"I don't have time for that!"

 

How many times a day does that idea slip from your mouth? Probably quite a few. But the reality is that people actually have more leisure time than they did in previous decades, not less. Shocked? That's okay. But let's look at the possible psychological reasons why you might feel like the day needs a few more hours.

 

1. You're looking for control.

 

In his book Discretionary Time: A New Measure of Freedom, Robert E. Goodin proposes the idea that, the more control you have over your time, the freer you feel. He writes, "When we say that someone 'has more time' than someone else, we do not mean that she has literally a twenty-fifth hour in her day. Rather, we mean to say that she has fewer constraints and more choices in how she can choose to spend her time. She has more 'autonomous control' over her time. 'Temporal autonomy' is a matter of having 'discretionary' control over your time. Conversely, the less you are able to determine how your time is spent, the more your being is 'unfree,' or deprived."

 

But why, exactly, would you want the sense of control that comes with having say over the allocation of the clock? Psychologist and behavioral scientist Susan Weinschenk asserts that it's because you associate control with survival. Instinctively, you believe that your odds of making it go up the more you can influence. Thus, if you feel time crunched, you might feel insecure on some level about your physical or social status.

 

2. You have conflicting goals.

 

A study from Stanford University found that, when people perceive great conflict between goals, they feel more time constrained and experience greater anxiety and stress. At the heart of this is opportunity cost. When one opportunity clearly has a higher value than another, then it is easy to prioritize it and let go of the benefits you would have gotten from the other option. But often, conflicting goals have an equal perceived value. When this happens, it's harder to prioritize and let go of any of the options on the table. You can end up feeling like you have to reach for all the goals you have and "do it all", mentally committing yourself to the time you believe it's going to take to reach your objectives and stressing about how to make it all work.

 

3. You're overly focused on money.

 

Money might not make the world actually spin, but it does make it easier to be comfortable and survive. So most people are concerned with earning money at least to some degree, even if being rich isn't necessarily their goal. That said, social psychologist Elizathabeth Dunn points to work by Sanford DeVoe of the University of Toronto and Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford as an explanation for why people feel pressed for time. DeVoe and Stanford propose that, based on fairly basic principles of supply and demand, the more valuable our time is, the more we will see it as being scarce. The Economist puts it this way: "Once hours are financially quantified, people worry more about wasting, saving or using them profitably. When economies grow and incomes rise, everyone's time becomes more valuable. And the more valuable something becomes, the scarcer it seems." And sure enough, individuals with higher incomes report feeling more time-crunched. What's more, DeVoe and Pfeffer found that just the perception of affluence can worsen how time-crunched people feel.

 

4. You're scared of being forgotten.

 

The Economist notes that parents are among the most time-crunched people. With life expectancy increasing, it's harder for parents to pass on privilege through financial channels. They're thus putting more time into their kids because they see more value in passing on privilege through education and skills. But the desire to pass on some sort of legacy can drive anyone, not just parents, to spend increasing amounts of time on goal-related work.

 

5. You're seeking inclusion and/or dominance.

 

In her book Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism, Judy Wajcman discusses how being busy has taken on positive connotations, being equated with success and status. If we busy ourselves and convince ourselves we are time-crunched, then we get to believe we've achieved something or are important in some way and, therefore, desirable, of value or wanted by the group. We might even permit ourselves to believe we have some control over that group. In either case, we want affirmation, acceptance and, once again, security of survival.

 

So what does this all mean for you and your business? Maybe there's more time for work-life balance than you realize. Maybe, if work is making time seem scarce and stressing you out, you need to decrease the value you put on work hours and work less. And maybe there's something deeper you're needing, like real relationships and recognition. The more you dig deep and recognize what's underlying the pressure you feel, the better equipped you'll be to deal with those issues and finally get happy.

Published on: Jan 11, 2017