
It was a phenomenon William Stanley Jevons observed in 1865, when a new technology made coal-use more efficient. Consumption SHOULD have gone down, but that led to lower price – and people at that time began to increase their consumption of coal, which ultimately led to higher consumption than ever.
It’s a phenomenon that applies to more than just economics. The same is true with our most precious resource: time. The more efficient we become, the more things we squeeze into our calendars. In fact, according to some estimates, the average number of hours we spend working, from 1950 to 2007, increased by a whopping 247%.
Meanwhile, happiness is going downhill and stress-related diseases are on the rise. If working more is making us miserable, why are we still doing it?
What To Do
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to finally have more time.
Here are five steps I like to use to balance my life between achievement and having time to just “be”.
- Step back and revise your goals. One of the greatest tips a mentor of mine once gave me was to compare my “to-do” list with my “to-be” list. Is what you’re doing leading you closer to the person you want to be? Or are you doing them simply for the sake of “achievement”?I like to take a short 2 – 3 days break just before I do this. That short break is like a reset button for me to refocus on what it is I want out of my life.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself cutting down more than 50% of what you intended to achieve at the end of this exercise. I like to use this quote by French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery when going through my list, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.
- To achieve step 1, you need to learn to say no. Gandhi once said, “There’s more to life than increasing its speed.” I believe what he meant is to focus your life around a few things you’d like to achieve then actually spend time to do them well.That means turning down opportunities that you could have otherwise pursued, which of course is easier said than done in a society that believes you can be everything you want to be.
There’s something very unnerving about closing doors and the reason it’s that way, of course, is that we assume opportunities are rare.But another mentor of mine once mentioned something in passing that changed my whole concept. He said that opportunities are plenty. If you reject one today, an equally good one will appear tomorrow. Success, he said, is rarely about opportunities.
It’s about persistence, and therefore largely depends on how well you can resist the temptation of extraneous opportunities.
- Once you get rid of all unnecessary goals, reserve a percentage of the freed up time for yourself. This one takes a bit of experimentation. Personally, I reserve just 20 minutes to myself every day for the whole week. Others prefer to block out a whole day once a week.
And if this article can be summarized into one sentence, here’s a great one from a “recovering overachiever”, as she calls herself, “We learned what would behoove many of today’s top students–and their parents–to embrace: that achievement does not lead to fulfilment; it turns out to be the other way around.”
This article was written by Open Colleges.
Image source: Aussiegall