I know how bad it feels when you are so overwhelmed with all the things you need to do, that you don’t get a chance to have fun and spend time doing the things that really matter to you. And if you do have a chance to enjoy life, somehow in the back of your mind, you are still stressed about your to-do stuff.
That effing list that is circling in your head is relentless! You think about all of the things you want to do but can’t because there is a ton of things that need to get done. You then let those bad habits creep in, staying late at work, answering emails at home, and it isn’t even to get ahead! It is all just to stay afloat.
That “list” is always on your mind and everything on it is important! Thinking about what you need to do takes up most of the space in your brain, you can’t figure out how to fit friends and family in. Having time to do nothing and just relaxing becomes a dream. It is ridiculous, but we try to remember what it feels like to do something spontaneous like take a walk!
The fact is, if we take control of these thoughts that take up so much brain space, we can clear up space to figure out how to have quality time with F&F, to take that extra walk, or explore that new neighborhood on a whim.
I am reminded of a client who had trouble putting these thoughts in check until she had a moment of clarity. She realized that she had quit her last job because she wasn’t able to enjoy her vacation time when she wanted to, and that was a big factor of why she left. When she ran into this issue again at her new job, she realized she had to make a change and take control.
I am not the only one who wishes there were more hours in the week. “Where have all of our hours gone?” How many times have you said it? How about this: “I just spent the entire day working my ass off, but got nothing accomplished.”
Unless you are punching in and out with a time clock, it is always surprising to people when they connect pen to paper, and add up the hours spent working. Those who are punching in and out with a time clock are always feeling rushed, and unsatisfied with the quality of work we are pumping out. If only there was more time.
We also never think to add up commuting time as hours away from our busy weeks. It is such an easy thing to forget to factor in when we are trying to figure out where the time goes. A 30ish minute commute can add up to 3 hours a week! That is time to bake a cake, get a mani pedi, go to the movies. You know, those things we don’t have time for.
How can you take a long lunch with so much on your plate? How can you go out to dinner when you have a long day ahead of you the next day? How can you take that class you have been dying to take when there just isn’t enough time. How can I fit in friends and family time when I am so tired?
It is easy to say no to the things we want to spend time doing when we are so strapped for time. Just the thought of being overwhelmed prevents us from saying yes.
Whether it is lunch, a work project, time with family, being realistic about estimating the amount of time it takes to do something is key. Just Double it!
Think about how you spend your time through a different lens.
It helped my friend Sarah figure out how to feel grounded and less panicky with her time by picturing the process in the same way you would build a gingerbread house. First you need to create the pieces that you need, and then you need to figure out how to put them together.
The pieces are the things we want and need to spend our time doing. Some commitments are big like work, 43ish hours a week. Some commitments are small like stopping for our daily coffee on the way to work, a 40 minutes a week. Sarah’s moment of clarity came in when she realized that just like bricks, smaller pieces can be just as important as the bigger pieces in holding the house together and making it feel sturdy. She realized when she added up the small things, they made a big difference.
The different pieces can be friends, family, work, lovers, vacations, self care, exercising, eating healthy, whatever you chose that is important and valuable to you.
Once you get the real deal, down and dirty amount of time you are spending on activities. Lay them out on a calendar. Move things them around to make your time work for you.
For example, if you try to fit in dinner with 3 people one week, on top of going to the gym, and working late one night for a presentation, you can see that you will be exhausted by the end of the week.
This is where you edit! Take out the shit that is going to stress you out. A funny thing happened to Sarah, when she laid things out, she was able to fit family time that she wasn’t able to figure out how to do before because she knew where everything else could fit. As a nice surprise, she was able to see where she was doing things that she could get rid of and pay herself back some time during the weeks.
It takes time really figure out how much time activities take, you will get the hang of it with practice. Seeing it laid out in front of you will take away a lot of the anxiety.
Guess what? You can feel grounded, you can take time to do the things you want to do. What I am really trying to say is: You can be in control if you take control.
Here is what I want you to do right now.
Get started right now and add up all of the hours you work a week, and I mean ALL (even the at home emails)
· Add in your commute time.
· Make a list of all of the things you would like to do in a month and how long they will take and put them on post-its. For example: Spend time with my cousins once a month- 4 hours; Go out to a nice dinner: 3x a month 3 hours each.
· Post these activities on a monthly calendar and take out activities until they fit into a week without stressing you out.
· Repeat, Repeat, Repeat until it feels good.