No one I know has enough time. However, it is possible to find extra time if you are conscious about your judgment of time.
The following four thoughts about time may steal your time. Could a change in perception give you a better sense of time?
1. Time is money. According to researchers Sanford Devoe and Julian House, thinking of time in terms of money shapes how we view time well spent. Devoe and House asked participants to take a period of time to enjoy music or putter around the Internet for pleasure.
Before one group started, they were asked to share their hourly wage at work. Devoe and House did not ask this question of the second group. Those that were asked to think about their paycheck first grew impatient with “doing nothing.” Based on their post-test comments, those who were asked about money had thoughts about the time not spent earning cash.
Those who didn’t think about money enjoyed their time. They found value in the exercise.
Do you need to account for every minute of you time or are there “non-productive” moments that are priceless?
Creativity demands we have periods of time where we don’t think about work or problems. The more complex a situation, the more there is a chance to overload your cognitive resources. When you instead sleep on it or distract yourself with something mindless or a physical activity, you give your unconscious a chance to sort through possible solutions which is more effective than consciously trying to sift through pros and cons. This is called the “deliberation-without-attention effect.”
There is a reason why you come up with great ideas in your sleep. Creativity peaks at times of mental fuzziness, when you are sleepy and non-focused. On the other hand, the need to work more, work harder and work faster doesn’t lead to more productivity and actually kills creativity.
2. There is not enough time. If you are conscious about how you are spending your time, you might be able to speed up time. How much evidence do you need before you make a decision? How deeply do you need to analyze each step in your plan? According to researcher Roger Ratcliff, decisions and tasks often take a long time because of a conscious choice to emphasize accuracy over speed. Trusting yourself to work faster can give you the gift of time.
Additionally, making a plan and sticking to it can narrow your focus so you can’t see alternatives and time-savers right in front of you.
Psychologist E.J Masicampo gave subjects a task of finding Bill Murray’s birthdate after completing another task. They were told they could find it on a particular movie site. About two-thirds of the participants overlooked the Wikipedia website on their screen, thinking they had to go to the movie site as planned. Finding the date on Wikipedia would have been easier than trying to discover it on the movie site.
Blindly adhering to a premeditated path can lead to expending more time, energy and resources on a problem than is necessary. How can you remind yourself to sit back, take a breath, and look around you for other possibilities even when you have many things to finish in a day? The Jesuits have a nearly 500-year old spiritual tradition that emphasizes a twice-daily practice of conscience. Do you have time for this?
3. I don’t have time now but I will later. Psychologically healthy adults tend to be optimistic about the future. This isn’t bad, but it could paint the present as worse than it is. When you are having a good time, you don’t worry about time. When you are not, time is either a drudge or stress producer.
Try to see what makes the present moment the best of times. Positive emotions improve the brain's executive function and encourage creative, quick and strategic thinking. Gain time by actively thinking about things that make you happy, and then look for good reasons for completing the task in front of you. There may never be a better time than now.
4. Time is fleeting. All the “productivity tools” we have actually make us less productive. Constantly checking for emails, texts, the latest news, social media streams, relevant blog posts, and irrelevant but interesting articles keep our brains scattered and overworked.
When you are working to complete a task, ban the distractions. Be aware of what steals your attention. If you get interrupted or need a break, make a conscious choice to return to the task at hand with your full attention. Letting yourself wander for too long may lead you to having to repeat some of your work just to remember where you left off.
Also, when you leave one task to go to another, be sure you leave the last task behind.
Before starting something new, go for a walk, climb stairs, or do some deep breathing to clear your head. Even if you think you are a good multi-tasker, the brain has only 100% of attention to dole out. Giving a task even 80% of your attention can lead to mistakes you will have to fix later, taking up precious time.
Now, go make up the time that you have taken to read this article.