It *seems* that if we just get our shit together we’d be able to achieve so much! If we could just push ourselves harder, be stricter…The actual journey to becoming a paragon of organization and effectiveness can be very overwhelming. Many people think that what is required is just more discipline.
I actually don’t think being harder on ourselves is the answer. I’ve become much gentler with myself and others over time. I’ve given up thinking that being mean to ourselves is the way to get to our goals. I think time management is much more sacred than that. I think it means being mindful, it means honoring our actual capacities and being fully present.
I have three tools that I use with clients to help them achieve a more balanced relationship with rushing.
My first tip is to keep a journal of when life feels overbooked. Write down how much time everything actually takes. One of the biggest time bandits is denial. As an example, if the meeting gets over at 11:30, and it takes 15 minutes to get to the next thing, it may seem logical to book the next thing for 11:45. But in reality, one never is out the door and in the car the second a meeting is over. There are always follow up comments to be made and hands to be shaken. We might need to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water.
Once we see how long things habitually take, we can begin living in reality. We can give ourselves an extra fifteen minutes. When we arrive on time for the next thing, having already taken care of the little things, we will have time to land, take a breath, and we will be much more present, balanced, and productive. We might even find that we start allowing extra time instead of just enough, in case there’s heavy traffic.
My second strategy is to notice what is already good. Gratitude goes a long way towards making life feel full – in the good way, not the overwhelming way - and getting rid of the need for striving. This may not feel like a time management tool but it really is. When I focus only on all-the-things-that-aren’t-done-yet! that is all I can see. It adds an amazing amount of stress into an already busy life, drains energy, and actually makes it harder to accomplish stuff. When I’m in that frame of mind, I get easily overwhelmed and the pressure I put on myself to get something, anything! done is actually counterproductive.
I have a daily practice of texting a gratitude list to a friend. It doesn’t have to be long or all encompassing. I just list a few things that have gone right in my day – like a good snuggle with my dogs, and a good meal with the hubby – and I stop feeling like a total failure because of all-the-things-that-aren’t-done-yet.
My third technique is called “Follow the Fear.” This works best with a coach or trusted advisor because it can get pretty real, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Procrastination is another mega time thief. Most procrastination is fear-based. But there is really good news! All fear is positive. Fear is an instinct to protect us from something. By sitting quietly and asking what we are really afraid of, what the fear is trying to protect us from, we can deal with that directly. Once we’ve followed the fear and identified the root cause, we can find better ways to protect ourselves than avoidance or self-sabotage.
For instance, many entrepreneurs are subconsciously resisting taking the steps necessary to be really successful because they’re afraid that success means that they won’t have any personal time left, that the business will take up their whole life and there will be no time for family, friends, or self-care. Ah ha! Now we can look for a more balanced way to protect against that. We can write into the schedule time for a lunch date with a friend at least once a week, or a spa visit once a month. Because the truth is that if we are always working and not taking time to take care of our body, mind, and spirit, we will eventually find down time in some indirect way, like becoming sick, or being so exhausted that we need to take a mental health day.
When I see someone who is consistently overwhelmed and exhausted, often late, and always guilty because they *should* be doing more, I feel compassion. I know from personal experience that’s not a fun place to be. But I also know that there are some gentle, loving means to become more balanced, and have more energy and greater equilibrium. Please let us know if you would like support around this. You don’t have to do it alone.