Struggling Because Life is Way Too Busy?
You are not alone. At some time or another, most of us feel overwhelmed by all the many things we need and want to do. For some of us that crazy busy feeling is more common than uncommon. So what it this too busy feeling telling you? I’ll bet you can learn more than you think from life’s busyness.
Insight From A Way Too Busy Life
Time is like money. It can feel like you never have quite enough of it. But you can, if you learn to use your time in a way that really matters to you. Just like money, when you understand how you use your time and what specifically is causing you to feel way too busy, you gain some great insight into what is important to you and what you can change to make your life a happier less overwhelming place.
When Do I Get To Do What I Want To Do?
Do you feel like life is a juggling act and there is never enough time to do what you want to do? Pay attention. This is a flashing warning sign telling you that the way you are living is not in sync with what is really important to you. It’s time to back up, take an honest look at where you are spending your time and ask yourself some important questions. I know you don’t want another thing that is going to take time, but if you choose to make time to make the effort, you will be able to go from that too busy feeling to being active but in control of your time. Here’s an easy way to go about it.
“If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got”.
A Peek Back In Time
Let’s look back over the past week and see what you have been doing with your time. If you already keep a pretty accurate by the hour calendar you have a head start. If not, don’t worry. You can start keeping your calendar now.
On your calendar note everything you did include sleeping, getting ready for work and eating. It’s easiest if you separate the activities into some basic categories. Here are the ones that I recommend:
- Work – include your commute time and time at home checking email.
- Chores – include paying bills, cooking, laundry, errands, etc.
- Care-taking – include taking Mom to the doctor, shuttling kids to soccer, etc.
- Grooming – include showering, haircuts, shaving your legs, etc.
- Social/Family Time – this is where you put the fun social and family time.
- Having Fun – this category is for stuff you absolutely love to do.
- I Have No Idea – this is where the time wasters and lost time go.
You can add/subtract categories to fit your life better or to keep track of things that are important to you. Next, choose a color for each category and color in your calendar with the corresponding colors. For example, if you choose black for sleep, then you color all hours you were asleep in black.
Your Time Audit
Once you have a week of calendar color coded, review where your time is going. There are two techniques you can use to analyze your calendar. The quick and dirty way is to look for the biggest blocks of color so you can see your biggest time eaters. The more informative way is to add up the hours for each day and total the categories for the week. There are 168 hours in a week. Did you account for them all?
Are you spending your time in areas that are important to you? What can you do to shift how you spend your time to be more in alignment with what will give you more joy? Do you have more lost or wasted time than you thought? If you keep the calendar for a few weeks you get an even better picture.
Your Reality Check
Although we all think we know who we are and what’s important to us, often we don’t actually know. Sometimes actions truly do speak louder than words. When you look at the amount of time in each color block on your calendar you may find that you are spending a lot of time doing something that you didn’t think was that important to you. You may also discover that you are spending a lot of time doing things that you hate doing but feel you have to do.
Argh! What To Do About The Things You Don’t Want To Do
If you are doing many things you hate because you think you have to, question whether those things really need to happen? Are you the one that has to do them? Can the same end result be accomplished by doing something you enjoy more? Do you need to learn to say no to a few things? What are these dreaded activities doing for you? You may laugh at that question, but everything you do serves you in some way or you wouldn’t do it.
Let’s say you hate your job, but it provides an income, plus it makes you feel important or smart or both. What else can you do that would provide an income or help you feel important or smart? If never missing a soccer game makes you feel like a good mom but costs too much time, can you compromise and occasionally miss a game and still be a good mom because you are teaching your daughter how to balance life? Wouldn’t you feel like a great mom if you could show your daughter how to handle life when she feels way too busy?
But I Want To Do Everything
Reality is that there are only 24 hours in a day. You cant’ do everything. To gain control over your life and to stop feeling too busy, you’ll need to prioritize. You don’t have to do everything right now. What can you defer until later? Where are you wasting time? Grab that low hanging fruit and dump your time wasters so you can make space for what you really want to do.
Are you spending large blocks of time doing something that you just don’t think you can live without? That’s actually good because it gives you insight about what really matters to you. Maybe you were surprised to find that you spend a lot of time creating spreadsheets and analyzing your expenses. That could mean that you are little more concerned or interested in money they you may want to admit. But discovering that it is important. It will help you to make choices about how you are spending your time.
Just Say No
We’ve all heard it but it can be really hard to say no if you are a people pleaser. It’s hard to tell someone that you don’t have time to help. But if you are too busy to help in a genuine and meaningful way it’s better for everyone to say so up front. The only way to learn to stop agreeing to things that you’ll later regret is to start saying no and then practice saying it again and again.
Need a few tips on how to say no? I found two great articles that talk about great ways to say no gracefully. Try reading them and practicing some of the suggestions to see how they work for you.
The Price Of A Too Busy Lifestyle
The most motivating action you can take to get on the road to a less busy life is to realize the cost of your overwhelm. How miserable is your busyness making you? What could you be doing with your time if you weren’t doing all the millions of things you are doing now? Are you angry and resentful for not doing what you want? If so, what is the impact of that anger on your relationships or on the quality of your work?
Understanding the price of juggling too many things will motivate you to make the changes that are necessary to slow your pace. The next time another request for your time arises remind yourself of why your time is so valuable and what you really want to do with it . . . before you commit.
Own Your Time
When you become aware of how you use your time and then make intentional decisions about how you’d rather spend it, you begin to get control of your too busy life. Plus, you make some interesting discoveries about yourself.
One of the things I noticed when I did the color block exercise was that there was a contact that I needed to make yet I kept putting off because I was too busy. What I realized was that making that contact was important to achieving my goals and I was really putting it off because I was nervous. Once I realized that making that contact would help me reach my goals faster, I sucked it up and did it. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. In fact, I enjoyed it and now have a wonderful new resource and colleague.
What Works For You?
I’d love to hear some of your techniques for dealing with that way too busy feeling. Please share your experience in the comments below and enlighten the rest of us.