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Your Real Problem Isn’t a Lack of Time. It’s a Lack of Energy

Jessica Stillman


Go and ask any busy adult professional how he or she is doing, and there’s one answer you’re likely to hear more than any other: some version of “slammed.” A shortage of time is the perpetual complaint of the modern American adult.

“When researchers surveyed Americans before 2011, about half said they almost never had time on their hands and two-thirds said they sometimes or always felt rushed (though a more recent study suggests things may be improving a bit),” reports Greater Good Science Center.

So far, not surprising. But I have news for you — and please don’t shoot the messenger here. Careful studies of how Americans actually use their hours suggests most of us have a lot more free time than we think we do.

“From 1965 to 2003, the average American workweek actually declined by three hours, while leisure time increased,” reports the same Greater Good article. According to up-to-date Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average American has around five hours of leisure time per day.

Now, some of you are far from average in their work habits. And there are plenty of people working multiple jobs to make ends meet who will find these statistics to be dark comedy. But the overall picture is still clear. Time use surveys reveal that most of us have hours of slack time we use for activities like TV and social media. So why do so many of us feel so short of time?

“Energy makes time”

This is a complex question, of course, and one that speaks to deep issues around how you conceive of your days and whether you are facing up to the inherent limitations on your time. But a recent blog post by executive coach Mandy Brown cuts through some of that complexity to offer one of the clearest explanations I’ve come across. Helpfully, her analysis also leads straight to a possible solution.

Your problem, Brown insists, isn’t actually lack of time. It’s lack of energy.

Which isn’t to say that time management is a total waste of time. Tricks like blocking time in your calendar or assigning themes to days can be helpful. But these techniques are just the sprinkles on the cake. The main issue isn’t how you organize your hours, it’s how you recharge your…



Jessica Stillman

Top Inc.com columnist/ Editor/ Ghostwriter. Book lover. Travel fiend. Nap enthusiast. https://jessicastillman.com/