“I’m just so busy.”
How many times have you heard a friend or coworker say this? Perhaps in a tone of exhaustion, but with a detectable hint of proud self-martyrdom? How many times have you said it yourself?
In today’s fast-paced world, we measure our own importance — and the importance of those around us — by how much we can pack into our days. We attempt to outdo, outhustle, and outperform one another. Or appear to anyways.
It feels like we’re in the midst of a busyness epidemic. The stress and overwhelm of all this busyness is literally contagious.
So what’s the antidote? How can we create more time in our lives? At this point, most of us turn to time management as a silver bullet for our stressors. If we could only use our time more efficiently, we’d have more of it.
We could get everything done and feel less stressed.
There’s just one problem with that theory: we already do have more time than ever before. A lot more. On the whole, people in developed countries are actually working far fewer hours than in past decades. This even holds true in the famously work-inclined US; in 1940 the average American work week clocked in at 43.3 hours. In 2016 it was just 34.4 hours. Yet we feel busier than ever. What gives?
One counterintuitive explanation: too much leisure time. The Atlantic calls this the “irony of abundance”:
“…knowing that there are 10 great TV shows you should watch, nine important books to read, eight bourgeois skills your child hasn’t mastered, seven ways you’re exercising wrong, six ways you haven’t sufficiently taken advantage of the city, etc., fosters a kind of metastasized paradox of choice, a perma-FOMO. Knowing exactly what we’re missing out makes us feel guilty or anxious about the limits of our time and our capacity to use it effectively.”
In this way, creating more time is like earning more money — the more you have, the more you want to spend.