I’ve always loved the weekly ritual of reading the Sunday New York Times. The digital version is nice, but to me, reading the actual paper feels like a tradition and therefore more comforting. However, if a week goes by and I haven’t finished the previous Sunday Times, I fall into my own little hell of newspaper guilt. Sometimes the piles of my FOMO back issues turn into three issues short of a “Hoarders” episode. It turns out “newspaper guilt” is actually a thing and it’s called “time anxiety”. When I’m unable to read for a few hours in the morning, I become anxious about how I’m spending my time if I’m not actually learning anything. When this happens, I end up feeling like I’m not being useful and purposeful with my time.
Ness Labs is an excellent resource for all kinds of cognitive behavior information and the author, Anne-Laure Le Cunff explains it this way, “While death anxiety is the fear of running out of time, time anxiety is the fear of wasting your time. It’s an obsession about spending your time in the most meaningful way possible. And when society tells us—or when we interpret signs from society as saying—that it’s too late to achieve a particular goal, we don’t perceive it as meaningful enough. We need—we demand—that what we do with our lives actually matters.”
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
― Jack London
This rings true with most of the midlife professionals I’ve spoken to over the last year or so. Many feel like they don’t want to waste a minute because they want their lives to mean something. They also said things like, “It’s not a feeling of a midlife crisis. It’s more like a feeling of wanting to grow, learn and start over - the second half is my chance to get it right.” Others talked about wanting to add value in their lives and their fear of wasting time on frivolous things was a top concern. Below are four suggestions in order to mitigate time anxiety.
- Question what you really love to do
- Carve out time for that (sounds easy) but with overall anxiety in the air, it’s not
- Eliminate distractions: Whether it’s doom scrolling or binge watching “Bridgerton”, prioritize what really matters
- Timebox it: We all have distractions so setting time limits on them is one way to come back to what you really want to spend time on
For now, I’ve stopped carrying my Kindle wherever I go and I’m prioritizing my time to make room for more meaningful projects. I know it will be an adjustment but more living in the moment and less time anxiety sounds nice right about now.
Reviewed & Recommended:
Ness Labs: The psychology of happiness
Psychology Today: Comments on "Time Anxiety"
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Emily’s vision for illume hire developed as part of her journey from a startup-curious sales and marketing professional to co-founder and CEO. Her passion is to provide the tools and community to support other mid-career professionals to maximize their mid-career momentum. In addition to her work with illume hire, Emily is part of the founding leadership team of Age Equity Alliance, a non-profit focused on age diversity in the workplace