Time Flies – What can you do about it?
In virtually every meeting I’ve been in over the last month or two, someone has made the comment that they can’t believe that the year is almost half over.
More and more, it feels like time is flying – and generally not because we’re all having so much fun!
Most business owners I know work a lot – and it’s not just long hours, they are incredibly busy during those long hours. And of course exhausted once they do get a break.
The end result is a consistent blur of activity and the belated recognition that another week, month, or even quarter has flown by without you realizing it.
“The days are long but the years are short.”– Gretchen Rubin
Time Flies – what’s the problem?
When I was waiting tables back in college, everyone wanted to have the busiest shifts. Not only is that when you made the most money, but by having a crazy number of tables, the time just flew by and before you knew it, it was closing time. The alternative was to get stuck with a slow afternoon – you might get 3 or 4 tables over the course of 5 hours and most of your time was spent cleaning up the tables or your station… and just sitting around waiting for something to happen.
Those were the days when time seemed to almost stop.
These days, as a business owner or a busy professional, the hectic days are every day – and while you’re not likely to be bored, you’re also not likely enjoying that pace when it’s an every day occurrence. Not only is it exhausting, but it also puts you in a position where you are constantly reacting to what’s going on around you – rather than proactively making things happen.
You’re tired, you’re not at your best and you’re unprepared for any surprises. And even worse, it starts to feel like your life is passing you by.
Time Flies – What to do about it…
The best time management experts will be quick to point out that you can’t really ‘manage’ your time, you can only focus on how productive you are with that time and you can prioritize how you use your time.
But time will continue to march on.
However, there are a few things you can do to slow things down (or at least slow down the perception of time flying by… and give yourself some space).
Look for Novelty
Neuroscientists have learned that one of the causes for an increase in the perceived speed of time passing is due to your brain getting comfortable with your routine. When you were younger you were experiencing a lot of ‘firsts’. First time you ever rode an airplane, first big business dinner, first time presenting to a group – whatever it might be, those ‘firsts’ require a lot more attention from your brain and that engagement makes it feel like time slows down.
It’s difficult to keep finding new ‘firsts’, especially if you’ve been around for a while, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be completely novel to have a similar effect. Changing up small things can drive just enough novelty that your brain will react. Try driving a new route to work, doing something routine in a new way or even ordering something different from your favorite coffee shop.
Habits and routines are important, but it can be equally important to purposefully shake things up and get exposed to new things.
Carve out time
I had a chance to look at a client’s schedule the other day and visually his calendar looked like a huge splash of color, with almost no empty blocks in the entire week. (Sound familiar).
Nobody wants to waste time, but the reality is that if you are consistently going back to back with meetings and activities you don’t have the ability to really process what’s going on. You never give yourself a chance to get into the state that Cal Newport describes as ‘Deep Work‘.
Numerous experts talk about the benefits of having open blocks of time to truly think about what you’re trying to do. Gino Wickman (author of Traction) calls these ‘Clarity Breaks‘. Bill Gates is famously known to take a whole week off and use it to read and think about the bigger picture.
Whatever your approach, there’s a huge benefit to building time into your schedule that will allow you to breathe and process everything that’s going on. It won’t be easy to carve out extra time, but it’s certainly possible.
Become more mindful
Another idea that’s gotten a lot of attention in the last few years is the concept of mindfulness. Living in the moment, appreciating and engaging with what’s going on around you right now.
The practice of Mindfulness is the opposite of mindless distractions. It’s the idea of purposely concentrating on and engaging in what’s going on around you and the very act of doing that will cause things to slow down. It’s not an easy thing to do, and it takes practice but anyone can get better at staying in the moment – or even learning meditation techniques.
Finally, you should start travelling more. Going to new locations for fun, self-development or even a work trip can help you incorporate all of the ideas that we’ve talked about so far.
Think back to your last, great vacation. If you were lucky enough to be gone more than a few days, there was probably some point in your trip where you realized that you didn’t really know what day it was and you had gotten lost in enjoying beautiful, interesting or fun new locations.
“The world is a book and those who don’t travel read only one page.”– St. Augustine
Travel is excellent for everyone, but for business owners, it also helps to force them to build a team around them that can support the business while they’re gone. Which also helps to free up their time when they’re not travelling…!
Is time flying in your world? When’s the last time you tried to do something about it? Do these ideas work for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Take a minute and leave us a thoughtful comment.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach