“I wish there were 40 hours in a day!”
“Wow! Where did all the time go? It sure does fly.”
“All I need is just 35 minutes more. Only that much.”

Do you have such thoughts about the amount of time you need in a day? You aren’t alone in this crunch for time! But what is this really about? The belief that we are busier than ever, is a myth. We actually have more leisure time today, compared to yesteryears. Thankfully, there are psychological explanations for this feeling of overwhelm:

  1. You see significant life and work goals as conflicting. For example, if you desire quality work-life balance, and also need to meet work demands that run into late evenings, there’s a conflict. Yet, you want to pursue both, because both these goals have great value for you.Researchers from Stanford state that besides the number of goals people pursue and the time required to pursue them, noticing conflict between goals makes people feel that they have less time. Why? Simply because it induces a sense of stress and anxiety. It triggers the ‘I have to do it all’ mentality.
  1. You desire to be more in control. When we feel like we do not have control over a situation, we get restless. The same tendency applies to time. If we are distracted from our tasks and time slips by, we get frustrated or overwhelmed, thus hindering progress. This is where time management comes in. When you notice yourself wishing for more time, understand it as a need for being in control of the amount of time you have at your disposal.According to psychologist Susan Weinschnek, our desire and ability to choose or control stems from a very basic need – survival. It creates a sense of safety, security, and predictability. With respect to time management, meeting such core needs correlates to better achievement, well-being, and mindfulness.
  1. You wish to feel more valued. With today’s workforce, especially the millennials, being busy is equated with success, and safety. If we believe we are time crunched, we feel more important, and see ourselves as contributing to the betterment of our lives. We seek to gain approval from others. Author Judy Wajcman calls this the Time – Pressure paradox. “Nowadays prestige accords to those who work long hours and are busiest at work.”From the economic demand and supply view, once hours are financially quantified, people worry more about wasting, saving, or using them profitably. Hence the dash to make the most of our time.

Now that you have this psychological lens to time consumption, what can you do to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed? You have a range of options, such as setting strong boundaries for work and leisure, or managing stress better, as opposed to time. Wish to dig deeper? Explore what needs being busy meets for you – recognition, emotions, validation – and find other means to meet them.

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