If you often feel like you’re racing against the clock; that your ‘to-do’ lists are too long; that you’re not doing enough, then you may already be familiar with time anxiety. At its simplest, time anxiety is the fear that you’re wasting your time. It’s common in day-to-day life as well as with larger life goals, and it can manifest in three core ways — current, future, and existential time anxiety.
Current time anxiety may be the most familiar form of anxiety. It has to do with the day-to-day stress of trying to rush through your tasks and get to the finish line. On the other hand, you may experience anxiety when you think you’re not doing enough or you’ve been less productive than you feel you should have been. Both scenarios play into the same feeling of having too much to do with the time you’re given, and that misusing this time is a mistake.
You may also experience future time anxiety, which plays into the uncertainty of time. You may zero in on the “what if”s of life and begin to panic about the things you can’t necessarily control. What if it’s too late to change your career, what if you haven’t saved enough for retirement, etc. These are all fair questions to ask yourself, but fixating on these themes can become a detriment to your life and well-being.
Finally, there’s existential time anxiety. This is the concern for permanently lost time, which is a factor in the other forms of time anxiety, too. Though, existential anxiety is more clearly tied loss. It’s most apparent when we think about death and face that reality for our own lives and life goals.
How You Can Combat Time Anxiety
Time anxiety is all about finding and creating value for ourselves and our time. Wanting to create value and feel worthy is not itself a problem, but it’s easy to fixate on the best possible outcome. This is both exhausting and a problematic way of leveraging our time. We become focused on the factors that we can’t control and obsessed with the outcome, instead of valuing our efforts and the good in what we create.
So the key to overcoming time anxiety is to learn to identify when you’re feeling anxious, and work through the moment to refocus your attention and concern.
1. Write Through Your Feelings
Start your journal by considering your anxiety and how it affects you. Think about what you enjoy doing, what you value most in yourself and others, and identify what time well-spent means to you. This is the start of your reflections so you can remind yourself what matters most.
Anytime you begin to feel anxious or overwhelmed, it’s a good place to write through what you’re feeling and learn to pinpoint exactly where the stress begins. Then you can practice what helps alleviate the anxiousness and track what works.
2. Find Time to Connect
Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are all key practices to building your understanding of self and needs. Regular practice can improve your ability to recognize when something isn’t quite right, which again helps you identify anxiety triggers so that you can better work through them. They’re also great for refocusing and calming yourself and can be performed just about anywhere.
3. Reframe the Situation
Again, the key to overcoming time anxiety is to re-evaluate what’s most important. When you begin to feel like you’re wasting your time, take a moment to breathe and consider what value you’re producing through whatever you’re doing.
If you’re going to miss a deadline, is it because you saw somewhere you could improve the quality of your project? If you feel guilty for taking a break, consider the value of resting your mind and body, and prioritizing yourself.
Time anxiety may never really go away and it affects everyone differently. Learning to recognize your habits and your value is the best way to keep it in check. See the infographic below for more tips on time anxiety and how to overcome it.