The white rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s Alice and Wonderland is well known in Disney’s adaptation for constantly looking at his watch and muttering, “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!”. Can you relate? Many of us are constantly short of time. Our lives are busy, often packed to the brim with never ending list of to do items. Western culture also puts inordinate value onproductivity. Throw in more time spent on our phones, this has resulted in the general trend of many of us feeling even busier than before. When we become a slave to the clock, like the white rabbit, we lose our ability to livein the moment. We lose meaning and richness in life.
We are in a time crunch. Exactly how we spend our time matters for both ourprofessional and personal lives. Time is so significant that psychologists have coined special terms to describe this time crunch, time famine, starving for more time to do everything. The opposite interestingly coined as time affluence, a metaphorical type of wealth where we have the time to do the things we long to do.
I know time famine well. The appeal of being as productive as I can meant that prioritising down time and rest always felt like such a struggle. But this also resulted in me feeling more like I was drowning in the sea of endless tasks. I realised that my resilience levels were quickly diminishing and this led me to reach outto my own coach, who laid it on thick. I was on the road to burnout again, andneeded to do a whole lot less if I wanted to be happier and healthier. This led me on the journey to start integrating Positive Psychology lessons to my life.The first one being: working on my relationship with time.
As a Positice Psychologist I’m fascinatedwith the psychology of time, and work life harmony, and so in this article, Iexplore key insights from psychology and how it can help you stay invigorated for the new year, in the workplace and at home, aswell as crafting the life we want in 2024.
Identify what matters to you the most
Be clear on what matters to you the most, and then amplify those activities and moments in 2024. One key way we can do this is byreflecting on our values and applying these to our everyday.
Our values are our hearts deepest desires in how we want to treat ourselves and others. They are what we standfor in life and give us meaning and purpose. We can think of them as our innercompass to choose effective actions. Translating our values to effective action, one that are aligned with who we are and what matters the most requiresus to really understand what we stand for. Without this, when we aredisconnected from our values, we can act in ways that are incongruent from theways we want to be in life. Living life guided by our values, on the otherhand, allows us to feel more engaged and experience life as rich and meaningful.
Examples of values we use at work, include integrity, respect, compassion, kindness, professionalism, teamwork,support and service. Values provide a direction we want to keep moving in. When we align our values with our goals, our motivation becomes super charged, known as ‘intrinsic motivation’. This is a psychologically speaking good type ofmotivation that will help us stick to our habits in the longer term, eg. if connecting with nature is a value, you’ll prioritise taking a nature walk or ifself-care is important, you’re more likely to exercise and prioritise good nutrition.
1. Reflect on the top 5 values for your career and top5 for your personal life (relationships, health, hobbies).
2. Look at your 2023 diary and zoom out, looking forlinks between your time and values. Wereyour activities in 2023 aligned with your values?
3. Consider how youcan apply your top values in more everyday activities eg if making a differenceis a top value, consider how you can provide mentorship to a work colleague.
Mindfulness is a way of being present in a non judgmental way. Being present allows us to slowdown and counteract that constant feeling of being rushed and busy, we feel engaged with our life and be witness to the small pleasures of our everyday. The benefits of mindfulness are vast: greater psychological, physical andpsycho-social health. Mindfulness also benefits the brain, reducing grey matterin the amygdala and increases the prefrontal cortex.
Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, doesn’t involve chanting and is not the same asmediation, although it does incorporate formal mediations.
o Take mindful breaths at work, ensuring the exhale is slightly longer than the inhale, triggering a wave of positive emotions, mindfully eating ourlunch by honing into the 5 senses when we take the first 3 bites of our food, o rtaking a mindful minute to check in before starting a new task, such as asking yourself ‘how do I feel in my body?’, ‘how is my mind feeling?’, ‘do I need a break?’
o Mindful listening can help us develop strong relationships with our colleagues and our personal lives. The next time you are with your work colleague or loved one, give your undivided attention to them, listening with non judgement and without interruption for 5 minutes.
o Mindfulness in nature can be exercised by mindful gardening or taking mindful nature walks. Slow down and hone in all of your 5 senses: what can yousee, smell, feel, hear and taste?
o Creative ways we can infuse mindfulness include colouring, painting or taking photographs in nature. The key is to slow down, get fully absorbed inthat activity, and remember to go with an attitude of self-compassion, and curiosity.
o Mindful yoga is a great way to integrate both mindfulness and movement.
Draw upon your strengths
Apply your strengths in 2024. Studies show that adopting a strengths based approach is a more effective generator for change, helps us enhance our social relationships, build better coping strategies during challenges and reduce depressive symptoms and is good for the bottom line (Sin et al 2009; Linley A 2008). The mechanism in which this works is through raising our levels of positive emotions throughgetting us into a psychological state of ‘flow’, boost our engagement, invite more meaning and resilience. Doubling down on strengths makes a lot of sense: it is good for us, our relationships and organisations we work for.
Our strengths refers to the authentic, positive aspects of our personality that help us shine in life. Understanding what we are good at can help us answer what we stand for and how we can contribute for the greater good. Using our strengths every day can help us feel more engaged with life and bring the bestof who we are to our everyday.
1. Reflect on your top 5 strengths for work, and top 5outside work.
2. Thinkof ways you can activate your strengths and use them in new and engaging ways everyday.
Introduce psychological ‘white space’
This refers to allowing time during the day to daydream and zoneout, rather than packing your day to the brim. Think less is more!
When was thelast time you played? As busy professionals we could really benefit from giving ourselves permission to play! There are many benefits of play as adults. Play can be defined as “an activity that is carried out for the purpose of amusement and fun, that is approached with an enthusiastic and in the moment attitude” (VanVleet and Feeny, 2015). Playfulness is also a personality trait, with some of us having a higher tendency to engage in paly.
Play enhances our levels of positive emotions, broaden our thinking and helps us to build psychosocial resources and strengths, including resilience. This in turn maycause an upwards spiral of further positive emotions. Examples of play include: playing games, creative play with colours, playing with pets, or playing music.
· Which play activities canyou schedule in your day?
· Create a ‘play jar’ by adding your play activities into a jar and picking one a day for the next 1week. Notice how this intervention impacts your well-being.
Time for change
We all have the power to examine our schedules, work out what matters the most and take small steps in shifting to a work life harmony that nourishes us. It will look different for all of us. And our time certainly doesn’t need to be equally divided, all of the time, in fact that isn’t possible. However, we can make strides in personalising our time better: curating a day that incorporates rest, pleasure,curiosity and meaning. What does that look like for you?