Just this last week a friend and I were talking about our schedules. She made the all too familiar comment, “Something has got to give!” Can you relate? I can’t remember when I first started realizing my life was flying faster than the speed of light, but it was at least fifteen years ago. At that time I lived in a perpetual state of overwhelm.
Fish don’t recognize water. I didn’t realize my life was off kilter as I went careening around barely catching my breath. People would say, “You’re so busy!” and I either thought that was a compliment or I would attempt to defend my plate balancing act.
If your schedule feels like it is going to burst at the seams, you may wonder how to make time for what matters most to you.
Change takes time – big change takes a lot of time
Just as any acknowledgment rarely leads to immediate change, entrenched lifestyle habits don’t uproot overnight simply because we have an “aha” moment. Overcoming all the choices feeding into my overpacked life took years. Honestly, I’m still growing up and out of some of the residue.
I want to share highlights of what has worked best to help me overcome constant overwhelm. If busyness has you running ragged, hold on for the hope. Even if you aren’t “too busy,” you may find some nuggets here.
- Understand why we say “yes” to everything
- Eliminate perfectionism.
One of the first tools I got a hold of as I started to wake up to my lifestyle of overwhelm was a bible study by NavPress called “Beating Busyness.” We were asked to draw an oxcart and add boxes of varying sizes representing our different commitments and responsibilities. The larger the box, the more time it consumed. At the end of this probing exercise, my cart was teeming with boxes!
Have you ever considered why you say “yes” to so many activities and responsibilities? As I discovered underlying motives like people pleasing, little by little, I changed some of my knee-jerk “yes” answers to “no.”
I also reduced the amount of time invested in certain commitments by modifying the way I completed projects or participated in events. Our A+ effort isn’t needed in every given aspect of life.
- Realize my limitations
- Be grateful
All my life I had this nagging sense that I needed to grab up all the goodness I could. