Time Anxiety: Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions to Beat It

Author: Madalina Roman

Do the mere thoughts of time passing, tasks creeping into your list, and deadlines looming on you make your heart race?

I get you! I’ve been there many times.

However, it’s high time you take control of your time anxiety and diminish this crippling feeling that takes such a toll on your productivity and mental health.

In order for that to happen, you need to understand the main causes, symptoms, and strategies to beat the stress associated with time management. This article will teach you all of the above.

What is time anxiety?

Time anxiety means that you are going through “ongoing feelings of uneasiness and even dread around the passage of time,” according to Healthline.

In essence, time anxiety occurs when you are worried about not having enough time to perform all your tasks or that you’re wasting time. On many occasions, time anxiety takes over your ability to think rationally and objectively perceive your time and reality.

Time anxiety is not recognized officially as clinical anxiety. However, it is included in the GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) category, which states that anxiety disorders become generalized if worrying happens on most days and for at least 6 months.

Time anxiety takes different shapes and forms, from being slightly stressed around important deadlines to always feeling overwhelmed and stressed. The literature describes time anxiety as chronophobia. Chronophonia can take multiple forms:

  • Daily time anxiety: You’re feeling an ongoing rush in your everyday life and anxious that there’s not enough time to finish tasks.

  • Tomorrow time anxiety: The anxiety symptoms in this scenario are related to stressing over the future, perfection, not necessarily tomorrow, but future deadlines or requests that you have to live up to. In this case, you’re functioning based on “What ifs” that are blocking you. Common questions that fall into the future time anxiety category are: “What if I fail?” or “What if I won’t make it in time?.”

  • Existential time anxiety: This type of anxiety is natural for all of us unless it’s out of control, which makes it an anxiety disorder. We all are worried about potential natural disasters or our limited time on Earth and how much we make it count. Note that even if it’s normal to feel anxious from time to time due to our existence, if you experience serious mood disorders or time anxiety attacks, it’s best to contact a mental health professional.

Recognize time anxiety symptoms

Constant feelings of rush and overwhelm

If you find yourself constantly worrying about time in your day-to-day life or at work, you may experience this time anxiety symptom.

Here are some patterns you might have and should be aware of:

  1. Physical symptoms: Your body’s stress reaction is the first warning that you can asses. Do you often have an increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, tense muscles, and headaches due to the unending stress? Do these symptoms persist outside of work hours, too? This means your rush to finalize tasks triggers prolonged stress and a fight-or-flight response in your sympathetic nervous system.

  2. You have toxic work habits: You’re multitasking excessively, doing a lot of overtime, and there are not enough hours to navigate to your to-do list. Nevertheless, you never feel like you’re doing enough.

  3. Cognitive overload: Do you feel like your decision-making, creativity, and focus abilities are considerably reduced because you feel anxious? Anxiety has the ability to impair all these abilities, can lead to panic attacks, and affect your well-being.

  4. Emotional strain: Do you frequently feel frustrated, irritable, or helpless? The constant stressful sense that there’s never enough time doesn’t allow your nervous system to get to a rest and digest response.

Procrastination and avoidance

For someone with time anxiety, procrastinating almost feels like a paradox of productivity in which you might get caught up. Despite being constantly worried about running out of time, you frequently procrastinate.

  1. Task initiation paralysis: Do you spend an excessive amount of time planning or strategizing your work but struggle to begin the actual task?

  2. Perfectionism: Are you pressured to deliver flawless work? Does it seem daunting to take the first step?

  3. Distraction seeking: Are you seeking distractions or engaging in low-priority tasks like checking emails, researching a project too much, or tidying your workspace?

Feeling stressed when you did not finish everything you had to

This feeling is a hallmark symptom of time anxiety. The pressure to accomplish everything on your to-do list leads to significant stress, impacting both mental well-being and productivity. Here are the elements to analyze:

  1. Guilt and self-criticism: Are you often criticizing yourself when tasks remain unfinished? Do you criticize yourself for your time management skills?

  2. Hyper-focus on time: Are you overly fixated on checking the time and calculating how much you have left to complete your work? Do you feel anxious if you take a few moments for a break before launching a project?

  3. Rumination: Do you find yourself thinking about unfinished tasks outside work hours? Are you feeling anxious and have a hard time enjoying your personal time but thinking about work?

