Are You Really as Busy as You Think?

Laura Shin

I certainly think I’m busy. I work a demanding (although fulfilling!) job, have an additional side gig–and even take on freelance stories regularly.

Because my various forms of work take up so much time, I feel like I have barely any time left for socializing, sleep, cooking and cleaning. And forget exercise.

But I still manage to read and post on Facebook regularly, write personal emails to certain people (while ignoring others), surf the web, watch The Daily Show and listen to a lot of music.

How do I manage to fit this all in? I take my iPhone to bed and waste time on it before I nod off, before getting out of bed and even during the middle of the night. So it’s not that I don’t have time for things like cleaning or exercise–I apparently prefer to lie in bed killing time on my iPhone.

Taking the New Year, New You theme to heart, I decided to change my ways using some tips from  ”168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think” and “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.”

RELATED: 7 Bad Habits That Are Actually Good for You

Why You’re Not as Busy as You Think You Are

But before we dive into the tips, let’s look at why you can actually squeeze more time out of what might feel like an already-packed schedule. Author Laura Vanderkam points out that we all have 168 hours in the week. So when we look at people who are able to “do more” than we do, often it’s simply because they manage their time better.

One of our biggest challenges when it comes to capitalizing on time: We don’t really know how we spend it. Vanderkam points out that surveys in which people are asked to recall how much time they spent on certain activities usually get different results compared to experiments that ask people to keep a time diary.

As she puts it: “We are prone to over- or under-estimate things based on socially desirable perceptions or current emotions. For instance, few of us love the routine aspects of housework … So if someone asks us how much time we spend on such things, we overestimate–by something on the order of 100 percent for both men and women–compared to the actual numbers recorded in time diaries.”

RELATED: The Best Time Investments You Can Make

In fact, people are so bad at estimating how much time they spend doing things after the fact that their overestimates can lead them to say that their weeks add up to 180 hours–or even more than 200 hours.

Here’s how I kicked my time-wasting tendencies in just a few days–and how you can send your own bad habits packing.

  • Lacy Pierce

    Fantastic article!  I recently found myself doing the exactly this. Wasting time in bed in the morning going through the many applications on my phone, or in between meetings.  I recently deleted all of the applications I found were using most of my time, which has been a great help.  I enjoyed the additional tips and will definitely be checking out the books you mentioned.

  • Michelle

    I do think I’m pretty busy. I have a full-time job and a blog (which I spend so much time on that is equivalent to another full-time job and also earns more than my job!), and I also have a house to take care of. However, I do waste a ton of time watching TV!

  • JackieAU5

    Thank you for posting this! It’s a giant pet peeve of mine listening to so many people saying how busy they are but in reality they are terrible with time management.

  • Britt

    This is something I started thinking about a lot in the fall and I stopped saying “I don’t have time for that” and started saying “That is not a priority”  I’ve realized that if something is really important to me then I can MAKE time for it!  By saying something is or isn’t a priority it forces me to really evaluate how I spend my time. Granted I still haven’t made exercising a priority, but I’ve now found time to volunteer 30 hours a month and have become much more productive in my precious hours outside of work.

    • Silverpanic

      What irked me about this article was that it seems to convey the message,
      “If you aren’t doing something productive every minute of every waking
      hour, you are wasting time. Only lazy and unmotivated people watch tv or surf


      Britt clarifies the message that it should be about self-evaluation and priorities, but I would
      also like to add that allowing yourself to do “nothing” for short
      periods of time during the day can be positive, both mentally and

      Don’t feel guilty about not running at
      a marathon pace every day. 

  • Kelly

    Thanks for this useful article! Some days, I feel like I’m pretty organized but other days I’m just totally overwhelmed. My trick is to use a “to do” list to schedule tasks for the upcoming week. It usually shifts around as the week goes on, but having the tasks “planned” for a specific day is really helpful and fulfilling since I’m able to cross off maybe 1 or 2 a day. I usually take 5 minutes on Monday mornings to do the list.

    I’m always looking for more ways to maximize my time and this article had some helpful strategies!

  • MaraDS

    If, like me, you are interested in using a time tracking app, but horrible at remembering to actually use it I’d recommend Last 5 (  I have it set to automatically start when I turn on my computer and it runs in the background. It pops up at specified intervals (i.e. 15min) and asks what you’ve been)working on for the last # minutes.

    It has definitely helped me become more aware of how I use my time.

  • sjdemo

    precisely why I don’t have a “smart” phone/tablet, or cable tv for that matter. Avoid the time-sucks altogether and save money to boot.

  • C.

    This article is *exactly* what I needed.  I just tried Toggl to track my time on a particular project yesterday, and while I worked on it throughout day, the amount of time spent in total was a lot smaller than expected.  I knew I needed help with time management, but these tools are what I needed to get me there.  Thank you!

  • Shane Richardson

    Great article! I thought I was busy until about 2 years ago. Someone pointed out that the average american watches 25 hours of TV per week. That was me a few hours each night adds up. 

  • blight

    Great article! I have three kids under four and I work. I have been having a hard time balancing everything. I used to get really stressed out. Two things have really helped me. I use essential oils, such as Lavender when I start to get anxious and stressed about everything I have to accomplish and moving has also really helped me prioritize. We moved to a rural area and I now workout at home (saving a trip to the gym), work at home (has cut down on my meetings) and go less places because everything is so far away. It is a beautiful area and my kids have more freedom to roam and space to play I love it! It has allowed me to get into nature more as well. I am still doing the same activities but am using my time in better ways.

  • Cynthia Lenz

    This reminds me of a story about Dale Carnegie. He was always on the hunt for ways to be more efficient. His granddaughter told me that when he signed his name, he stopped picking up the pen between his first and last name because it saved time.

    Cynthia Lenz
    Cynthia Lenz’s Naturally Healthy and Happy Blog

  • Phick Steven

    Practically there is no word called “busy” what I think according to the corporate world. When ever we think of the term busy we should first think of whether we have done proper time management or not. Strategically there is 24 hours for every individual. Its better recommended to make a proper time plan and strategy and hook up with it to get organized ans streamlined.

    Our kinda time tracking and management is being taken care by the time tracking software from Replicon – that is hassle free and helps manage the time with absolute plan. This time tracking software really makes us busy but with proper expertise.