You Don’t Have a Time Management Problem — You Just Think You Do

Three ways to end the overwhelm.

I’ve got some good news.

You don’t actually have a time management problem — you just think you do.

I’ve learned a lot about time management in the past couple years including a few discoveries that changed my perception of the problem and helped me figure out how to stop feeling so overwhelmed by all the things I want and need to do.

Here are three key ideas that have helped me overcome the overwhelm…

  1. The more effort you put into becoming productive, the less productive you will feel.

This concept is as powerful as it is counterintuitive.

The time you spend striving to increase your productivity may help you better manage your time, but it actually makes you feel less productive and less in control of it.

Studies found the more you think about time management, the more you watch the clock.

And the more you watch the clock, the more anxious you get, which in turn hurts your performance and decreases your happiness.

It turns out one of the best ways to manage your time is to stop obsessing about how to better manage your time.

You can read more about this concept here:

Why time management is ruining our lives | Oliver Burkeman

  1. You have enough time — you just have too much you want to do.

Let’s get Zen for a moment.

We all feel we don’t have enough time in the day to get things done, but that’s the wrong way to frame the issue.

Your real issue may be that you have too much you want to get done.

Your drive to want more, do more, and get more — no matter how much time you have available — creates a scenario in which you forever feel you don’t have “enough” time to do it all.

The solution is not to obsess over how to increase your forever-limited supply of time, but rather to consider how to decrease the demands of what you want to do with that time.

It sounds cliche, but your time management goal shouldn’t be to figure out how to do more, but instead to figure out how to want less.

You can read more about this concept here:

Becoming a Master of the Time-Scarcity Demon : zen habits

  1. It’s not a productivity problem, it’s an emotional one.

Let’s get touchy-feely for a moment.

Your struggle to “manage” your time manifests itself in feeling overwhelmed and an immense amount of pressure to get things done.

But the pressure you feel isn’t actually caused by a shortage of time— it’s a symptom of other psychological challenges.

For example, a study found people who work the same hours feel completely different levels of time pressure depending on their passion for their work.

The same is true for people who have conflicting goals — if you want to both save money and buy nice things, you naturally feel more conflicted and anxious, which in turn makes you feel more pressed for time.

Another psychological trigger is control.

If you feel in control of your time, you’re significantly less likely to feel time pressure than if your time feels out of your control— even if you have the exact same amount of things to do.

You can read more about this concept here:

Why You Never Seem to Have Enough Time