Time pressure and procrastination

How time makes people angry and impatient

“The whole life of man is but a point of time; let us enjoy it, therefore, while it lasts, and not spend it to no purpose.” PLUTARCH

A lot of time-related events made people angry and impatient: waiting for late people, being caught in traffic, waiting for an website to load, waiting for the printer to calibrate, staying in a cue at check-in. Did you ever experience this type of pressure? How did you react?

Philipp Zimbardo (a psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University) believes that there are three categories of people who can be defined according to which “time zone” they live in:

1. Focused on the past: ‘Past Negatives’ (those who define themselves according to misfortunes and missed opportunities)
 ‘Past Positives’ (those who are nostalgic and romanticise the past)

2. Focused on the present: ‘Hedonists (those searching for happiness) and
  ‘Non-planners’ (those who believe in fate, for whom the future cannot be planned, e.g. because of religion or class affiliation).

3. Focused on the future: ‘Planners’ (life is what you make it)
              ‘After lifers’ (‘real’ life begins only after the body has died)
Which category are you? How would you like to be? what makes time relevant for you right now?

Loads of studies were made in regard of time perspective and the findings were: people that are high in past-negative time perspective were the most impatient of the bunch. Just about everything makes them angry, including waiting in line, being caught in traffic, looking for a parking space, waiting for the web pages to load, waiting for their doctor appointments, the government to act, restaurant service, the bus and repair people.
People high in present-fatalistic time perspective also reported being relatively impatient. They become angry almost in the same circumstances as the past-negatives ones.
A small subset of similar events irritated the future oriented. People high in future time perspective are set off by waiting for people. People high in future time perspective are 13% more likely than the average person to become angry or impatient when waiting for late people.
In contrast, people high in present-hedonistic time perspective are relatively patient. They do become angry when waiting in line, but they are less likely to be upset by waiting for the doctor than people low on present-hedonistic.
People high in past-positive and transcendental-future time perspective do not become impatient or angry when confronted with any of the activities listed. In fact, people high in the past positive time perspective report being less angry and impatient when waiting and caught in traffic. It’s as if these two time perspective inoculate people against the frustrations of modern living.

We noticed now how important is our attitude towards time in everyday living and also what impact can have on our wellbeing.

But how and when do we actually SAVE time?

Let’s say that technology is one of the most important tool to help us save time. But technology is changing very fast. What was 10 years ago a novelty, now became something that we cannot live without (such as internet)
Making sacrifices is one common strategy to beat the accelerating hands of time. We frequently arm ourselves with technology in an attempt to save time and while our attitudes about time have not changed much since ’80’s, the technology definitely has.
And we might use: emails, online shopping, apps, facebook, phones, maps, etc. to make our work productive or to save time, but there are some situations when we find ourselves trapped in all these tools ( checking for facebook updates every 3 minutes, click on send/receive button in outlook just to hear the notification of a new email, checking for new offers on e-bay or amazon)

But with whatever we use to save time, we cannot really change the way we feel about time. We still feel at times pressured, stressed.

What can we do about it then?

1. Accept that you feel busy and are likely to feel busier in the future. These feelings are unlikely to change until you retire and on the bright side, busier people tend to report being happier.

2. Learn to relax and be patient. Relaxation techniques may help you endure the inevitable frustrations in life. Increased patience may also reduce the frequency that you feel ‘really’ busy, which can lead to shortchanging important aspects of your life.

3. Reexamine what you are shortchanging when “really” busy. It’s possible that you are comfortable with the trade-offs that you are making currently, but make sure that they are consistent with your values and the person that you strive to be.

4. Recognize that technology is a double-edged sword. Be aware how do you actually spend your time and check how much value adds up to your life. If browsing facebook doesn’t bring any value to your life, uninstall the app from your iphone or log out from your computer. Self control is very important in fighting against temptations. I always ask my clients to write an estimation of how much they think a task will take and the actual time of task completion.

Just to continue these interesting thought provoking discussions, Wednesday evening, we will organize an workshop focused on procrastination and confidence.

If you’re curious or just like to meet other like-minded people, join us:

See you there:)


Keep exploring ~ Make connections ~ Share your discoveries

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