Overstressing as deadlines approach or even when they are far out

The fear of time often originates from a profound fear of not having enough time to complete your tasks to your desired standard. This fear can manifest as overstressing, regardless of how imminent or distant a deadline is.

  1. Pre-deadline panic: Are you stressing over deadlines, even if they are weeks or months away? Do you feel a persistent sense of dread related to deadlines? Do deadlines prevent you from fully relaxing or enjoying your daily life, as you’re constantly preoccupied with what needs to be done?

Worrying about being late to calls, work, or other events

Being on time is undoubtedly important. However, the fear of being late to work, meetings, or other events adds up to a significant source of stress. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Morning rush: Are you afraid of being late to work, and you’re frantically racing against the clock? Do you often give up on your morning routines to get to work?

  • Hyper-vigilance: Do you constantly check the time or leave excessively early for meetings? Do you avoid scheduling commitments close together to ensure you are never late?

  • Physical symptoms: Do you feel highly stressed when you know you’ll be late and your heart rate is beating harder? Are you sweating or feeling other physical anxiety symptoms when you know you’ll be late?

Keep in mind that time anxiety related to being late can originate in a social anxiety disorder, which needs to be discovered by a mental health professional.

Causes and solutions to beat time anxiety

Difficulty with time management

Poor time management is one of the main and crucial things that lead to time anxiety, particularly in high-pressure environments. When you don’t know how to manage your time, you’re feeling rushed, and negative thoughts start attacking your senses.

Effective time management means planning and controlling how much time you spend on specific tasks to maximize productivity.


There are a few practical ways in which you can improve your time management:

  1. Use a time-tracking tool to identify how you’re spending time

As you’re not aware of your time-spending habits, you need to start with an objective witness to how your time passes.

Such a tool helps you understand, identify, and correct your work habits, the time wasters in your schedule, and surfaces insights like when you’re productive or not or what apps are time-consuming.

This AI-generated dashboard in Timeular is a good example:

Time anxiety

2. Use simple time management strategies

To escape this ongoing feeling of anxiety in your everyday life and gain more control, you need to start applying simple yet powerful methods. Here are X simple examples:

A. Time blocking: Schedule focused work periods for specific tasks. All you have to do is block 30 minutes for that task you’ve been dreading and focus only on it for that time frame. Simpler said, break your to-do list into timed slots and protect that time.

Time-blocking example in a workday:

  • Deep work block (8:30 AM – 11:00 AM): Focused work on your main marketing project

  • Email and admin (11:00 AM – 12:00 PM): Respond to emails and administrative tasks

  • Lunch Break (12:00 PM – 1:00 PM)

  • Buffer time (1:00 PM – 1:30 PM): Add buffers for any unexpected events that may delay your schedule

  • Client Meetings (1:30 PM – 3:00 PM)

  • Project work (3:00 PM – 5:00 PM): Continue working on secondary projects

Recommended read: What is deep work.

Escape the feeling of anxiety with proper time tracking

Timeular helps you track time without effort so you can easily manage and control it.

B. The Pomodoro technique: Work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Repeat again. In these 25 minutes of focused work, do not interrupt yourself. You’ll discover that if you’re setting a timer, the pressure of time will drive productivity. To make your life easier, use our free Pomodoro timer.

  • First Pomodoro (9:00 AM – 9:25 AM): Do research on the feasibility of a potential project

  • Break (9:25 AM – 9:30 AM): Stand up, stretch, and do some mindful breathing

  • Second Pomodoro (9:30 AM – 9:55 AM): Start shaping the project in your PM tool

  • Break (9:55 AM – 10:00 AM): Quick walk, 1-minute deep breathing exercise, have a glass of water

  • Third Pomodoro (10:00 AM – 10:25 AM): Write potential scenarios of implementation

  • Break (10:25 AM – 10:30 AM): Check personal messages briefly

  • Fourth Pomodoro (10:30 AM – 10:55 AM): Finalize and send the first draft to your team for feedback

  • Long break (10:55 AM – 11:10 AM): Grab a snack and relax

Poor task prioritization

Competing demands and limited resources deepen your time anxiety, but it doesn’t have to be this way if you learn to prioritize better.

You don’t have to always live in a spray and pray hectic environment as it worsens your anxiety.


