What do you sacrifice in the name of your busy days?
Stress-free dinners with loved ones? A sound night’s sleep? A game of free throw with friends? Peace of mind?
Despite study after study indicating that overworking reduces productivity (not to mention its effect on joy), Americans seem to grow busier and busier with each passing year. Even children in America are overwhelmed with busyness as they take on more activities outside of school.
Is there any way to slow down, savor experiences, and still accomplish all that must be accomplished in any given day? With a little grace, anything is possible.
Simplify and prioritize
The first step in making more time in your day is to take a close look at how you’re spending it. For a week or two, keep strict tabs on how you’re budgeting your time each day. At the end of the period, carefully review the information you’ve gathered.
Identify those chores and habits that waste your time unnecessarily, and make the decision to gradually eliminate them in the future.
Gradually, because making changes – even for the better – can add stress during the transition period. Since we want to reduce stress, we’re going to give ourselves the grace to make changes slowly.
Create a list prioritizing the tasks that are left. While you’re at it, recognize those personal priorities that you may have neglected: having dinner with family, a sufficient amount of sleep, quality time with friends, and time for reflection, for example.
Make a plan
Often, we feel so busy and anxious that we can’t process how busy we actually are. A result of that is that sometimes, we’re not as busy as we think we are; we’re just not allocating our time as wisely as we might in our chaotic rush to get things done.
Once we’ve eliminated time wasters and prioritized everything else, we can develop a plan that will give us a structure for gauging how busy we are and how well we’re using our time. Even though making a plan takes time, it also helps to identify ways that we can make more time, something we all need.
Again, keep the plan flexible and allow yourself time to adapt to it. You may also decide to revise it as you begin to rely more on it and recognize better ways to make use of your time. That’s the beautiful thing about a plan, though, it helps you to organize and, therefore, recognize where you can make things better.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, rushing to get things done can actually make you busier. Speeding through tasks makes us more inclined to make mistakes, to break things, or to wear ourselves out to the point at which we’re no longer useful.
When you feel that you’re becoming overwhelmed, make a conscious effort to slow yourself down, to breathe deeply, and to work more deliberately. Not only will your stress levels decrease, but you may find that giving tasks your full attention makes them more satisfying.
How long can you drive a car that’s running on fumes? That’s a trick question. Because you know deep down that you’ve already done a lot of damage by the time you get to that point. Smart drivers keep their tanks full because the car will last longer and the panic of running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere is eliminated by good stewardship.
Likewise, your body and your mind require fuel to perform all of the tasks you’re faced with on busy days.
Eating healthy foods, taking time to exercise, and getting plenty of rest are all necessary to keep you feeling happy, productive, and capable of handling the challenges of the day. Be sure to include time for self-care in your plan.
Ask for help
Work done together is done more quickly and, often, more joyfully. When you feel overwhelmed by your busy days, reach out to friends, family, or colleagues to help you. Most people are eager to lend a hand because it makes them feel valued, and when people recognize that even you, as strong as you are, need a little encouragement, they’ll be happy to give it.