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Expert tips for avoiding the 'time famine' trap
How to manage your time so you can actually accomplish what you want to.
- In a world that's always online, it's easy to feel like we have insufficient time for ourselves, or to spend with our families and loved ones.
- Working out what you need to get done each day, and how long it will take, will allow you to create priorities on which you can focus your available time.
- If you find the traditional methods of mindfulness meditation too difficult, then meditative practices such as yoga or even running can also be extremely beneficial.
Even before the world entered a "new normal" resulting from the global pandemic, time management was a challenge for many of us.
This is a particular problem for the United States. Longer paid vacations and caps on working time for many Europeans have led to a situation where Americans work, on average, around 10 percent more than their European counterparts.
Nevertheless, "time famine" is a very real phenomenon across the globe. In a world that's always online, it's easy to feel like we have insufficient time for ourselves, or to spend with our families and loved ones. In reality, there are never (no, never) more than 24 hours in any given day, and proactively choosing how we spend them can help to reduce the feeling that we're starved of time.
Here are some ways to achieve a healthier balance, so you can hopefully avoid the inevitable burnout that results from overexposure to time famine.
1. Make sure you get enough sleep
According to Harvard Medical School, around half of us get less sleep than the recommended guidelines. The average adult needs around seven or eight hours per night. If you're feeling starved for time, then the chances are that losing sleep feels like an easy compromise to cram more hours into the day. But the opposite is true.
A lack of sleep will seriously affect your productivity and creativity. One study found that even moderate sleep deprivation will impact your cognitive and motor performance to the equivalent level of having a 0.1 percent blood alcohol concentration, which is also the threshold for driving legally.So, although it may seem paradoxical, getting the right amount of sleep should provide an immediate productivity boost that will help you get through more each day.
2. Don’t let chaos control you
Hiten Shah, co-founder of document management software company FYI, has an anecdote about a friend who was asked by his boss to pull up a document while in the middle of a meeting. The friend started frantically scouring his hard drive, Google Docs and email attachments to try and locate the document.
All the while, the boss was sitting there, becoming more and more impatient, as Shah's friend was getting more and more flustered and embarrassed, which of course made it even harder for him to find the missing file. "Finally, out of cosmic mercy, someone sends him the document," Shah writes. "But my friend didn't feel relief at that point, he felt anxious."
It's a cautionary tale, to be sure. Truth be told, we've probably all had one of those moments. But if your day has become an endless cycle of looking for documents, trying to find your keys, and wondering where you put shoes when you took them off last night, then you'll benefit from getting organized.
This may mean using a document management system or simply creating a designated space for everyday objects. Doing so will mean you free up all that time spent looking for missing things and reduce your overall stress levels.
3. Schedule your time – but don’t overdo it
Effective scheduling of your time doesn't mean assigning each half-hour to specific activities. In fact, doing this will probably make you even more stressed as there's no flexibility to respond to last-minute changes.
But working out what you need to get done each day, and how long it will take, will allow you to create priorities on which you can focus your available time. In their book "The ONE Thing," authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan recommend asking yourself, "What's the ONE thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?"
While it may be difficult to find that one task, you can start to list the top one to three most important tasks each day. Prioritizing these within your available working time will ensure you're focusing on the right activities to stay productive.
4. Get more comfortable with saying no
Once you have a daily or weekly list of priorities, it becomes easier to learn how to say no. If what's being requested of you doesn't somehow make it easier to achieve your mission-critical tasks, then you'll find it easier to politely decline. In the words of Warren Buffet, "Successful people say no to almost everything."
One easy way to start saying "no" is to switch off your phone alerts. Constant notifications can be a powerful distraction from achieving your goals. When we switch between tasks, it can take around 23 minutes to get focused again. Unless your job involves managing social media accounts, chances are you don't need to be notified about the latest like on a Facebook picture.
Similarly, if you confine checking emails to scheduled slots each day, you can dedicate your productive time to working on your priorities.
5. Use the help immediately available to you
If it's not possible to say no to a particular task or request, then perhaps it's possible to simply have someone else do it instead.
In his book, "Find Your Why," Simon Sinek writes that truly knowing yourself is the key to a sense of purpose. "When we focus on our strengths and lean in to the strengths of others," he writes of collaboration and delegation, "we can make the impossible possible."
