Are you busy right now? Are you behind on what you wanted to accomplish today? Or this week? Or already this year?
You’re not alone. It’s a common problem.
In fact, it’s a problem so common it may qualify as a new epidemic: We’ve got no time. Too busy. Overwhelmed by work, family obligations, and the fast-paced nature of a run-ragged, ever-accelerating world.
Time famine and time poverty
We’re living in a time of famine and poverty—time famine and time poverty. Time poverty is the feeling that one is constantly stressed, rushed, overworked, and behind. All we have to do is look around us—and often within ourselves—to realize the pervasiveness of this time famine in our culture.
We don’t usually think about poverty in terms of time. After all, we all have the same 24 hours a day, don’t we? By that measure, no one person should be “time richer” or “time poorer” than any other.
Benjamin Franklin’s old adage that “time is money” served as the original inspiration for “time management” principles. These principles have governed workplace practices and economic development strategies for the past century. But a new generation of economists and activists are declaring that time isn’t money. It’s more than money: more valuable, more scarce, and a more powerful commodity.
Recently, the Pew Research Center asked middle-class Americans to prioritize what was important to them in their lives. 68% of people responded that having free time was very important—outpacing the importance of having children (62%), a successful career (59%), being married (55%), or being wealthy (12%). And upper- and lower-class respondents essentially gave the same answers!
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. –William Penn
The problem, of course, is that time is fixed. Unlike money, friends, or Twitter followers, time isn’t something that we can expand through harder work, increased effort, or better connections. No matter how much we organize, delegate, plan, or abbreviate, the resource in question remains decidedly finite: There are just 24 hours in the day. It’s one of the world’s immutable limits.
Do you feel in control of your time?
But in fact, some people have more control over their 24 hours than others. And the amount of time control we feel we have profoundly affects our health, our productivity, and our happiness.
All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that. –Baltasar Gracian
It’s not how much “free time” away from work or other obligations we have that matters to our psychological and physical health. It’s the amount of control we perceive over our own time.
A sense of control starts with time awareness—setting goals and tracking progress. Weekly and daily planning. A connection between who we are and what we do with our time.
This control over our time also has a name: time affluence. Time affluence is the feeling that you have sufficient time to pursue activities that are personally meaningful and important to you, time to reflect, time to engage in leisure.
We should redefine success to include a third metric, beyond money and power—time affluence, which will lead, without doubt, to greater well-being and deeper wisdom. Not a bad thing to put on top of our task list.
Here are some ideas that can help you gain more control over your time
After years of guiding others to find their life’s purpose and values and to articulate their roles and define their goals, we’ve reworked our Planning Experience to be the most comprehensive link between who you are and what you do every day to manifest who you are.