Beat Time Famine and Make Time for What Matters

time famine hourglass

Would You Like to Trade Time Famine for Time Affluence?

Does it seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Do you feel you are “starved” for time? Are you ending the day feeling stressed, rushed, overworked, and behind on accomplishments? You may be suffering from a phenomenon known as time famine. Read on to learn more about it, and how to create time affluence instead.

What is Time Famine

Time Famine is the feeling that there is too much to do and not enough time to do it.

While the feeling of “starving for time” has been with us for a long time. Researcher Leslie Perlow coined the term 1999 when she did a study on how people spent their time at work. 

Though time famine is associated with the workplace, it applies to day-to-day living as well. For example, is your schedule so complicated that you don’t have time to do basic tasks like cooking a meal or putting away the clean laundry?

Are you a creative? A writer, artist or musician? Time famine can manifest for you too. Does your schedule give you time to create and enjoy your art form? Or are you running from place-to-place and fighting deadlines?

Time Famine is Common

If you feel like you don’t have enough time, you’re not alone. 

One U.S. workforce report (pdf) by Families and Work Institute says it clearly. “Many of us feel deprived, that we simply don’t have enough time with the people in our lives who are important to us.”

Specifically, the report states:

  • 75% of employees report not having enough time for their children
  • 61% report not having enough time for their husbands or wives

Not surprisingly, the number of people who feel that they don’t have enough time is on the rise.

Why It Matters

We know time famine staunches our work productivity and robs us of family time. But also, studies have shown that time famine can lead to things like stress, anxiety, insomnia, and unhappiness.

These physical and mental conditions make it all the tougher to think clearly and be productive. Additionally, when we do make time for family and friends, the tiredness and frustration can zap the joy from what should be a happy time.  

Regaining Happiness

In his book, Happier, Harvard psychology professor Tal Ben-Shahar, noted, “We need to slow down because we are constantly doing too much.” He says if we are concerned about happiness, we actually need to less, rather than more.

By doing less and optimizing the time we do have, we can create time affluence.

Happiness is a temporary emotion. What most think of as the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of a satisfying and meaningful life. Joycelyn Campbell talks about this in The Other Problem with Affective Forecasting. It’s a simple switch to strive for satisfaction rather than happiness, and it will get you a longer-lasting result.

Psychologist Tim Kasser agrees. He calls time affluence a “personal path to happiness.” Having an abundance of time allows for relaxation and opportunities to savor pleasures, and experience more satisfaction. It also lets us nurture important relationships. 

Time affluence means there is some “white space” in the day. This enables creativity and connection. Creativity consultant Todd Henry said that “when we squeeze all the white space out of our lives, we’re not allowing our ideas to marinate. We’re not allowing them to breathe. We’re not allowing them to emerge to their full potential.”

How to Create Time Affluence

We often say we don’t have time for things we love and value. The truth is that everyone has the same amount of time each day. Many have found time for the things they cherish. If we’re experiencing famine rather than time affluence, we may be misspending time on things that don’t matter most.

The good news is that we can make the shift from time defict to time affluence starting with a few simple steps. 

1. Declutter Your Mind

Mental clutter can distract us from our vision. When your mind is clear it’s easier to find innovative ways to save time and use time more wisely.

Time famine may be occurring because you feel stuck, spinning, or even overly energized. Decluttering your mind helps clear the mental fog and get you moving again. This movement includes clear goals including better ways to organize, structure and spend your time. After decluttering your mind, time affluence can more easily become a reality.

Learn to Declutter Your Mind and Improve Mental Clarity

2. Create Your Ideal Schedule

Moving out of mental fog helps you to reclaim your vision of spending your time in ways that are important to you. Think, improving work productivity and spending time with the people who are important to you.

Now, with a vision of time affluence in mind, you can better create your ideal schedule. You can start each day by managing your time, instead of letting time manage you.

In particular, setting and sticking to a schedule gets you off on the right foot for a day of time affluence. When people don’t have a daily routine, distractions are more likely to occur that lead to overwhelm.

In addition, an optimized daily routine can help you take advantage of your natural energy peaks. This maximizes your efficiency. Similarly, a thoughtful schedule will have space in it to do all the things you need to do to maintain your life and work. Plus, there will be enough time to do the things that jazz you up!

Create Your Ideal Schedule

3. Learn to Unplug

When creating an ideal schedule, we need to remember to save room for free time. This the white-space-time we mentioned above when our brain can rest and our ideas can form. This means turning off the computers and cell phone screens, (yep, this meanscutting back on social media), and saying no to things that are not on your list.

Consider Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), and Arianna Huffington, for example. They all run large organizations and have schedules that could leave them starving for time.  However, they all report having a daily ritual that includes “unplugging”.  Every night before bed, they read a book. Sandberg says that she unwinds and sleeps better due to this ritual. She wakes up re-energized the next day.

Time to Take Action

If you have been feeling run down and starved for time, you are not alone. Time famine is a real thing. As well as making us unproductive and leaving us feeling drained, it can take away from our happiness. However, the condition can be beaten!

Take the first steps toward time affluence and happiness. Declutter your mind. Plan your ideal schedule (and stick with it), and unplug! Enjoy your reclaimed productivity and sense of fulfillment… Savor the time you spend with the people who matter to you the most.