We're all aware of time anxiety. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the saying, “there is never a right time.” To me, that’s just a short way of saying there’s never enough time for anything anyway so you might as well start. Maybe that’s the existential dread talking but think about it. Do you also feel like time often slips off your hands, robbing you of the “right moment” or killing your productivity? If you do, you could be suffering from time anxiety. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
What Is Time Anxiety?
Time anxiety is the fear of not having enough time or feeling like you aren’t doing enough with your time. It’s this constant criticism of your productivity. You always feel rushed.
This anxiety isn’t only a passing feeling or thought that randomly kicks in on some days. It’s a vicious cycle that could turn into a fixed mindset that you’re behind in life.
It’s this fixation on the time you think you’ve wasted in the past. It makes you pessimistic about the current and future times, thinking you’ve already missed your moment so there won’t be any more chance.
One of the things that triggers time anxiety is comparing yourself to others. You know, feeling inadequate when you see other people who seem like they have their lives figured out, like seeing friends or loved ones moving on to start a family or young billionaires who no longer have to work as hard as you do. These pressures make you question your past choices or your ability to maximize the time you still have.
As these thoughts and feelings linger, you end up ruining your confidence and actually disabling yourself from catching opportunities. Ironically, the more you try to get rid of this anxiety, the more it gets worse.
So how do you set yourself free from these worries? First, you must understand what it’s really like and what causes it. Read on to learn more about time anxiety and how you can overcome it.
What It’s Like to Have Time Anxiety
When you have time anxiety, that panic when you’re running late for an important meeting becomes your default state. Little things like waking up a few minutes later than planned could upset you.
That feeling drags on throughout the day or even the entire week. It’s as if missing those few minutes had caused such a monumental disruption in time.
You’re always anxious about being late or not getting around everything you had planned. Therefore you’re always in a hurry and concerned about missing out on opportunities.
Your life becomes a chase for something that isn’t there. The future, as in the things you wish to do don’t even exist yet. You’re not meant to go after them but to make them happen.
When you have time anxiety, your relationship with time is that it’s in control of what you could do. But time, you, and your goals aren’t causing each other to be. None of these control the other.
You have free will which, according to German philosopher Immanuel Kant, exists outside space and time. It only stands under conditions of time which are decided through laws that you give yourself by reason.
Time anxiety places your free will under the constraints of external influences. You become imprisoned by societal expectations that cause self-deprecation.
Your goals become tied with those pressures instead of setting them for you and your satisfaction alone. You are trapped within strong associations between time, you, and your goals which create a false concept of causation.
Causes of Time Anxiety
Time anxiety is caused by a few different factors. All of which are extreme awareness of your existence or position in society. It’s self-effacing, almost like rules that confine your free will.
They keep pushing you over the edge, making you fail to live up to your potential. Here are those debilitating states that cause time anxiety.
Existential dread, anxiety, or anguish is a negative feeling that arises from being aware of the conflicts between human freedom and responsibility. It makes you start questioning your purpose in life.
For example, you may have a job that isn’t necessarily fulfilling but pays the bills. You know you’d rather go after your passions or side hustles, but most of the time it just won’t work with your financial responsibilities.
It’s one of life’s many dilemmas that can easily put you in despair. It feels like time passes by so quickly. You lose perspective and somehow accept defeat—that you may never fulfill your heart’s desires ever in this lifetime.
There are many set expectations for individuals in our society. Things like getting married or buying a house at a certain age. And it’s up to you whether to give in to those pressures or not.
But naturally, you may feel like missing out when the rest of your peers seem to be keeping up with those “life stages” while you simply aren’t. Combine it with existential dread, and you’ll definitely feel like time itself has run out on you.
Other Anxiety Issues
General anxiety makes your mind wander off to things such as deadlines, family matters, relationship issues, and more. As this continues, you eventually reach a point wherein you feel like you’ve let time slip away.
Social anxiety is also associated with time anxiety. How it works is that you become too conscious of others’ acceptance of you. It makes you worry about making it to all social events and keeping up with everybody’s schedule.
