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Time Sickness


April 1, 2016
By Stephanie Conn

844 words – MR

Time Sickness

If you’re like me, you have a busy life filled with deadlines and demands. We live in a fast-paced world that shows no signs of slowing down. All this hurrying around is having serious consequences on our health, relationships and, oddly, our productivity.

Not a day goes by that I don’t hear someone (sometimes myself) say “I don’t have time for that” or “I’m too busy to deal with that.” Saying this is almost a badge of glory in a ‘who’s the busiest’ competition.

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Unfortunately, we live in a time where doing everything as fast as possible is a sign of strength. Think of the many television programs based upon people doing tasks against a ticking clock. These seems to justify us rushing through life, constantly multitasking and trying to do even more with even less time.

Policing involves shift work, overtime, court appearances and training days, which makes having a life outside of work difficult, but not impossible. You might be tempted to fall back on the demanding police schedule to excuse yourself from participating in other aspects of your life. I did when I was a gang detective.

It felt good to know that I was doing meaningful and exciting work. Yet, it can become addictive and consume your free time, even if it is just mentally consuming. I noticed (mostly because others pointed it out) that I was spending less time doing the things outside of work that were once important. I was losing parts of myself in favor of being a police officer.

{‘Living fast’ is costly}

One of the most obvious costs I have observed as a therapist is that eventually people meet their limits. They become physically ill with chronic headaches, muscle aches, insomnia, exhaustion and digestive issues. Mentally, they are foggy, unable to focus, yet anxious and riddled with worry.

Relationships suffer because others are pushed away, ignored and possibly even villainized because they try to slow us down. We justify our need to be busy like our life depends on it, dismissing advice to slow down and rest by saying the person doesn’t understand our circumstances or has selfish or ulterior motives for wanting us to be less productive.

Instead of feeling stronger and more capable, overly busy people feel they are not good enough because their bodies, minds and relationships are falling apart. Some will take stress leave from work but then recreate the busyness frenzy in their recovery time. They want their healing to happen at the same speed that got them there in the first place.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” observed Albert Einstein. I think this wisdom clearly applies here. Let’s talk about another way of thinking about our daily lives.

Over the years, I’ve taught time management courses in organizational settings. Attendees were surprised when I advised them to eliminate things from their to-do lists rather than teach them time saving techniques so they could do more.

{Pausing to reflect}

When we don’t take the time to reflect on how we spend our time, we tend to fill it with things that don’t truly contribute to our lives in a meaningful way. Take a moment now and think about what is important to you – your relationship or health, for example. These are important aspects of our lives that tend to be ignored because there are no immediate consequences to neglecting them. However, over time, there will be dire consequences.

Stephen Covey, author of ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talked about categorizing life tasks as urgent and/or important. Covey warns that we tend to get these two concepts confused, contending “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” Does this apply to your life?

I know emergencies often derail our best intentions to tend to the important things in our life. Yet, if you don’t carve out the time for the important, you will actually contribute to ongoing emergencies such as relationship and health failures. Carving out time for the important means being intentional about how you spend your time. It might be cumbersome at first but you have to continuously ask yourself “Is this important in the big picture of my life?” or “Would I trade this for my relationship/ health?” and act in accordance with your response.

In short, the medicine for time sickness is changing your mindset about busyness. Reset the tempo of your life and slow down by eliminating things not connected to your big picture objectives. Maybe this means saying “no” to favors for others and reducing time-wasting activities you do when exhausted from handling emergencies – television programs, especially those perpetuating the “rush” theme, for example, or mindlessly checking social media. Eliminating or at least limiting these activities will leave you more time and energy for what matters most.

I leave you with another quote from Covey.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”


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