A. Use the ABCDE method: This method implies assigning tasks into categories based on prioritization criteria like their importance and urgency. You have to assign tasks into 5 categories:

How to apply it:

  1. List all your tasks.

  2. Assign them to the above 5 groups: A, B, C, D, or E.

  3. Prioritize tasks and plan your work:

  • Start with task A first.

  • Schedule B tasks.

  • Set aside time for C.

  • Delegate category D tasks to anyone else who can handle these tasks.

  • Eliminate or minimize E tasks.

Setting unrealistic goals and overcommitting to them

Setting unattainable goals within a certain timeframe and then overcommitting to them is the path to failure to meet deadlines, lower quality of work, and impacts self-confidence and morale, too.

All of the above further exacerbates your time anxiety.


A. Learn to set realistic goals: Besides setting manageable and attainable goals, this process needs to encompass assessing your capacity and constantly reviewing and adjusting your goals. It takes practice, but here are some steps you can take:

  1. Assess your capacity: Evaluate your workload and capacity on a regular basis before taking on new tasks. Carrying a quick time audit is one of the best ways to understand capacity. You need to understand your limits and communicate clearly to your managers, team members, and clients.

  2. Set realistic goals: Set achievable goals relying on your realistic assessment of resources and time. Break bigger goals into smaller ones with manageable deadlines. If you’re looking to learn more about why it is important to set realistic goals, dive into our guide.

  3. Review and adjust: The last pivotal puzzle piece in workload management is the ongoing review of how you’re progressing toward your goals and making the necessary adjustments. Stay flexible so you can maintain realistic expectations and progress.

B. Learn how to say no to work: It’s important to learn how to say no, and perform this exercise as often as it’s needed. This way, you’re ensuring you’re taking your projects to the finish line and not letting other people down. Politely but firmly communicate your current workload, and come up with counter-proposals (it can be in terms of timelines or recommending other people that can take over tasks).

Perfectionism and high expectations

We’re all falling into a perfectionism trap. The problem is, however, that we can’t always deliver flawless projects to the highest standards. It’s great that you’re trying to strive for excellence, but it’s nearly impossible to always meet them. This hyper-awareness of never making a mistake can heighten your stress levels and time anxiety.


  • Embrace imperfection: Admit that mistakes are part of your learning and development process. Try to embrace the concept of “good enough” to escape the pressure of achieving perfection.

  • Practice self-compassion: Try to be kinder to yourself and acknowledge your good results and efforts rather than focusing on your shortcomings. This can help you reduce your constant anxiety associated with high expectations.

  • Seek feedback: Looking for an objective perspective often clears things out. Reach out to colleagues, managers, or mentors to help you understand when your work meets the standards you’re up against.

Going through an uncontrollable fear of time

The uncontrollable fear of time, which is known as chronophobia, is a profound and crippling element of time anxiety. It is an irrational fear of the passage of time, which heightens your stress and impact you both personally and professionally.


  • Seek professional help: When your fear of time is overwhelming and unmanageable, it’s high time you seek help from a mental health professional. A professional in this field is able to identify if you have a generalized anxiety disorder or if it can be managed with relaxation techniques or talk therapy. Regardless of the results, a therapist will help you feel less stressed and will offer you treatment options.

  • Start mindfulness and grounding techniques: Practices like deep breathing exercises and grounding methods can help your system’s reaction to time anxiety. Deep breathing deactivates your sympathetic nervous system’s fight-flight or freeze response and brings it to a calmer state, in which you can be more rational and less anxious. Box breathing is a deep breathing technique that’s demonstrated to block the common symptoms of anxiety and help you stay in the present moment.

  • Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This commitment therapy helps you challenge your time-bound irrational thoughts and slowly develop a better relationship with time. A CBT therapist helps you change your negative thought patterns and behaviors to healthier thinking patterns.

a illustration about a high productivity woman
Time tracking is one the best ways to beat time anxiety and take control over it

Start tracking time with to escape the crippling feeling of anxiety


This guide helps you manage your time and anxiety better when you feel stressed and enjoy your daily life and life opportunities more.

Remember, the easiest and fastest steps you can start with are closely monitoring your time to have a better grasp of it, breathing slowly, and thinking more positively about any important event that you used to stress about. If you’re considering you have a generalized anxiety disorder, I highly recommend seeking support to easily and steadily lower your time anxiety.

It’s high time you take control of your relationship with time, take care of your mental health