Hi Educators,

Ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to juggle everything on your plate?

Between lesson planning, grading, parent communication, meetings, and the ever-present desire to offer your students the best possible learning experience, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and time-scarce.

But what if the problem isn’t actually a lack of time? What if it’s a mindset trap?

Today we’re looking at strategies to stop fighting time.

Ready, set, go! 🕒

— Sarah

Time Scarcity Mindset

When you’re feeling time scarce these thoughts likely sound familiar…

“I NEVER have enough time!”

“I’m ALWAYS running out of time”

“If I had MORE time I would be able to do x,y,z”

Several factors contribute to the time scarcity mindset:

  • Focus on Lack: Our brains are wired to focus on what’s missing. When we constantly think about not having enough time, it reinforces the scarcity mindset.
  • Comparison Trap: Comparing ourselves to others who seem to “have it all together” can fuel feelings of inadequacy and time pressure.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Setting unrealistic deadlines or overloading ourselves with commitments can create a sense of constant struggle against time.
  • Perfectionism: The need to do everything perfectly can lead to procrastination and feeling overwhelmed by tasks, making time feel even scarcer.
  • Work Culture: “Hustle culture” glorifying busy-ness and constant work can contribute to the time scarcity mindset.

Fuelled by time anxiety, a time scarcity mindset can be a major roadblock to feeling effective and fulfilled as an educator.

But what if time scarcity is an illusion?

Time Anxiety: A Social Construct in Disguise

Time anxiety, characterized by the perpetual feeling of inadequacy in “managing” time effectively, stems from societal pressure to “master” time. This anxiety manifests in three distinct forms:

  1. Current Time Anxiety: Feeling rushed and overwhelmed by the demands of the present moment.
  2. Future Time Anxiety: Succumbing to worries about potential
    scenarios, often leading to procrastination.
  3. Existential Time Anxiety: A fear of time slipping away without achieving meaningful goals or connections.

Here’s a mind-bending question: What even is time?

This is one of the most powerful questions I’ve ever been asked. It seems so silly, but when someone asked me this I had an epiphany – Time is nothing.

Well, it’s not nothing. But it is a social construct that does not exist the way we think it does.

Believe it or not, the word “now” means nothing beyond your approximate surroundings; in universal terms, “now” is a non-existent concept. When you’re watching the sunset, the sun is already set—because it takes its light approximately 8 minutes and 19 seconds to reach our planet! 🤯

Without understanding time as a social construct, it’s easy to see it as something that is happening to you rather than as a tool that you have to utilize. Yet, humans created time to manage ourselves within communities.

Without shared time, people would arrive at random hours, creating a mess. Scheduling based on time is what makes coordinated events possible. How else would you know when the next season of The Bear is out? June 2024 in case you’re wondering!

In this light, we no longer need to fight time, we get to use it.

Using Time

Time management is a misnomer. Can you actually “manage” TIME? Perhaps if you’re Dr. Strange, then yes. However, for the rest of us mere mortals, of course not.

Time is a social construct that we have zero control over. No matter how fast or slow we move, we are all spinning around the sun at the same pace. Therefore, calling it “time management” is just setting yourself up for failure.

You can’t “manage time”, but you can manage yourself within it. Understanding this concept is crucial to escaping the time scarcity trap.

Actionable Strategies for Effective Time Use:

  • Ditch the Unused Apps: Those unused planners and scheduling apps highlight a common pitfall – relying solely on external tools without internal focus.
  • Visualize clear goals: Backwards plan your life and work by defining your yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. What truly matters?
  • Prioritize ruthlessly: Instead of endless to-do lists, create time blocks in your calendar that are protected for focused time on tasks (lesson planning, grading, laundry, etc.). This helps you avoid feeling constantly pulled in different directions.
  • Realistic Scheduling: Be realistic when scheduling tasks, allowing more time than you think you will need. Save some buffer time in your schedule to deal with unexpected interruptions.
  • Use a timer: Take the time you have available for work (or life), and divide it into 25-minute blocks of focus, or Pomodoros, with 5-minute breaks between. This “Pomodoro Technique” is a great tool for helping you pay attention to how you use time.
    • It is important to note this is not a race against the timer. You will rarely finish a task in exactly 25min and you should not expect to. Instead, you are using this as a tool to be aware of how you use your time, and to use it more wisely.

By managing your focus, reducing distractions, and fostering a positive mindset, you can be more effective within the time you have and stop blaming “time” when you don’t get things done.

Take Away

The pressure to “master” time in our production-focused culture creates a sense of constant struggle. We feel we’ve got to make the most of it, use it to get on top of things, or do enough with it to feel a sense of self-worth.

The traditional approach to this has always focused on *maximizing* time. Yet, very few (if any) have ever won that fight. 

Instead, shift your perspective and focus on making the most of the time you do have. Learning to do that is more freeing than any other productivity tip anyone could ever give you.

What action are you going to take from reading this article? Try writing down three takeaways before you run off to the next thing, so you maximize the time you spent reading this.

Thank you for being here, I hope these ideas help you feel less time scarce as well!

 

Sarah Mae
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Sarah Mae | The educatorRESET

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Sarah Mae | Educator & Education Advocate | educatorRESET

Hi–I’m Sarah Mae. I help educators maintain a healthy work-life balance throughout the school year and teach their students to do the same.

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The Curious Case of Time Perception

The Curious Case of Time Perception

Develop students’ understanding of time perception and identify factors that influence how we experience the passage of time.

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