Always Busy. What Digitalization Does With Our Feeling Of Time.

Ping! A new message on WhatsApp. Ping! Next Email. Ping! A new friend request on Facebook. Ping! Someone commented on your Instagram post.

Since the digitalization has more and more impact in our daily lifes and routines, I have the feeling that people tend to be busier and busier, aren´t they? When was the last time someone told you “Sorry, I am busy”? I bet you have heard this sentence recently.

But who doesn´t know this? Emails, meetings and appointments are occupying the rhythm of our days. The pace increases steady. People are mailing while they are on the phone, answering messages while they are in a meeting or listening to Podcasts in 1,5x speed to get more effective.

We have more time than ever before

Interestingly, it´s not a secret that we have way more free time today as we ever had. Before the 2nd World War, a 60 hours work week was totally normal. Compared to the 1960s, we are working approx. 800 hours less per year. Yet we suffer more and more from time pressure. Why is this?

First of all, I think that digitalization changed nearly every job and branch. The borders between job and private life get blurry. We are available 24/7. Decades ago sending a message needed time: To get written on paper and sent by post. The recipient would eventually get the message after a couple of days. Today we have information instantly at hand, and everyone expects that we are answering as fast as possible. We are using apps to increase our effectiveness, to be able to focus more. A study made by the University of Bonn (Germany) found out, that smartphone owners grab their smartphone 53 times in average per day and interrupt the task they were just doing every 18 minutes.

Reading this made me feel irritated but I can so relate to it. How many times I am trapping myself grabbing my smartphone within doing something and allow to be distracted. Smartphones distract us. They are the reason we are less focused on single tasks.

The reason we feel to have less time

Marc Wittmann, Psychologist and Human Biologist working in Freiburg (Germany), is researching this phenomenon. And probably he has an answer to the question why we feel to have less time though we are getting more and more effective in doing things. He states that many people have this feeling, though they feel so many things happening in their lives. They feel that the time flies by. The feeling arises, because we are living in a loop of tasks and things. People standing 10 minutes outside in the cold at a bus stop doing nothing, feel the 10 minutes durate longer than people who use their smartphone in this time. Activities with higher changes in attention let time fly faster.

A lecture by Marc Wittmann about how our body and brain creates the experience on time duration.

What this feeling does with us

So being digital, using smartphones and apps in “multitasking-mode” gives us the feeling the time flies faster, opposite to if we would do one thing after another. We do not allow really distracting free times for ourselves anymore. Last messages are sent when already lying in bed. And in my opinion this development is getting toxic for many of us. In the way we deal with relationships and how we connect with people. So many times I feel highly frustrated that the people I love and I want to spend time with tell me, they are too busy, or I have to tell them that I am too busy. Yes we communicate, but communication feels more and more shallow. What is this message “Hey, what´s up”? I hate it when somebody sends me this. It is in 99% the only proof that somebody does not have time, but still wants some conversation with you. And because you don´t have time either, you might send back “I´m fine and you?”.

To me this is not a conversation. Time has become the greatest gift of our time. We should take more time for the small things, seriously asking someone how he/she is doing, invest in real connections and not in shallow phrases nobody wants to hear. And I think that this behavior is the reason why more and more people feel lonely. They have people around but no real connection to them. When was the last time you told someone about a deep fear that shakes you at night? When was the last time, you took time to make somebody happy with some nice and honest words? When was the last time you really told someone how you feel? When was the last time you asked someone out on a date face to face instead of swiping right?

What you can do to help yourself

I have stopped investing my time into things that don´t have a priority in my life. That sounds hard, but guess what: I can take time for the people I love, have real and deep conversations, and I can make myself available if my help is needed. Changing my behavior towards what things I actively give time in my life made it possible to have longer lasting and more sustainable contacts and relationships, people feedback me that they are happy to see how much effort I can put into the little things and my level of happiness has increased dramatically, just because of skipping the shallow shit.

I am not saying, you should do the same. Please don´t! Everybody is different and needs a different approach to deal with time and priorities. But what I can recommend everyone is to be more attentive to the things you invest time in. Observe a couple of days and note down, which “time investments” felt useless to you. Then investigate what impact it would have to just stop them. If you can live with the consequences, you should consider to stop. Be more attentive to what things you want to invest more time in. It may take some time to transform your behaviors and routines to your personal better. And sure this can mean as well to cut off people. But the saying “Quality over Quantity” is just true. Believe me, if you really feel you are investing the right amount of time in the right things without being stressed you might miss something, so much happiness will come back to you.

Choose happiness over being too busy 🙂

What are your experiences with business and the feeling of time? Share it in the comments 🙂

Comments (2):

  1. Ingmar Wein

    Jun 5, 2019 at 06:42

    Great article my friend about a phenomenon that probably most of us can relate to. The digital word, especially social medias, are built to distract us whenever possible. Deleting social media apps off my smartphone has helped a lot with getting time back.

    • Erik Rulands

      Jun 5, 2019 at 22:33

      Thanks Ingmar! Glad to hear that 🙂 There is so much in our lives that we don´t make us aware of and what I believe should be more aware for the most. I try to write about those topics in my blog, because in my opinion they are essential to live a life to the fullest.


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