- Written by Dr. Stephanie Shelburne Dr. Stephanie Shelburne
If you are one of those people who ends the day with a sigh, an ever burgeoning to-do list, and a bewildering feeling that time has accelerated beyond your comprehension then this article is for you.
Time. Some argue that time is simply a construct of the civilized world and ultimately has no influence on your general health or well-being. On the other hand there are those who argue that time is indeed accelerating as our planetary orbit shifts alignment with the Cosmos.
Perhaps both theories are true, all I know is that lately time has become a MAJOR topic of conversation with clients, friends, and loved ones.
The main thrust of many of the conversations goes something like this; “yes, I meant to get to that done today but by the time I had time to look at the time, there was no more time”. Sound familiar?
So what is happening with time??? Is it really accelerating?
Recently, two things happened that elicited a huge “ahha” moment for me, as well as inspired further exploration into this phenomenon. This is what comes of being one of those people who refuses to take the status quo for an answer and completely geeks out on researching odd and random things. Hopefully, by now you are wondering what happened to initiate my investigation and you will have the time to keep reading.
I awoke the other morning, got out of bed and started my typical morning routine assuming the day would be just like any other. That about 30 minutes later I heard a very loud bang somewhere out in the world beyond my front door and the power went out. Hm, curious, yes, but as of yet no problem.
Gas stove insures my morning cup of coffee can still be a factor and I settle in to do some work while waiting to be apprised of the situation by the power company. Opening my laptop, I immediately notice I have only 7% power. Doh! In that same moment, I receive a text from my 50% charged phone that lets me know the power is expected to be out for roughly four hours and they are working on it.
The entire area is out of power. No plugging in for me. Can I live without my laptop??? Yes. Over the next four hours I proceed to get more done than I could possibly imagine. I cleaned my house, organized a closet, did some gardening, hula hooped, drummed, danced, journaled, worked on a writing project I’d been putting off (yes, you can still write on actual paper with an actual pen if the power goes out). Four hours later the power is back on and it is only noon. I still have an entire day ahead of me! What gives???
Recently, on a return trip from the UK, my calendar/text/messaging system went a little bit haywire. Upon realizing there was an issue, I rebooted my phone to see if that would correct things. Upon restart I was inundated with emails and texts that I had received through the past week were all downloaded a second time. I was instantly aware of how much digital communication I participate in on the average week. Holy pajamas, people!!! There before my eyes were 124 text messages (38 of which came from a single person) and a whopping 2,320 emails.
Several things happened. As a Virgo, I immediately panicked at the sight of the numbers on my phone ‘desktop’. My fellow Virgos will understand. The second thing was to begin reflecting upon some statistics I had recently encountered concerning digital time and accountability for governmental employees.
The powers that be, from a governmental perspective, have recognized that the digital world has become the designated work platform for many employees. The following numbers are part of rubric designed to help employees/employers insure that time worked and pay received are in balance. The allotment for texting and email is 10 minutes per text message, receipt and response and 15-20 minutes per email, receipt and response.
Eureka! I think I just found all my lost time. 124 text messages at roughly 10 minutes a piece equals 1,240 minutes. If my math correct, which it may or may not be, that’s a whopping 20 hours of time per week! That’s a part time job!
How about those emails? Let’s assume that over half of them were listserves and advertisements that were immediately forwarded to my trash, that still leaves me within the ballpark of 1000 legit emails for the week. 1000 x 15 = 15,000 minutes (are there even 15,000 minutes in a week??). Divide that by 60 = 250 hours. Gulp! 270 of the hours in my week are taken up by digital communication. This does not account for any time spent on social media, which according to statistics looks like this per login (not per day, per login):
Youtube – 40 minutes
Facebook – 35 minutes
Snapchat – 25 minutes
Instagram – 15 minutes
Twitter – 1 minute
On a daily basis the average person spends roughly 6 ½ hours online with approximately 3 of those hours dedicated to social media.
This includes a combined use of all devices; smartphones and computers. This is according to Business Insider, GlobalWebIndex and various other marketing companies (keep in mind, it’s their business to know how much time you spend and what you do when your logged on)
Thankfully, when it comes to social media, I am not the average person. Partially because I carefully monitor my time and partially because I refuse to use many of the social media platforms available, and I don’t have my notifications activated. But still we’re looking at roughly 280 hours in a week of extraneous activities that are not factored into my calculated work schedule. Um, how many hours are actually in a week? Yeah, do you see where I’m going with this???
So, let’s see. If you’re lucky you have a job that takes 40 of your hours per week. Maybe you even get to use some of those hours for your social media time. Then you’re supposed to have roughly 8 hours of time for sleep, which we both know is a joke and is also probably interrupted by checking your phone. This should leave you with 8 hours of “leisure” time, which usually means your time to go to the gym, store, kids outings, etc… and where did the day go again??
The only way to successfully complete all the things on your to-do list, including digital use, is to do them simultaneously. Text and talk, walk, drive, eat, go to the bathroom, work. Email and talk, walk, drive, text, eat, work, go to the bathroom.
You get the picture.
If this is your schedule, I’m hoping you are now seeing the very glaring issue. I also want to remind you that research demonstrates that multi-tasking decreases your intelligence.
So, if you’ve been wondering where your sanity, your memory, and your firecracker wit have gone…blame it on the time bandits.
So, what’s a woman to do? The power outage taught me a HUGE lesson. I am self-employed, so for me, time is money in many respects. Clearly some major time management tactics need to be implemented.
First, upon review of those 124 text messages only 7 of them required my attention. The rest were extraneous communications that would have taken less time and disruption had they been a quick phone call rather than several novella sized texts. Remember, that friend with the 38 texts? That equates roughly 7 hours of time. A one hour conversation on the phone would have resulted in a better use of time all the way around; socially, digitally, relationally.
So here’s what I’m doing:
Step 1: Text messaging has suddenly become for emergencies only.
Step 2: I have setup automated email response letting people know I check and respond to email twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
Step 3: I’ve unsubscribed from all extraneous listserves. Sorry digital marketers!
Step 4: I have created time for phone conversations and actual real-time activities that connect more deeply with my friends and loved ones. Believe it or not, this has created more time rather than taken more time.
I’m sure there are more places to tweak my time retrieval but for now this is a great place to start. I encourage you, if anything has resonated in this article, to begin the time retrieval process for yourself. Because at the end of the day, what will be remembered about you, isn’t how well you could multi-task, or how many emails you could send from the bathroom, rather it will be how present you were for the people who mattered in your life. Don’t you think it’s time to win the battle with the time bandits?