Do you feel like you are constantly racing against the clock? No matter what you do, you can't seem to achieve all you plan to? Maybe you worry about running late for events, missing your work deadlines, or not having enough time to handle the responsibilities of everyday life.
If this sounds like you, you may be suffering from a type of fear called time anxiety. If left unchecked, it can lead to serious mental health conditions and negatively impact your productivity at work.
It’s important to acknowledge time anxiety and try to understand why you feel this way in the first place. Doing so will help you regain the mental clarity and peace that’ll allow you to be present in your life. Keep reading to learn more about the types, causes, and symptoms of time anxiety and how to conquer it for improved productivity and well-being.
What Is Time Anxiety?
Time anxiety is a nagging dread caused by the perception of time passing quickly. It’s the feeling of not having enough time to do everything you have to do and a fear that you're not doing good enough with the time you do have.
When you have time anxiety, you worry it's getting too late to achieve your goals. You're burdened by guilt, stress, and regret. You believe you aren't making the most productive use of everyday life regardless of what you do.
At your job, for example, you may feel you aren't working fast enough or working on the truly important tasks. When away from your desk, you may feel like you're wasting time you could have spent on productive work. It's a lose-lose situation when you struggle with time anxiety.
If it goes on for a long time, time anxiety can evolve into mental health struggles like generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and panic attacks, ultimately affecting your performance at work, at home, and in social situations. In dire situations, time anxiety may manifest as physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, and an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Causes of Time Anxiety
Time anxiety may be brought on by a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look at some of the causes:
- Having too much to do: When you have too much on your plate, you may become overwhelmed and stressed, feeling as though you need more hours in a day to tackle everything. This may lead to panic and anxiety attacks, decision paralysis, and procrastination, increasing time anxiety.
- Perfectionism: Perfectionism, the fear of not doing a good enough job, is another major cause of time anxiety. Perfectionism may cause you to constantly worry about not producing your best work and achieving your goals with the time you have, leading to time anxiety.
- Isolation and loss of touch with reality: If you are isolated for a long time or experience a traumatic event, your concept of time and everyday life may become warped and decline into time anxiety. This may make you obsessed with your future and living your life to the fullest or maximizing your potential. You may also become fixated on the past and worry about previously wasted time.
Common Types of Time Anxiety
There are different types of time anxiety. Let’s distinguish between the three most common types you may experience. They are:
- Daily time anxiety: Daily time anxiety is the feeling that there are not enough hours in a day, and you aren’t making enough use of the time you do have. Maybe you want to work out, succeed at your job, spend time with family, and keep up with friends. Trying to accomplish all of this in a single day heightens daily time anxiety.
- Future time anxiety: Future time anxiety (or tomorrow time anxiety) is focused on tomorrow and the future. You worry about whether you can accomplish your plans tomorrow and in the future, asking questions like: What if I fail? What if I'm not prepared? What if I'm embarrassed? Future time anxiety combines a worry about the past and the future. Did you do what you “should have done” yesterday to be able to handle tomorrow and the future?
- Existential time anxiety: Existential time anxiety focuses on your existence. You wonder: What does your entire life amount to? Are you fulfilling your purpose? Are you living fully? Are you making an impact? Are you doing meaningful work? You worry about time slipping away and making use of your current age.
Impact of Time Anxiety on Your Productivity at Work
Time anxiety manifests as familiar symptoms of anxiety disorders. This negatively impacts your productivity and well-being in the following ways:
- Difficulty concentrating on one thing: Time anxiety makes it hard to focus on one task at a time. There's a constant split in your attention, and you're unable to stay present when constantly worrying about the other things you want to do. Split focus drastically reduces your efficiency and lowers productivity. Anxious thoughts keep your mind wandering to the past and future, increasing stress disorders like depression.
- Negative attitude at work: Time anxiety causes you to worry about your productivity and performance, and you may develop a pessimistic attitude about work. Your inner pressure to produce your best work makes you feel on edge and snappy with colleagues and loved ones alike. This can lead to severe social anxiety disorders and strain your relationships.
- Making short-term decisions and avoidable mistakes: Because you are rushing all the time, you're more likely to make mistakes and short-term decisions to score quick wins. For example, if you feel you should have achieved certain financial milestones by your current age, you may get involved in get-rich-quick schemes, causing you to lose your money. If you weren't acting out upon time anxiety, you would have a clearer perspective and easily see that such opportunities are not right for you.
Managing Time Anxiety
Beating time anxiety requires shifting your focus from outcomes and wins to processes and outputs. Follow our five tips below to help you manage time anxiety and begin enjoying your everyday life:
1. Audit Your Time and Structure Your Ideal Day
Choosing your activities with intention creates a sense of control. When you know you're spending time on the right things, you're less likely to be stressed. On the other hand, wasting your time worsens time anxiety. Audit your time and structure your days to ensure you're leaving time for and working on your high-priority tasks.
2. Accept Where You Are and Adjust Goals
It's important to accept where you are in life and work forward from there. Conduct a self-review and list your goals and priorities to begin the journey toward your ideal life. Acknowledge that time exists and you have no control over it. Instead, you can only control how you spend your time and adjust your goals to work with the time you have left.
3. Avoid Procrastination and Do What You Have to Do
Time anxiety can be paralyzing. But waiting for clarity or motivation to do the things you want to do is a sure way to make things worse and prolong your anxiety. Instead, form a habit of getting into action mode every day. Resist procrastination, limit distractions like social media, and get started on the things that scare you or make you anxious. Even if you don't know how things will end, getting started builds momentum toward your goals.
4. Interrupt Your Thought Pattern and Stay Present
When your mind is spiraling out of control, interrupt your thoughts with mindfulness practices and bring yourself to the present. You can use tactics such as breathing exercises and meditation to clear your mind and find mental peace. Or, practice the counterintuitive approach of imagining the worst-case scenario. This helps you see that the consequences you are anxious about may not actually be that bad. For example, imagine you do indeed miss a deadline. What's the worst that can happen as a result of this? You can ask for an extension and get help from colleagues.
5. If All Else Fails, Seek Professional Help
Sometimes, self-help can only go so far. If the feeling of time anxiety is persistent and begins to affect your mood, relationships, and productivity, it may be time to seek professional help. A mental health professional can help you dissect your feelings and come up with new ways to work through your fears. They may propose strategies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you manage your emotions and change how you approach anxious moments. Joining a support group and talking with others who understand can also help manage feelings of anxiety.
Track How You Spend Your Days and Conquer Time Anxiety
Time anxiety is feeling like you aren't doing enough with your time. To manage it, accept where you are, audit your time, and structure your day to align with your most important goals. Remind yourself that not every moment of your daily life should be spent working or pursuing productive activities. Free time is also good for you and even helps boost productivity.
Begin your journey of overcoming time anxiety by tracking how you spend your days and identifying areas of improvement. The Rize time tracking app helps you handle this automatically. All you have to do is run it in the background while you work, and you’ll receive daily and weekly reports on how you spend your time.
You can then use these findings to design more productive days and get closer to your goals. Are you ready to start using your time purposefully and intentionally? Download Rize and start tracking your time today with a two-week free trial.