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Pressed for Time? Why It’s Increasing Your Stress

How to get control and create healthy time-management habits.

Key points

  • Time management is one of the most potent stress-management tools.
  • Don’t try to do it all yourself. Ask for help and accept help if you are crunched for time.
  • Set daily and weekly priorities and allow time for them first.

“I can’t believe it’s almost 5 pm!”

“The weekend just disappeared.”

“The middle of the night is my only quiet, alone time.”

“Working from home uses up more of my time than commuting did!”

Source: HAKINMHAN/iStock

If you feel overwhelmed by a time crunch, you’re not alone. Cell phones make us accessible 24/7, and email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other apps use up pauses and work breaks. Between our work and home life merging, job hunting, family building problems, or medical emergencies, we found ourselves out of time. And when our sense of control goes down, stress goes up!

But, often, we are not as short on time as we are short on time-management skills, one of the most potent stress-management tools.

Here are a few suggestions from the experts to help you feel in control of your schedule again.

Let’s start with 5 don’ts.

  1. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Ask for help and accept help if you are crunched for time or if someone is better and faster at a task. There are no extra points awarded for total exhaustion.
  2. Don’t micromanage yourself. Keep completion as your goal, not perfection, or you’ll never get through your “to-do” list. Practice saying, “good enough.” And, usually, it is!
  3. Don’t procrastinate. Leaving everything for the last minute is often a way to give yourself an excuse in case you "fail." You don’t need an excuse. We all fail at times. It’s just inconvenient, not a tragedy, and procrastinating wastes too much time. Try being ahead, instead.
  4. Don’t multitask. You can try to do two things at the same time, but it takes twice as long because when you don't fully focus you are more likely to make time-wasting mistakes.
  5. Don’t keep everything in your head. Have an appointment calendar and check off items for closure.

Now, here are 5 do's.

  1. Do set daily and weekly priorities and allow time for them first. Running out of time for the less-important items on your list will not create as much stress or tempt you to cut into your stress-reducing activities like exercising, socializing, or playing.
  2. Do embrace new technology. If there is a program, app, or digital tool to help you with a task, find it and learn it. Watching a 10-minute tutorial now can save you hours tomorrow!
  3. Do leave time for the unexpected. When something unexpected pops up, like a doctor’s appointment, cross a scheduled item off that day’s “to-do” list. If you sacrifice your downtime to complete every item on your list, you’ll be too tired or stressed to manage time well the following day.
  4. Do organize your desk, house, closets, and apps on your phone. According to a Pixie Technology study, we spend about two and a half days each year looking for missing objects and data, and we are stressed every minute during those searches. So, give yourself a gift of time by giving your environment a once-over.
  5. Do leave meetings, events, and even conversations that are wasting your time. Leave graciously but give yourself permission to leave. You need that wasted time for some self-care, instead.

One final strategy, put out a “Do Not Disturb” sign. If not a real one, then an imaginary one. Use the time to pause and catch your breath. Use the downtime to do anything that you enjoy: hum, read, speak to a friend, do a puzzle, walk a pet, listen to a podcast, meditate, work out, listen to music, or try something new! What’s important is that you are remembering to manage your time schedule instead of letting it manage you. Practice makes perfect, and it’s important to keep practicing these tips. It may seem challenging to start any of these tips, but, over time, they will turn into habits.


Bruce K. Britton and Abraham Tesser, Effects of Time-Management Practices on College Grades, Istitute for Behavioral Research and Department, Jun 5, 2018.

Jordan Etkin, Ioannis Evangelidis, and Jennifer Aaker, Pressed for Time? Goal Conflict Shapes How Time is Perceived, Spent, and Valued, Working Paper No. 3247, October 30, 2014.

Lost and Found: Pixie Technology Study: Cision PR Newswire May 02, 2017, 08:02 ET

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