Whether it’s business meetings, charity work, time with friends, or family obligations — we’re all guilty of overcommitting.
I know I am.
The more items you stack onto your to-do list, you begin to notice that time itself begins to flatten and lose meaning. Your commitments suffer. You become ineffective with even the most basic daily tasks. You feel the strain on relationships, friendships, and even the relationship we have with ourselves, our health, and our emotional wellbeing.
I like to call this time compression syndrome, and it can be witnessed in people all over the modern world.
The good news is, there are a few ways you can work to overcome time compression syndrome — such as breathing exercises, diet changes, and planned vacations. At the end of the day, there is simply too much at stake to ignore chronic over-committing.
Here’s why it’s so important to take back our schedules:
1. Technology makes it easier for us to do more, which isn’t always a good thing.
Tech’s ability to speed up time has been great in many ways, but it comes at a price.
Take, for example, the advent of the dishwasher. There was a time when washing up plates after dinner took people half an hour. Now that we have a machine doing the dirty work for us, we theoretically have an extra 30 minutes every night.
But instead of using that time to take care of yourself, such as by stretching, reading, or meditating, you probably wind up running around doing different chores or sitting mindlessly in front of the TV.
While technology has given us more time, we aren’t taking full advantage to relax and recharge. Instead, we all still feel like we’re falling behind. There’s always something — a new restaurant, exercise trend, or business competitor — we are desperate to squeeze into our already packed schedules.
In today’s hectic world, we feel we need to look busy in order to be worthy.
The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), for example, plagues nearly all social media users. It’s not enough to keep up with our own reality anymore; now we need to keep up with the lives of numerous online figures perhaps unrelated to us in a never-ending stream of activity, lest not know what our friends are talking about.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I had a wake-up call this year when I went to Italy with my family for a month. The trip was deeply rewarding, and I logged some much-needed time with my family. But if I’m being perfectly honest, I was simultaneously concerned about my business’s ability to function without me.
Ultimately, my company survived just fine. However, these trips and moments where I was forced to take a step back gave me the opportunity to learn that if I delegate effectively, I can really let go and take more time for myself. This improves my mood, relationships, and productivity — and in the end, everyone benefits.
Whether it’s taking an extended vacation, going on a break from social media, or simply re-evaluating your schedule, it’s crucial to strategize how to harness time in a productive and healthy way.
2. Overcommitting wreaks havoc on our bodies.
When our daily timeline becomes compressed to the point where we feel constantly behind, we put our health at risk.
If you’re committing to more activities, work responsibilities, or social outings than you have time for, you likely aren’t getting enough sleep — the ill-effects of which are undisputed. Although occasional sleep issues are merely bothersome, a sustained lack of sleep can cause emotional problems, obesity, and poor job performance. You simply can’t lead a healthy life if you’re not getting enough sleep.
Foggy and sleep-deprived, many of us turn to caffeine, which jacks us up on borrowed energy. It’s kind of like turning up the volume on your music to deal with a screaming child — a temporary, but ultimately counterproductive solution. I recommend cutting out caffeine for clarity and lower stress levels — and to get a good night’s sleep. At worst, stop drinking it after 2pm.
Second, when you’re short on time and sleep and using caffeine to overcompensate, you aren’t giving yourself enough time for digestion. We scarf down our meals, which turns our food into fat and creates a breeding ground for bad bacteria. A growing body of research now shows that gut health impacts the brain, which means poor digestion is a mental health issue, too.
What’s more, toxic diets compromise our intestinal lining — a condition known as leaky gut syndrome. Symptoms include bloating and fatigue after meals, suppressed immune syndrome and development of food allergies.
These are all bad signs.
Food shouldn’t make us feel sick and tired. It should energize us.
To combat poor gut health, start by cleaning up the quality of food you put in your body. Remember that everything you consume becomes a part of you — you are what you eat. Slow down and give thanks with each bite, savoring the experience of eating and giving your body time to digest.
If you take care to get enough sleep and eat properly, your body will thank you.
3. We’re not living in the here and now, and our relationships are suffering because of it.
In addition to failing to make time to digest our food, we also fail to give ourselves time to digest emotions and thoughts. This is because we’re always multi-tasking and are rarely present.
Here’s a scenario you may find familiar:
You’re in a meeting, physically, but you’re not really there because you’re fixated on a past interpersonal interaction you haven’t fully processed. Maybe “Betty” said something to you when she left the office earlier and it hit you the wrong way — and now you’re in this meeting and people are trying to talk to you. You’re stuck in your head, replaying how you should have responded to Betty. And this is happening because you didn’t give yourself time to deal with what happened — whether that meant having an honest conversation with her or simply taking some time to yourself to process and breathe.
Our consciousness is frequently taking us out of the present moment and pulling us into “other time.” This keeps us fixated on a traumatic event in the past or an anticipated event in the future. But the present moment is where we have full access to all our faculties. It’s where we can focus and perform, where are bodies are relaxed and our brains are in healthier patterns. When we’re living in “other time,” we aren’t really living at all.
If you notice you’re fixated on the past or future, the easiest way to ease into the moment is to practice lower diaphragmatic breathing. If you touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, and breathe down to your lower abdomen, it forces the body to relax and slow down. Then you can calmly examine your life and time commitments to ascertain where you’re leaking too much energy.
In a world where technology, high-stress jobs, and unprocessed emotions are all competing for our attention, time management is harder than ever. If you start to notice that you’re falling behind, you should address it head-on.
After all, “time” is a finite resource.