How I deal with feelings of time scarcity
Some tips and tricks on time scarcity + my monthly favourites
I’m writing this post on a day on which I feel rushed. I feel hurried, like my day is a suitcase that I’m cramming too many things into. It feels uncomfortable, my shoulders feel tense, I’m typing faster than normal and I find myself looking at the clock a lot more.
Feeling this way is the complete opposite of how I want to feel in my business and my life: slow, gentle, rooted and calm. But I know that as uncomfortable as this feels, this will pass—and that I’m not the only one who at times feels this kind of time scarcity.
In this post, I share how you can identify time scarcity and what helps me deal with it. I’m also really curious to hear how time scarcity shows up for you and what you do to feel better.
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Time scarcity is:
feeling and/or worrying that you don’t have enough time for everything you want or need to do;
worrying that someone else will get there first.
I’ve noticed that time scarcity shows up not always when I have an ambitious to-do list, or a lot of appointments. It seems to be often tied a lot less to the reality of the tasks and available time, but more to my experience of it. This makes me hopeful, because if it’s something that I feel, it means I can change it.
Time scarcity is also feeling like you should be moving faster with your business. It especially shows up when we worry about the competition. You might have an idea for a product that you haven’t gotten round to, and you worry that someone else will create it first. You might be carrying the seed of a book in your mind, and worry that someone else will write it before you do.
How to identify time scarcity
I feel time scarcity in my body: in my legs and in my shoulders, in my fingers typing faster. I sometimes even move faster and tend to walk around the house faster. You might be feeling the same, or maybe it’s just a general sense of pressure that follows you around. You feel rushed and hurried.
Another sign of time scarcity is making several to-do lists in an attempt to get more control. You might have a to-do list on your phone, but then also create a paper one. Or you end up with different to-do lists in different places in your house. Maybe you’re checking your to-do lists, whether paper or digital, again and again.
For you, time scarcity might also show in the content you seek out. You might be looking at what other people are doing a lot: on social media, or checking out what people similar to you are doing. You might be scrolling a lot even though it makes you feel more rushed and harried.
If I’m feeling the pressure of time scarcity, one of the things I need to resist is the urge to cut corners on my non-negotiables. These are things I do to take care of myself and that I especially enjoy, such as starting my working day with 30 minutes of reading, or taking time for (near)daily movement. If I’m feeling time scarce, my inner critic tells me I can’t afford to do things for me.
That inner critic can be especially vocal when I feel like I have no time. It’s stuck on a constant loop of telling me “you have so little time and so much to do!” For you, it might remind you of all the things other people have done, that you haven’t. It might tell you that you’re not keeping up and that time is running out.
You have all the time you need.
How I deal with time scarcity
The first thing that helps me is identifying time scarcity. It’s realizing “oh yeah, I’m feeling this way” (and then not beating myself up about it). Time scarcity is often connected to certain moments in my cycle: in the follicular phase (between menstruation and ovulation), I tend to feel more rushed and also tend to make more mistakes.
It helps to repeat a mantra to myself: I have all the time I need. Sometimes I write it on a post-it that I stick on my desk, or on my bathroom mirror. I have all the time I need. Combined with a few deep breaths this mantra generally calms me down a bit.
Especially since I tend to rush physically as well as mentally when I feel time scarcity, I try to deliberately slow down. To walk slower, to type slower. To really, really get up after 30 minutes of work, even if it’s just to look out the window or spend a few minutes in the garden. I explicitly choose to do my non-negotiables. As much as I’m tempted to cut the things I do to take care of myself, I know that yoga or pilates are a great way for me to feel rooted rather than rushed. And I know that without them, I feel worse.
Another thing I do is remind myself that I have a choice. Not everything has to happen today. In fact, most things don’t have to happen today. Nothing is broken if I send out my newsletter a day, a week later than I planned. Nothing is broken is I don’t cook, but order in instead (or heat up a frozen pizza). Very little has to happen today.
I also remind myself to see the choice in how I work. I’m currently wrapping up my mini-course Substack for small business owners + freelancers, and had planned to launch this in April. But I didn’t. I could’ve worked more on it, could’ve pushed through, but that would have meant not resting as much as I needed, or not spending time in and on the garden, which has given me great joy.
As someone for whom slow and gentle are key to how I do business, I also remind myself that time scarcity is a product of productivity and hustle culture, and that I explicitly want to choose a different route.
Whenever time scarcity shows up for me in comparison with others, I remind myself that there are thousands of mentors out there, but that I feel good about what I have to offer. I make my offer unique: I am my business’ secret sauce. I remind myself of all the positive feedback I get from readers and clients that shows me that what I do is valuable. And sometimes I try to take the bigger perspective and remind myself that even if someone were to do something very similar to me, it needn’t be the end of the world: it happens to famous authors, and to famous scientists.
Especially when I get frustrated about the pace at which I work, or my need for rest and downtime, rooting into trust helps. I don’t always remember to do this immediately, but since experimenting with it explicitly it comes more naturally. I choose trust instead of worry.
And finally, whenever I need another voice to tell me to slow down, I listen to this song on repeat and smile when I hear the beginning (”Slow down, baby, slow down…”).
Take a moment to think or journal about these questions:
When do you feel time scarcity? Does it show up in certain situations?
What is your inner critic telling you?
Where can you make space mentally? Where can you help yourself feel more calm?
I’d love to know: when and how does time scarcity show up for you? How do you feel it? And what helps you to deal with it?
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a post | I read this post on making mistakes byat exactly the right time. It’s a perfect reminder that we all mess up, and it’s okay.
a poem | I read this poem a couple of weeks ago and love both its whimsy and its simple but effective form
What’s on your lists of favourites this month? What did you read, see, hear, drink, eat, observe that made your day?
This month I’ve supported clients with plans for different ways of marketing and cheered them on as they figured out what a business true to their vision really looks like.
I’d love to support you to do this and much more too: to create a business away from the norm that supports all parts of your humanness, whether that means starting or building a business alongside a family, another job, (chronic) illness or any other needs and desires.
There is a slower, gentler and more profitable way of running a business, and I’m here to help you achieve it.
I’ll be back in your inbox later this month with a post on my reflections on 7 months on Substack. Paid subscribers will hear from me with a discussion thread and a post on pitching to podcasts (upgrade your subscription to make sure you get these in your inbox).
Have a lovely rest of your week x
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