Overwhelmed? Create time abundance

To-do list as long as your arm? Head about to explode? In the second part of a series of pieces on feeling overwhelmed in our lives, Oliver Burkeman gives us the lowdown on how to change the way we think about everything we're trying to fit in


Overwhelmed? Create time abundance

All too often, tips and tricks for fighting ‘overwhelm’ seem to hinder, not help. Even worse, time-use research indicates that we’re not busier than we used to be, on average. We have plenty of spare time, researchers say – so why doesn’t it feel that way? All this suggests that feeling overwhelmed is not a simple question of having too much to do, but a tricky psychological trap.

So, here is the best current thinking on finding your way out – and reclaiming some breathing – space to enjoy life again.

Cultivate ‘time abundance’

Being busy breeds more busyness: it takes up cognitive bandwidth, which impairs your ability to make the decisions that might reduce feeling overwhelmed in the future.

For example, when you’re tired, you’re more likely to procrastinate, which only leaves you under more time-pressure. Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, authors of Scarcity (Penguin, £9.99), say we pay a ‘bandwidth tax’ when we try to cram too much in, leaving us ‘less insightful, less forward-thinking and less controlled’. And, ultimately, busier.

A surprisingly effective way to feel a bit less rushed is to give time away, perhaps by volunteering. By acting as if you have time to spare, you’ll come to believe it.

Photograph: iStock

More inspiration:

Read It's time to stop the glorification of busy by Jules Mitchell on LifeLabs

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