One of the most difficult issues that working women face today is an increase in the pace of the day and constant feeling to be running out of time. This affects energy levels and creates a constant feeling of guilt – women often feel they are not dedicating enough time to anything, while trying to juggle their career, family and personal interests.
This feeling is often heightened by the use of technology tools. Technology should be our friend, it should help us free our time, and yet it often becomes a constant source of stress especially when we have to be on the call all the time with emails, blackberries and phone calls.
The uncontrolled use of technology creates a state of mind where we become obsessed with clock time: seconds, minutes, and hours in a day, passing by, unchangeable, inexorable, to be filled, to be scheduled. This perception is created by the fact that we let our time be filled with external stimuli and demands over which we think we cannot – and therefore we do not – exercise any control.
We therefore live our days on autopilot and lose awareness of time in any other way than as measured by the ticking of the clock.
Your perception of time however may change if you think of time in other ways.
You can view time as what you decide to dedicate attention to and the quality of that attention.
Your attention is the scarcest, most precious resource you have, especially now in the digital age. We all have what I call with my clients a limited “mental bandwidth”: that space in your mind that allows you to think, dream, make plans and avoid living life in a merely reactive way.
An uncontrolled use of technology tools can completely destroy that mental bandwidth. Technology tools prompt us to react immediately and mindlessly literally eating up that space in your mind. This in turn creates an increased sense of stress and feeling that there is not enough time in your life.
How do you break free of this circle?
You can start viewing time in a different way: instead of perceiving time as slots that need to be filled with maximum efficiency (which usually turns into doing more of everything, which means responding to everything, even when it would be more productive to do less) you can start to view time as an allocation of attention. Attention, especially in the digital age, is your most important resource. Recognizing that how you allocate your attention drives how you allocate your time you will start perceiving time differently: every moment of your life is not an empty clicking clock to be chased, it is instead the choice you make at that very moment of what to dedicate your attention. And the sum of those choices is what will shape the content of your life. Managing your technology tools is the first step in regaining control of that attention.
Here are a few practical tips you can take to start reclaiming your time:
1. Make the decision to turn off your blackberry, iphone, computers and television at certain specific hours of the day.
2. Take a 1 hour break from emails before going to bed.
3. Do not look at emails first thing in the morning.
4. Move your blackberry (or iphone or other device) to a different room at certain times during the day. Especially, ensure it is not in your bedroom.
5. When you want to concentrate on task that involves digital information and get things done productively, print out the information and work on printed documents.
6. Avoid sending stream of consciousness emails. Wait until your thoughts are clear before writing.
7. Schedule your day so that it has a time slot for emergencies or “urgent” last minute things.
8. Schedule your own personal time in your calendar.
Stefania Lucchetti is an author and professional speaker. She regularly speaks for Fortune 500 companies on time management, leadership, information overload, and making ideas happen. Her book The Principle of Relevance deals with information overload and how to make information a tool of empowerment rather than a form of distraction. See her website at stefanialucchetti.com.