Feeling Overwhelmed? Some Thoughts About How We Use Our Time

How do you manage your time?

By Janet Forest

How do you manage your time? Well? Poorly? Not at all? Some professional development experts say you can’t manage time. It trucks along with or without you. So, a better question is, “How do you use your time?”

There can be a lot of a social pressure to do more and faster and more efficiently. But is it making us more productive? Are we getting where we want to be?

Carl Honore observes in his Ted Talk that we are racing to go faster and faster in every aspect of our lives. “We used to dial; now we speed dial. We used to read; now we speed read. We used to walk; now we speed walk. And of course, we used to date and now we speed date.” Honore makes the argument that we will actually be happier and more fulfilled if we learn to slow down.

But how do we slow down? Where do we start? In her book, Overwhelmed, Brigid Shulte talks about the pressure adults (and working moms in particular) are under to do everything and have it all. But what does that mean? And is it possible to have it all?

 One place to start, as Arianna Huffington and Dr. Matthew Walker suggest, is to get more sleep. In our effort to more and be more productive, sleep has become associated with laziness. People wear their sleep deprivation like a badge of honor. Yet Dr. Walker explains in his book Why We Sleep that trying to skip sleep during the week and catch up on the weekends is like deciding not to breathe for a day and breathing really deeply the day after. There are all sorts of physiologic activity that only happens during sleep and we need to do it every day.

 Another avenue to explore is finding ways to reduce our distractions. Cal Newport, a computer scientist and author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, believes that by giving in to constant interruptions and distractions, we are denying ourselves the fulfillment of deep focused work.

 For those feeling underwater and at the mercy of their maxed out schedules, the first step is to take a first step. Start somewhere. You didn’t get here in a day, and it won’t be solved in a day. But what can you do this month to make things a tiny bit easier for yourself?

Here’s one suggestion, sign up for our FREE 3-week Time Management Toolkit workshop and learn some new tools and strategies.

Janet Forest is a programs department associate at the Nantucket Atheneum.