One problem with busyness is that it takes away from one’s ability to be present in the moment. There is always something else we feel we could be doing or something else that we should be doing. With those distractions at play, we’re left not being able to fully take in the present moment. Some people are able to identify some of the signs or symptoms of being too busy, and they can vary from person to person:
- Feeling stressed or overwhelmed
- Losing things or forgetting important details
- Running late to meetings, appointments, or events
- More frequent arguments with loved ones or friends
Learn to be Over-protective of your Time
Many of us often find ourselves running from one commitment to the other with little time in between. It is important to learn to be more “picky” when it comes to how one spends personal time. The first thing to do here is to be sure to have a system for 1) planning time and 2) tracking time. A basic weekly or monthly calendar works fine for this. Start by writing down any standing, repeating commitments (work, class, lessons, appointments, etc.). Then, add in any appointments or meetings that are more occasional (doctor or dentist appointments, lunch dates, concerts, etc.). For at least one week, use the calendar to record how time is spent. Add in anything that you do that wasn’t already on the calendar. At the end of the week, you should be able to look back over how you’ve spent your time for 7 days. Now, go back through and identify whether there were things on your calendar that could have waited, or that weren’t important in the grand scheme of things. These are things that could and should be eliminated from your schedule.
Now that you’ve (hopefully) cleared your schedule of some of the less important things that were taking your time, the second step is to set priorities for how you will spend any free time going forward (free time here is defined as the time not spent either working, sleeping, or taking care of any dependants). A simple model for establishing priorities is as follows: Personal Care, Household Care, Relationships, then Work
Personal care means taking time to take care of yourself. If you are tired, worn down, or burnt out, you will not be able to accomplish as much at home, at work, or in your relationships. Make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If this is a problem for you, take your calendar back out and arrange your schedule so that you are winding down at least 1-2 hours before bedtime, and use that time to read, listen to soft music, start a tea ritual, or take a hot bath. Avoid television 1-2 hours before bedtime as television tends to stimulate the brain when you want it to start winding down. It may become necessary to talk to your doctor if you are having chronic sleep problems. If you have young children who are waking up through the night, you may have to arrange your schedule so that you can go to sleep when they do or alternate overnight child care with your partner. It is also important to take time to enjoy personal hobbies, spend time with friends and loved ones, nurture your spirituality and/or enjoy nature, and invest in physical health through physical activity.
It is important to schedule in time to take care of basic household chores. There are many house cleaning schedules and shortcuts available online (some offer ways to maintain your household in just a few minutes each day). Pick a schedule that will work for you and use it to stay on top of day-to-day chores in your home. Many people notice that when things are in order at home, they begin to feel much less overwhelmed and they are able to unwind and have a greater appreciation for down time in the home. Others notice that they are more productive when the house is in order. Home organization is another area that, once addressed, will begin to have a positive impact on one’s productivity and peace of mind. Again, a quick internet search will lead to many organization tips for every room of your house.
One of the signs of being too busy is increased arguments or issues in one’s relationships. The reason for this is that busying oneself with work, meetings, volunteer work, or other commitments can cause loved ones to feel like they’re being neglected or marginalized. Also, when there is no time allowed to reconnect, it is all too easy for people in relationships to feel as though they are on two different pages, which could lead to increased disagreements and strife. Click here for more information about the importance of taking daily time to reconnect.
Prioritize spending 15-20 minutes of quality time with the people who are closest to you. This includes partners, children, immediate family, and even more distant loved ones. Obviously, every person can’t have 20 minutes of every day, but this is where you prioritize how you spend your social time. A quick exercise is to list out all of the different roles you play (wife, mother, counselor, friend), and beside each role list the key people who are impacted by each role. This points to the people you should be prioritizing each day.
Notice that work is not a priority that should be at the top of anyone’s list. Work is great, and work is important, but work will never be as important as taking care of yourself, organizing your time and your home, and spending quality time with those who mean the most to you. What does happen is that, once you have re-structured your time and prioritized how you spend your time, greater productivity at work will result from being your best self, enjoying greater organization, and being inspired by personal relationships (or less distracted by relationship troubles).
When to Seek Help
If you are running on empty, feeling frustrated, or overwhelmed and need help managing your time, it may be a good idea to seek help from a good friend, a relative, or a professional counselor. It may help to have a second set of eyes looking over your calendar and current schedule and receive feedback on necessary steps towards a healthier balance.
What tips would you add? Comment here to share what's worked for you!