Many people believe they have to do everything themselves to be successful. But a failure to leverage the help around you can lead to overload and fatigue. If you're in a position to delegate or outsource tasks, then do so whenever you have the opportunity.
6. Create some space for your head
According to a survey conducted by Buffer, 41 percent of workers believe that their biggest barriers to self or family care are feeling distracted and anxious. Feeling starved of time only makes it harder to be fully present doing whatever you're doing at a given moment, adding fuel to these negative emotions.
In a similar way to getting more sleep, it may seem difficult to make time for meditation if you're starting to feel overwhelmed. But studies have shown that meditation has multiple positive health benefits, including reducing stress, controlling anxiety and lengthening attention span.
If you find the traditional methods of mindfulness meditation too difficult, then meditative practices such as yoga or even running can also be extremely beneficial.
Let the feast begin
Time famine is a problem from which many of us suffer. But these few simple habits and practices can help to alleviate the feeling of overwhelm and increase productivity.
There may only be 24 hours in each day, but directing them into the right activities and priorities helps to cultivate a sense that time is a more abundant resource.
- Why procrastination is a form of self-harm - Big Think ›
- The five life skills employers are looking for the most - Big Think ›
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A study looks at the ingredients of a good scare.
Catching fear in a bottle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYyNzg1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTQwMTcyMn0.WtpJ1E_dhK2o09fBpKARynj4_p5NXeklgsXsbd7xr9w/img.jpg?width=980" id="8ff51" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f10dd9188b173f4a36e85e9325507c6b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Photo Boards/Unsplash<p>Previous studies have tracked physiological signs of fear arousal, but none have established a one-to-one correlation between that arousal and specific, actual fear events.</p><p>Andersen says that much of the research has been conducted in lab settings with weak fear stimuli, observing subjects as they experience things like scary videos. Scares in these situations tend to be weak and difficult to measure. Even harder to track in these situations is the link between enjoyment and fear. </p>
Eyes everywhere<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/109695164" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="267ba87cfb8591ed5830499574d2272a"></iframe><p>Andersen and his colleagues conducted their experiments at <a href="https://dystopia.dk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dystopia</a> Haunted House, a commercial attraction in Vejle, Denmark constructed in an old, run-down factory. The Recreational Fear Lab has a long-standing partnership with the spook shack.</p><p>They outfitted 100 volunteers with heart monitors and sent them on their terrifying way through the 50-room horror mansion. The facility incorporates a number of fright mechanisms including frequent jump scares in which a sudden threat takes a visitor by surprise.</p><p>Researchers surreptitiously observed their participants on closed-circuit video as they made their way through the attraction. They tracked each individual's scares, scoring them for intensity according to their visible reactions. After exiting the attraction, individuals self-reported their experiences in the haunted house.</p><p>Combining these self-reports with observer notes and each participant's heart-rate data gave the researchers subjective, behavioral, and physiological insights into the ways in which fear is experienced, and when it's a good thing or not.</p>
A pair of inverted U-shapes<p>In analyzing their data, the researchers saw two separate inverted u-shape curves. One depicted participants' enjoyment based on their self-reports and observed behavior. A similar u-curve was detected in their heart rates showing that just the right amount of heartbeat acceleration is associated with fun, but too much is too much. It's the terror Goldilocks zone.</p><p>Says Andersen, "If people are not very scared, they do not enjoy the attraction as much, and the same happens if they are too scared. Instead, it seems to be the case that a 'just-right' amount of fear is central for maximizing enjoyment."</p><p>The research suggests that being scared is enjoyable when it represents just a quick minor physiological deviation from one's normal state. When it goes on too long, however, or triggers too severe a physiological change, it becomes disturbing. Game over.</p><p>Andersen notes that this is not dissimilar to the factors known to make interpersonal play enjoyable: just the right amount of uncertainty and surprise. These are, maybe not coincidentally, also the ingredients of a successful joke.</p>
A meteorite that smashed into a frozen lake in Michigan may explain the origins of life on Earth, finds study.
- A new paper reveals a meteorite that crashed in Michigan in 2018 contained organic matter.
- The findings support the panspermia theory and could explain the origins of life on Earth.
- The organic compounds on the meteorite were well-preserved.
Meteor streaks through Michigan sky<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="80b7f30820153b35fc515592d7475f53"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EPu2qnqMYBo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The meteorite that smashed into Strawberry Lake carried pristine extraterrestrial organic compounds.
Credit: Field Museum