The feeling of ‘time poverty’ is all too common nowadays, with many of us feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tasks and commitments we have to juggle in our lives.
Whether it works inside or outside the home, with or without pay, chances are you’ve experienced this sense of being pressed for time and energy.
Cassie Holmes, Ph.D., a professor of marketing and behavioral decision-making at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and author of the book Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most has spent the last decade studying time and happiness.
She explains that while it may seem like an impossible task to get everything done during the week, “the goal is to make our time more fulfilling during the week, not just full.”
Dr. Holmes suggests that there are ways we can go about creating more meaningful moments during our days in order to feel less stressed out and drained.
A few tips she provides include taking breaks throughout the day to increase productivity; setting realistic goals; planning out each day ahead to make sure priorities are met; taking time for yourself away from work; embracing imperfection when things don’t go as planned; and creating routines where possible so that tasks become second nature.
By implementing these strategies into your daily life you can start feeling less exhausted even if your schedule remains full.
Track Your Time And Happiness.
To truly make the most of your day and add more happiness to it, it’s important to understand how you’re spending each waking hour and what sort of emotions they bring.
To get a better assessment of this, Dr. Holmes suggests tracking your time for a couple of weeks in either a journal or notes app.
Log every activity in half-hour increments and rate them on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being completely unhappy and 10 being extremely happy.
It’s important to take into account not only positive feelings such as feeling excitedly energized or blissfully serene but also the entire emotional gamut; an activity that on the surface seems depressing might still contain joyous moments.
It can be useful to look at individual tasks within activities; for example instead of simply noting “work”, take note of the specific elements like “staff meeting”, “restocking” or “charting on patients”.
Additionally, take the time to observe how you feel while carrying out these activities; something as simple as making dinner for your kids while simultaneously trying to make it somewhere else in 20 minutes might create a lot more stress than stirring homemade risotto on Friday night with some calming music playing in the background, which would naturally create more pleasant feelings.
Moreover, keep in mind that our predictions regarding what will bring us joy may not always be accurate; you may think that listening to a true crime podcast will fill you with excitement but instead produce feelings of fatigue or guilt due to lack of productivity or even anxiety due to the dark subject matter.
Thus, by taking the time to track our daily emotions we can gain better insight into what truly brings us happiness and plan accordingly.
Prioritize Your Most Satisfying Activities.
When it comes to managing your time wisely, Dr. Holmes suggests that you take stock of the activities that bring you satisfaction and prioritize those.
For example, if connecting with a colleague over coffee helps invigorate you for the day ahead, it is important to schedule this in advance.
If attending your daughter’s soccer practice is non-negotiable, make sure to block this off on your calendar and plan around it.
Additionally, if doing a crossword puzzle before bed relaxes you more than reading a book, set aside dedicated time for the puzzle and keep the book for another occasion.
By taking the time to identify activities that bring joy and consciously protecting their space in our daily lives, we can ensure that even though our weeks are packed with things to do, they will be filled with meaningful and fulfilling experiences as well.
Protect Your Prime Hours, If Possible.
High-quality work demands full mental engagement without being hindered by outside distractions.
That is why the concept of flow, as first introduced by Hungarian American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is so important.
Flow is achieved when an individual uses their skills to become fully engaged and immersed in a task or activity.
To attain this level of focus, it is essential to carve out time for deep and creative thinking.
This could be accomplished by temporarily changing one’s start time if they are a morning person or blocking off a few hours per week to finish small tasks.
To further facilitate flow, Dr. Holmes suggests removing distractions from the physical environment such as shutting the door, putting on earphones to signal unavailability, closing email applications, and putting devices out of sight.
Additionally, one may consider customizing their messaging app status with what they are currently working on so that colleagues know not to disturb them during designated “untouchable” hours.
By taking these steps and allocating specific periods of time to engage in creative activities, individuals can create an optimal work environment that allows them to produce high-quality pieces which they love making.
Make A Work Bestie.
Recent studies have shown that having a best friend at work can be invaluable to employees.
According to Gallup polls, individuals who maintain close relationships with their colleagues are more engaged in their roles, perform better in their jobs, and are more satisfied with the balance of their work and life.
To maximize the benefits of these friendships without getting too sidetracked by them, it is recommended that people aim to integrate socializing into their work wherever possible.
This could include taking a walk with a coworker to discuss a project or having lunch with an office mate.
Alternatively, for those who struggle to form strong bonds in the workplace due to various circumstances, Dr. Holmes suggests pursuing social activities outside of the workplace every day.
This could range from having a phone call with an old friend instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media or engaging in conversations with strangers in public spaces such as parks or cafes.
Curate Your Commute.
Research conducted by Dr. Holmes has revealed that commuting is one of the most dreaded and least enjoyable parts of the workday for many people.
This is often due to the habit of mindlessly flipping through radio stations or using phones while in transit, which can be a huge time-suck without providing any meaningful activity.
To make better use of this time, she suggests being intentional about what you do during your commute.
Those who drive could listen to an engaging audiobook or podcast they enjoy, or use the time to learn a new language.
Public transportation commuters might choose to read a book instead of scrolling social media, and those who walk might take advantage of their environment with a walking meditation or by calling a friend and enjoying some fresh air.
For her part, despite no longer being a strategy consultant, freelancing mother, and household manager still finds herself having hectic workweeks.
Following Dr. Holmes’ advice, however, has made it easier for her to fill her workweek with more fulfilling activities.
For instance, she recently left her role as a volunteer editor at the community newspaper because it was becoming stressful and took up too much of her time; instead, she decided to become the class coordinator at her child’s preschool which enabled her to get to know other parents in the area better.
Although small changes like these may not seem significant, they have had an overall positive impact on her life; when it comes time to focus on work tasks she feels relaxed and ready to dive in.