The 21st century is a golden era in history; modern technology has made everything in the world faster, simpler, and stronger than ever before. Everything you could ever want to know or have is attainable at the touch of a finger, wherever and whenever you want it. As exciting as that is, it is also a large factor in why our lives can often feel so jumbled. We are overloaded with an influx of information at every waking moment: text messages, emails, phone calls, social media, online shopping, etcetera. We are drowning in a sea of endless things and calming the tide can be a grueling endeavor. The result is an increase in anxiety, impairment in functioning, and/or a sense of anguish associated with managing everyday life. Below are four empirical tips on how to better manage your time in the fast pace of the modern world:
Minimize your decisions.
Deciding over trivial matters such as what to wear to work or what to eat for lunch can exhaust the mind, subsequently impairing one's ability to make further decisions, as well as consuming the time one could have spent doing another task or considering a more important decision. By limiting the choices one must make throughout the day—an economical concept known as paired comparison analysis—one liberates the brain to focus on the decisions that actually require urgent attention. Just think of it as forced prioritization.
Make a schedule.
A difficult habit to build, but planning an agenda only takes 10-15 minutes and, if completed the night before, will paint a much clearer picture of what tasks need to get done throughout the day. This is known to minimize uncertainty and doubt, which mitigates the onset of stress and anxiety. Neglecting the time to decide what needs to be done leads to nothing getting done, and one will inexorably find oneself forgetting about important deadlines or meetings.
Wear a watch.
Our phones are like a third arm, there’s no denying that. The ship has sailed where I would ask you not to carry your phone on you. But, taking your phone out during work hours, even if it’s just to check the time, will usually lead to unproductive distractions (i.e. if you notice you have a text, you’ll most likely take the time to respond to it). Avoid these distractions by teaching your brain to instead check your watch whenever you get curious about the time of day.
This may be the most important tip of all. The clock may always be ticking, but you’re not always on it. Give your mind the much-needed rest it deserves. Meditate, stretch, take a nap, or watch your favorite show—anything you feel will help to remove yourself from the stress and feel good in the present moment. Rest and relaxation will ultimately make you more productive when it is time to get back to work.
Claessens, B.J.C.; van Eerde, W.; Rutte, C.G.; Roe, R.A. (2007). “A review of the time management literature”. Personnel Review, Vol. 36 Issue: 2, p. 255-276.