How many times do you hear yourself saying, “I just don’t have the time to…”? Your ‘to-do’ list stretches over many pages, or is scattered across several scraps of paper, wipe boards and computerised task lists. In this fast paced, modern world we live and operate in, it’s no wonder that people are feeling overwhelmed. Squeezing in parenting duties, work pressures, house-hold chores, fitness-time, socialising and of course ever-increasing social media time. When do you get to relax, or have the ‘me time’ you often crave?
We all have the same 24 hours in a day to operate within, so why is it that some people seem to manage better, or make life run rather more smoothly than your own? And it’s not necessarily that those people have less to do…so perhaps it’s more about how they handle what they have to do, or more specifically, how they think about what they have to do.
So here are a few tips and how to manage the overwhelm.
You can’t get it ALL done, but you can focus on what’s important
Have you heard that expression ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person’? Whilst on one level, there’s definitely some truth in that – their energy is up there, busy getting through enumerable tasks on their to-do lists…and maybe they even have a reputation for being super organised, and then not surprisingly, they find themselves being given more and more to do. However, whilst that may work in the short term, in the long term it can be stressful, tiring and gradually lead to diminishing returns on output.
What would be helpful here is to determine for yourself – say at the beginning of the week, or day – what is important to achieve today? Stephen Covey, author of
, makes the distinction between things that are important and things that are urgent. Most of the time, doing the things that are important, rather than urgent, results in greater effectiveness. In other words, don’t major in minor things. So, try limiting your ‘to-list’ to just 2-3 big, important items per day.
Be aware of perfectionism; think instead of achieving satisfaction
Of course some things need to be done as perfectly as you are able, but most things don’t. Think about what you’re trying to achieve, what are the most important criteria or requirements for what needs to be done. When you focus only on achieving or seeking out the ‘best’, you can end up feeling dissatisfied and overwhelmed when you don’t accomplish it. Cultivate your sense of satisfaction rather than perfection.
Simplify and de-clutter
You’d be amazed at how a little effort in de-cluttering say your work space, or home environment can help you feel less overwhelmed. Make the time to have a clear out, archive or dump what you don’t need, and create a clearer, more open environment to operate in. Honestly, this process is more satisfying that you would ever believe.
Set smart expectations
Be realistic about the time it takes to do things. Allocate the time and then a tackle the task in a focused way. Effective multi-tasking is a bit of myth as our minds are often spread across several actions, which ultimately jumble our thinking and effectiveness. And if you’re drowning in all those emails or messages, get into the habit of the four D’s: Do (get on with the action required); Dump (delete or file); Delegate (who could help with this task?); Defer (allocate the task to a specific time/date – then of course make sure you do complete it on the allocated date).
Tighten your time boundaries
Schedule time for things like chores, family time, ‘me-time’ and if you can handle it, a big one these days would be to set a limit on your social media/internet time. Bed is not the place to be tweeting or posting a status – try a social-media free zone in the bedroom, especially at least an hour before you sleep. And how about committing to a set time to leave work (it’ll all be there in the morning).
Addicted to busyness?
In response to ‘how are you?’ have you considered you’ve got rather used to saying ‘I’m so busy!’? For many, this response gives us an ego-boost; it makes us feel important and less insecure. Rather than owning that, and being rather attached to all that stimulation – and this goes for the kids too – how about just chilling out. The Danes have this got this one down with their hygge philosophy: “the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things”.
Just say ‘no’
Try this exercise for a week and see if it makes a difference to your time. When anyone asks you to do something, the game is to respond with a polite ‘no’. You can be creative here e.g. ‘not now, but I’ll get back to you with when I can’; ‘I’d love to help but I’m unable to right now’; ‘thanks for asking me, but I’m going to have to decline at this time’.
And finally, without sounding morbid, imagine that you’re about to pop your clogs and your grand-child asks you, “What are the five things that made your life worthwhile?”. What would you answer? Now, think about how much time your give to those things in your life today…