Four Keys to Time Management: How to Feel Less Busy and Be a More Productive Gig Worker

mulcahyFreed from meetings and other corporate time sucks, independent workers are in charge of managing their own time in their own way. Beyond restructuring calendars and schedules, making the most of time is a matter of perception. “Feeling like we have more time can help us feel less busy, more relaxed, and more present,” attests Diane Mulcahy, independent worker and author of THE GIG ECONOMY: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want (AMACOM November 2016). Backed by research and experience, she reveals how to expand time:

  • Expand time by engaging in new experiences. Neuroscience research shows that new experiences take more time for our brains to process than familiar ones, making our perception of that time seem longer. As we age, more and more of our experiences are familiar and processed quickly, which makes it seem as if time is flying by. Mulcahy’s advice to gig workers of every age: “Keep learning, meet new people, travel to places you’ve never been to, and challenge yourself to try new activities. Time will pass more slowly—and be more interesting.”
  • Expand time by becoming powerful. As researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found, high-power individuals feel like they have more time, partly due to the perception that they have more control over their time. This has positive implications for gig workers. “As we take more control of our time, and assume the less-powerful role of employee less frequently, we should begin to feel like we have more time available,” Mulcahy assures.
  • Expand time by giving time away. If you’re already feeling short on time, it seems counterintuitive to give time away. But a recent study from the Wharton School found that giving our time to help others leaves us less stressed and hurried and feeling like we have more time. The reason? People who give their time feel more “capable, confident, and useful.” This sense of accomplishment, which makes time feel expansive, arises even when we spend very short amounts of time—just 10 minutes!—helping others.                     
  • Expand time by combining physical and mental tasks. While human brains are not optimized for multitasking, there’s an exception: multitasking that uses different sensory channels. By combining physical activities with mental ones—  such as going for a walk while listening to a podcast or dusting your home office furniture while having a cellphone chat with a client—you can accomplish both efficiently and effectively.

Cover of The Gig Economy by Diane Mulcahy

Adapted from THE GIG ECONOMY: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want by Diane Mulcahy (AMACOM November 2016).

DIANE MULCAHY is a Senior Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation and an Adjunct Lecturer at Babson College, where she teaches “Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy,” a popular MBA course that Forbes.com named one of the top ten most innovative business school classes in the country. Her work in venture capital and entrepreneurship has been featured on NPR and in the Harvard Business Review, The Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, The New Yorker, The Economist, and other national media.

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