Different Types of Time Anxiety
Before we dive into the solution, here are the types of anxiety that can impact your feelings, thoughts, behavior, and routines.
Daily Time Anxiety
This is when you feel like you will never have enough time in your day. You always feel stressed and rushed, thinking that you may never accomplish everything you want to do in a day. Instead of organizing your tasks, you end up beaten by your worries.
Future Time Anxiety
Thinking about the future can be crippling. Reflecting on “what ifs,” especially in the context of your current choices and actions can make you less and less proactive. You start living in your ideas of the future, a realm that doesn’t even exist yet. Your brain is gradually programmed to think that the present will never have enough time for your future plans.
Existential Time Anxiety
This is the general anxious feeling of having limited time to live your life. It’s as if no matter how you work hard every day and focus on your present, you still feel like it won’t lead to your goals. It’s also seeing life as having only one finish line and that it will always be far away.
How to Overcome Time Anxiety (How to Have Enough Time)
Now that you know what it’s like to have time anxiety and what causes it, it’s time to learn how you can overcome it. Here’s a step-by-step process you can try.
Analyze Your Relationship with Time
First, it’s important to address the true nature of your relationship with time. Doing this will shed light on the specific issues that cause your existential dread and other anxieties.
When I was eighteen, I had the worst case of time anxiety. I remember comparing myself too much with public figures on Instagram and trying hard to keep up with what everyone was doing.
Not long before I turned nineteen, I finally got out of denial that I was indeed living according to societal expectations. Immediately after acknowledging that, I decided to drop the act.
Suddenly I was going after the things I wanted to do without feeling like I have to yell it to the world for validation. I now have peace. I still work hard but with fulfillment, every time.
I no longer worry about missing out on anything or about time slipping away. I feel secure with doing what I want to. Because to me, that freedom is enough. Anything is possible even with only that.
Determine What Is a Time Well Spent for You
Many of us can’t let go of that pressure of
spending our time well. Whether it’s about being productive at work or doing significant things that make good memories.
Once you’ve identified what a time well spent really means for you, you can assess whether it’s based solely on external pressures or your own wanting.
Someone told me once, “When I want to do something so bad but I’m not motivated to do it, I get up and say, ‘I want to do this’ instead of ‘I should do this.’”
You see, sometimes we line up these exciting activities we look forward to into some kind of obligatory itinerary. That usually happens when we think of what people might think about it or if we place these choices under the existential or what-if microscope.
Whatever it is you want to do, even if it’s a work-related task, you should always approach it with an “I want to do this” attitude; never with “I should do this,” as if someone’s making you do it against your will.
Learn the Pitfalls of Planning
Part of the “I want to do this” approach is to avoid creating a list of tasks you think you can do for the day. That will only lead to more anxiety. Be realistic with what you can do with the time you’ve allotted for work.
Keep in mind that on average, you only have 2.5 hours of productivity within an 8-hour day. Don’t be hard on yourself. Stick to a do-something-well over a do-more-in-a-day principle when planning your day.
Understand the Real Relationship Between Motivation and Action
“Committed action comes first, feeling motivated comes later.”— Dr. Russ Harris, therapist and author of The Happiness Trap.
Most people believe that motivation precedes action. So they wait for that hit of motivation before they proceed to their task. Well, that’s a trap.
Action precedes motivation. “You have to ‘prime the pump’ and get the juice flowing, which motivates you to work on your goals,” Author of Realize Your Potential, Robert J. McKain said.
According to him, taking that first step is enough to make the best of your day. It’s keeping the momentum going that’s challenging, which also circles back to “you might as well start.”
The Bottom Line
Being anxious about the time you have is an inevitable feeling, especially when you start developing a deeper awareness of life’s realities. But in order to keep growing, you have to stop overthinking and start acting. You have to harness your power—your free will. There is no point in living your life worrying about the future that doesn’t exist yet or the opinions of others which shouldn’t matter at all.
Your life, your time.
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