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  • Writer's pictureSarah Tian

How to Be Time Smart in 2024

Updated: Mar 4

Time is a valuable resource, and how you choose to spend it shapes the quality of your life and happiness.

Do you always feel like you don't have enough time?

When you finally have some time, do you struggle to decide what to do?

Do you often feel like you are wasting time?

Do you feel like time goes by too fast and the days just blend together?

In today's fast-paced world, many of us find ourselves constantly racing against the clock, struggling with feelings of guilt and anxiety about how we spend our time. The perception of not having enough time, coupled with the fear of idle moments, often leads us to over-scheduling and an overwhelming sense of being busy. When we finally do have some time, we struggle with how to best spend it and often end up wasting time.

The good news is there are practical strategies, enabling us to use time more efficiently to accomplish our goals and live a happier life!

Challenge 1: "I don't have enough time to do the things I want."

💡 Define Your Era

Set realistic expectations about what you can accomplish. Remember, you can't do everything all at once. Decide on which goals you are going to prioritize for the next six months. Then break down the big goals into weekly and daily goals. Accept that other goals in your life may take the back-seat during this season of your life and that's ok.

💡 Focus on One Task at a Time

Each time you switch from one task to another, you lose focus, time and momentum. Therefore, it's best to focus on one task for a dedicated period of time before switching to the next one.

Also try to avoid doing multiple tasks at once. Your attention is limited. It may feel like you can juggle more than one thing at once, you are just switching quickly from one task to another, reducing your overall productivity.

💡 Plan Your Day

You can divide your day (e.g. morning, afternoon and evening) and block time on your calendar designated for specific tasks. This will help to save time need to decide on what to do in real-time.

You can also set specific task timers to create a sense of urgency and accountability. This can prevent excessive time spent on a single activity.

💡 Learn to Say No

There's always going to be another new email coming and another request. Decide if these are urgent and if not, just continue to focus on the task at hand. Remember there is a cost to your productivity when you switch tasks so try to avoid it.

Outside of work, it's also important to say no to things that don't bring you value and detracts you from your priorities. Remember, saying "no" to an event (e.g. party) that you will not enjoy means saying "yes" to something (e.g. your hobby, rest) that brings you value. This will also ensure you don't over-commit yourself.

💡 Manage Your Energy

Reflect on when you have the most energy throughout the day. Tackle the most important tasks when your energy is at its peak and save simpler tasks for times when your energy wanes.


Challenge 2: "I get anxious when I don't have a schedule", "I feel guilty about the way I spend my down time...I feel like I waste a lot of time."

💡 Embrace the Freedom of Doing Nothing

Being busy has become a status symbol, acting as a signal to you and others that you are in-demand and is therefore "important". This is why many of us feel anxious when we stare at an empty calendar. However, we greatly undervalue the range of benefits of doing nothing, specifically, "deliberate resting". I encourage you to check out Calm's masterclass: The Power of Rest for more insight on this topic.

Allow yourself to be spontaneous and let your heart lead to what you feel like doing without making judgments about it (e.g. whether it is productive or not). In fact, I find that I'm the most creative during these times of no planned activities. For example, I created My New "Perfect" during a period of having nothing to do. Nowadays, I deliberately leave space in my schedule to "do nothing", allowing my creativity to flourish.

💡 Create a "Default To-Do" List

If you want to take more control over your free time, you can make a "default to-do list" of things you want to prioritize on that you can pick from when you have down time. This will save you time on deciding what to do and also prevents you from mindlessly scrolling through social media or browsing the internet. For example, consuming psychology and well-being related content, singing and exercising are my go-to activities when I have no plans.


Challenge 3: "The days seem to pass by in a blur."

The sensation of time slipping away unnoticed is a common challenge in our fast-paced lives. To counteract this, consider incorporating "micro-adventures" in daily life. These seemingly insignificant acts serve as anchors in our memory, slowing our perception of time, enabling us to recollect our days more vividly and live a richer life.

💡 Do Something New

Try a new fruit or a new flavor of snack you've never had next time you go grocery shopping. Find a new recipe to make for dinner. Take a different route home from work. Engaging in novel experiences and a variety of tasks makes our days more memorable and enriches our lives.

💡 Learn Something New

Taking up a new skill or hobby introduces novelty into your routine as well. The process of learning and mastering a new activity can slow down time as you focus on the details of each step.

💡 Savor Meals

Instead of rushing through meals, take the time to savor each bite. Pay attention to the flavors, textures, and aromas. Eating mindfully not only enhances the dining experience but also elongates your sense of time.

In conclusion, reclaiming control over our perception of time is an essential step toward leading a more fulfilling and purposeful life. The fast-paced nature of today's world often leaves us feeling overwhelmed and anxious about how we use our time. Luckily, the challenges of not having enough time, struggling with how to spend time, and feeling days slip away can be addressed through practical strategies I've shared.

Ultimately, the key lies in being intentional and present in your activities. By implementing these practical strategies, you can change your perception of time, use it more efficiently, and cultivate a more mindful, meaningful and enriching life experience.


Did You Know?

Fun Facts:

  • Prioritizing time over money is related to greater subjective well-being (Dunn, 2015).

  • Two to five hours of free time in a day is ideal for boosted happiness. Having less than two hours or more than five hours of free time a day decreased happiness (Cassie Holmes, 2022).

From “Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most,” by Cassie Holmes. Photo: Cassie Holmes


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