Not enough time?

Do you feel like you’re being pulled in too many directions? Or have so much going on that you don’t know how you’re going to get all of it done, let alone done well?

Do you feel like other people have too many demands on you, and on your time?

How often do you put the wants and needs of other people ahead of yours? The things they want you to do, ahead of the things you want to do?

Some things, like maybe working in a job that isn’t inspiring instead of going back to school, may be something you need to do for your family; although it isn’t what you would prefer to do. For now, that may be the best choice, the only choice until the time is right and you’re able to return to school. There are indeed times when we must make sacrifices.

But I bet there are many things you’re doing for others, when you would really prefer not to.

Social activities, volunteer work, work-related activities. How many can you identify in your life?

There are 24 hours in a day and that’s not going to change. The only thing you CAN change is what you do in those hours.

If you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed with everything you have to do, stop for a moment. Take a bit of that time and get clear on what you’re dealing with.

Make a list of every demand on your time that’s currently happening in your life outside of the basic stuff like eating, sleeping, regular work hours.

Go ahead, I’ll wait. 😉

For each item, determine:

Is it something I actually want to do?

Is it something I don’t mind doing?

Is it something I feel I have to do, but would rather not?

Colour code them as above; this will help to categorize them visually. Use a highlighter, coloured pens, coloured fonts if you’re typing this list – whatever works for you. Whichever method you use, it will help you see instantly how much you’re pulled in directions you don’t want to be, or how many things you’re doing that you would really rather not do. And how much of your busyness is stuff you want to be busy with!

Now back to your list….

Examine each one, asking yourself what the purpose or desired outcome is. What affect will it have? Does it matter whether you do it, or if someone else does it? CAN someone else do it and it still have the desired outcome?

If they are social commitments and you’d rather not do them, why are you? There may very well be a good reason, like it’s a family function, or something where your participation is mandatory, and in that case, you’re stuck with it but minimize your involvement as much as possible.

On the other hand, if it’s something you really don’t want to do and your presence is not mandatory, rethink your commitment. Don’t be afraid to say no. Give an explanation if you have one, however a simple ‘No, but thank you for asking me” really is enough.

If it’s work-related, a project you need to do but you’d rather not, then look at the reasons why you don’t want to. Maybe it’s because you feel unsure about your ability to do it? Maybe you’re unsure about the process or the outcome? In this case, ask for and get all the help and resources you need, and go knock it out of the park.

However, if it’s extra projects at work you feel you should do, or have been asked if you’re interested in, and you really are struggling with finding enough time, have a frank and honest discussion with your manager. The goal here is to have a non-confrontational exploratory dialogue. Explain how taking on a large project would affect other areas of your life. Maybe extra projects are something you can manage only once or twice a year. Or maybe it’s something you can do a part of, with the remainder being done by someone else, a team. Discuss together ways to make everyone come out winning.

Do you have children with extra-curricular activities that take up your whole evening every night? And the majority of your weekends? To start with, ask them what they think of all this time THEY are committed to. If they’re good with it and it’s something they want, then look at how you can manage this much better. Can you trade off with other parents, each taking a turn car-pooling? Invoke the help of other family members.

One evening a week to yourself can feel like a mini-vacation! Use that time to pamper yourself, take that night course you’ve been wanting to, or have a date night with your partner. Or just do nothing but breathe.

If you’re feeling pulled in too many directions because of all the things that YOU want to do, take a look at each one. Determine how many you can comfortably do – and leave yourself some wiggle room. Each one at one time or another will require more time and more effort.

Now look at that list and see which ones need to be done NOW. If it’s to further your career (like night courses), or something with a more imminent deadline (perhaps community theatre you’re involved with or an upcoming family event), then those need to be on that list now.

If it’s something that can wait a little while, like joining a committee or learning a new skill that isn’t career enhancing, hold off until you have more time for it.

Being busy and involved is a good thing. But not when it’s wrecking havoc with your mental health or your physical health, or with your relationships.

Being involved with the things that truly matter to you (and your family) can be invigorating, motivating, and nourishing to your soul, as long as you’re not stretched super thin. When that happens, then you’re not getting any of the benefits, all of these things become detrimental to your health.

Bottom line – know how much you can handle, choose wisely, and don’t be afraid to defend your time.

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