Over the weekend, my social media accounts were packed with:
And, my personal favourite:
The thing is, though, my brain goes off on weird tangents, so when I saw this pop up in my newsfeed, I immediately became earwormed by If I could Turn Back Time (viewer advisory note: please avoid if you find hairspray, cannon-straddling or so. much. mesh. upsetting). This inevitably got me thinking that maybe all the internet wittering about “losing an hour” (spoiler: you don’t) is just shorthand for the feeling that most of us have at one time or another, that there aren’t enough hours in the day. For lots of us, that hour is small potatoes in the wider context of feeling chronically over-busy (and I use the word “feeling” deliberately since, in general, we have more leisure time than we did 50 years ago).
Nevertheless, perception is important; if you feel stressed or overwhelmed by your “busyness”, it can be pretty brutal on your physical and mental wellbeing.
That feels like a pretty downbeat message: you’re not as busy as you think you are, but – !surprise! – if you think you’re too busy, you’re screwed anyway. The point of this post, though, isn’t to depress you (see!), but to encourage you to think about how you might be able to claw back not just the hour you “lost” over the weekend, but more time that you want to devote to the things that are important, professionally and personally, to you.
In other posts on this blog, we’ve talked about the power of “To Don’t” lists – the things you should junk in order to get more important projects or tasks done; why multitasking might be hindering rather than helping your productivity; and how letting go of the faithful notepad, and embracing tech might help you be more efficient and effective.
I’ve also recently started doing something that has given me back a couple of hours a week, at least. It makes me pretty uncomfortable, but I’ll deal with a bit of discomfort for something that looks like giving me over a whole working week across the year. I’m going to encourage you to give it a go, too, if you don’t already do it (at worst we can all feel a bit uncomfortable together, and at best we might be able to actually free up some useful time).
I’ve started declining meetings.
Yes, I know, it’s not exactly rocket science, but I think we’re a bit conditioned to automatically click “yes” on meeting requests without always considering how useful they are and how helpfully we can contribute. Now, though, I look at meetings a lot more critically and, well, selfishly. Of course, there are some meetings that we all, to not put too fine a point on it, have to suck up, but even meetings with your supervisor or PI – are they always necessary or useful? Is there a better way to meet the objective of the meeting? If it’s just information-giving, can it be done electronically? Does it need an actual discussion?
I’m not suggesting that we lock ourselves away and talk to nobody – the most useful part of meetings is often the peripheral chat that happens before or after – but if we’re feeling busier and more stressed than ever before, surely we owe it to ourselves to find ways to manage that, and claw back some control of our time.
Are you in?