The quickest way to compromise the quality of our work and life is by taking on more than we can chew. But if you’ve tried that path and had it backfire in your face with a fiery explosion of stress, you’re the rule, not the exception. Here are some tips on how to keep those fireworks in the box. Hopefully we save you some vacation days.
Often when we don’t quite cross everything off on our to-do list, we respond by doubling down next time around to prove our capabilities. “I didn’t make dinner for my family on Sunday like I promised, so I’m going to cook Monday-Friday this week,” etc. Allow yourself the opportunity to start from zero again; past events can have little to no impact on the present if you let them. Kudos if you’re a perpetual helper, but don’t be so hard on yourself for not being 1000% dependable- guaranteed people characterize you by what you do assist them on, not what you don’t. Take every new day or week for what it is- a fresh start. And reminder- you’re only human.
Analyze Your (Time) Spending Habits
People tell us all the time that we have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. So figure out where all those extra hours and minutes are hiding. First track your day in a time journal. At 15 minute intervals, jot down what you’re doing. Be honest! At the end of it, you’ll see if you’re spending too much time scrolling through Pinterest or not enough time prepping for that meeting. Next, be realistic about how long something takes you. If you need an hour and a half to get ready in the morning, stop pretending that setting a 7:00am alarm for an 8:00am departure is sufficient. Finally, keep an hourly calendar and update it before it becomes relevant. If you have projects due Thursday and Friday, budget out your Monday-Wednesday to ensure all the building blocks come together in time.
We spread ourselves too thin because we’re doing things that others expect of us. We make the house spotless for tonight’s company because of an image we want to project, not because it makes us happy. Doing what feels good is textbook R&R; don’t deny yourself of that! Make going to the gym or packing a healthy lunch as important as getting to work on time. If you can’t chisel out that much ‘me time,’ set a few 15 minute intervals aside when you cannot and will not be approached or interrupted, and use those moments for some deep breathing exercises or reading a few pages of a guilty pleasure novel.
Focus on Healthy Patterns
Over-commitment often acts in a positive feedback loop. You have a ton to do, so you sleep less, which stresses you out more, but you compensate by convincing yourself that you’re not stressed, and continue to take on more tasks. It’s a mouthful and a… brainful. But you can break that cycle at any of the access points. Like making a restful night’s sleep an absolute must or reminding yourself that stress is part of human nature that everyone experiences. Acknowledging unhealthy habits and removing them from the equation keeps the feedback loop in check. When you feel energized and in control, things that used to stress you out will transform into welcome challenges.
Title catch your attention? While it may be a little out-there, it’s a message worth exploring. When you spent too much time caring about (and stressing over) things that have no lasting positive impact on your life or those of the people around you, you waste time that could be otherwise spent on the important things. Prioritizing tasks in order of long-lasting importance helps to weed out the time-suckers. A good starting point: ask yourself, ‘will I care that I did this next week, next month or next year?’ Next step: don’t be afraid of saying no. Everyone around you is trying to perform this exact balancing act- they’ll understand.