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The Problem With Trying to Speed Up Your Life

The pitfalls of "time impatience."

Key points

  • Time impatience is a habit that creates more stress in you and others.
  • Smartphones, the internet, and social media can take much of the blame for our time impatience.
  • Learning to slow down can benefit your personal and professional life.
G-Stock Studio/Shutterstock
Source: G-Stock Studio/Shutterstock

What used to be a 24-hour/7 day-a-week world now seems like it has tripled into a 72-hour day. Work intrudes on our personal lives, and technology—cell phones, email, and social media—have become the usual blessing/curse of time bandits.

Some of this is self-initiated. Looking at the screen time feature on your iPhone can be a disturbing indicator of how much time you really spend on social media or other time-sucking apps.

All of this urgency can change the way we view time. Time management and productivity gurus often refer to the 86,400 seconds, the 1,440 minutes, or the 24 hours we all get in a day. To make better use of that time allotment, they suggest we multi-task, or perhaps get up earlier. This desire to do more, get more, and be more leads a lot of us to become “time impatient.” This happens when the little delays in life become so unbearable that we try to shortcut them.

Here are some examples to see if you have “time impatience” in your personal and professional lives:

  • Do you set the microwave for one minute to reheat your coffee and stop it with 14 seconds to spare?
  • Do you creep ever closer to the car in front of you while waiting for the light to turn green, causing you to step on the brakes three or four times before it actually changes?
  • When driving, do you speed, tailgate, swerve in and out of lanes, cut people off, or not allow other cars to merge, even if there is no rush to get somewhere?
  • Do you interrupt the slow talkers, long-winded speechmakers, and the pontificators in your life, trying to get your point across as they wander through their thoughts?
  • Do you routinely drive way faster than the posted speed limit, especially on the freeway or a major highway, thinking that going 75 mph in a 45 mph zone will get you there many minutes sooner?
  • Do you whip out your phone when standing in line if the delay in moving is longer than 30 seconds? Do you routinely look at your phone at nearly every moment when you feel you have a free minute, and it seems like it’s time wasted if you don’t check in with email or social media?
  • Do you push elevator or crosswalk buttons repeatedly, even if someone has already done it as you are arriving?
  • Do you talk on your phone while trying to engage with other people—store clerks, bank tellers, fast-food counter workers? Does this lead to confusion (and perhaps their not-so-hidden frustration or exasperation with you), as these service providers can’t tell if you are talking with them or whoever is on the other end of your phone?
  • When you’re on a website, do you click a forward or back or "buy now" button multiple times, even though the first one was sufficient? Because of this, have you ever been charged twice, three times, or more for the same item? Do you reload web pages that “seem too slow” for your liking?
  • Are you one of those people who stands up before the plane has parked at the gate, the subway or bus stops moving, trying to wedge your way toward the exit door before everyone else?
  • Do you play videos from social media sites at full volume while you eat alone in a restaurant, wait in a coffee shop line, or in other public places where most people don’t want to hear your viewing choice?
  • Do the rest of the world and the people in it seem like it is not moving fast enough for your liking?

If this sounds like you, then the question you have to ask is, “Why? Do I really gain that much more time in my day and life if I try these attempts to shorten the time between activities?”

The more important question is, “Does my time impatience create more stress or relieve my stress?” Paradoxically, what we try to do to speed along our lives usually makes things a bit worse. Plus, these attempts to speed time often bother other people who are having their own struggles and don’t need you to try to bend the time-space continuum.

As with fixing many bad habits, recognizing them is the first step, making gradual changes is the second, and keeping those changes in place for the duration of the third. Let life come to you; don’t chase time. Enjoy those "little moments" when you don’t have to do anything other than breathe and observe others.

In 1955, folk singer Pete Seeger released his song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” It became an anthem for young people in the turbulent decade that followed. That song in our modern era should be sung as “Where Has All Our Patience Gone?”

The time to stop and smell the flowers in our life paths seems to have disappeared. Slow down and let the time pass. Take a breath. Look around you, not at your phone. Do some people-watching. Let time pass, which suggests you’re aware of it and not trying to control it, which in the end, none of us can really do.

Facebook image: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

LinkedIn image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

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