Recently I listened to a podcast episode on how to make time feel more abundant. Laura Vanderkam, the interviewed expert, did a study on 900+ people with jobs and families. She had them track what they did with their time, as well as asked them questions related to how they perceive time. She turned her findings into a book called Off The Clock.
Turns out that even if people work the same amount of hours on average, some feel that they have more free time and some feel like they have less leisure time. So, she was curious to find out what the differences are between the two groups of people.
Vanderkam’s focus was not around managing time, but around what makes some people perceive time as abundant while others see it as scarce.
So – here are some key takeaways that stuck with me from her interview:
1 – Know what you’re spending your time on
Vanderkam’s research shows that people who were more in tune with what they are spending their time on also felt like time was more abundant.
There are 168 hours in a week. Let’s say most people spend 60 hours at work and commuting to work. If we sleep a luxurious 8h per night, that’s another 56 hours per week. We are still left with 52 hours that are technically “off the clock”. Sure – there are errands, cooking, chores baked in there – but what about the rest of the time?
The really interesting part about this for me was that people who perceived to have a scarcity of leisure time spend more time watching TV or scrolling social media than people with an abundance mindset – one would think that watching TV would feel like leisure time!
So – planning your days out more thoughtfully could make you more aware of what you are spending your time on, and help you feel like you are getting more done with the time you have.
2 – Do new things
During the episode, Vanderkam discussed how memories are stored in our minds. The short story is, the more used to we are to a situation or place, the less our brain records memories of it. This happens because our brain doesn’t feel the need to remember every little bit of something you do often.
Whereas, if you go to a new place or do something new, your brain will record a lot more details into memory because it doesn’t know what will be relevant information yet.
So – if you want to make time feel more abundant, plan in new things to do or new places to go to every once in a while.
3 – Notice new things in your everyday
We can’t all do something new all the time – some things in our lives are routine. And routines make our lives easier, which is amazing.
But – Vanderkam suggests that you could try to stay a bit more vigilant when doing those routine activities. Notice the little things.
I don’t switch up my walks with my dog a lot, but that’s when I could really try to pause my busy mind a bit and notice how the leaves are turning into fall colors, or how the passer-by smiles at my grinning dog.
4 – Spend time with others
A key thing Vanderkam discovered was that the people who felt they had an abundance of leisure time spent more time with others. This seems to play back into the building memories part – if we are spending time alone/watching TV or playing with our phones, our memory doesn’t deem it important enough to stay vigilant for. But when we are present with other people we are pay more attention.
5 – Let go of the busyness
Vanderkam’s research showed that people with a scarcity mindset were more likely to see themselves as busy than people who had an abundance mindset.
The people with an abundance mindset could very well have been busier – but they were intentional about which things they said yes to. They simply did not tack on more things to do just because they had some free time. They did not feel the need to be busy all the time.
Learn to say no to the things that aren’t important, so that you can be present for the things that do matter to you. Create some white space in your schedule – if something important pops up, you’ll be free. If nothing pops up, you can do whatever feels good to you in the moment – guilt free.
6 – Journal about or track your activities
Keeping track of what you’ve been up to – and looking back at your documentation – can help make time feel more abundant. Whether you write a couple sentences per day in a journal or take pictures of your day, you can go back and look at all the activities you did or the people you saw during a period of time that at first seemed to go by really fast.
As I consider having kids in the future and what that means for my work and time management, I’ve found that research around the subject brings me a lot of relief.
We don’t have kids yet – but Nova certainly takes up several hours of my day and I feel like I don’t have as much leisure time as I would like to have. Somehow I don’t count the time I spend “tiring the dog out” as leisure time – but I will shift my mindset around it.
Did these findings stir up some ideas for you on how to make time feel more abundant?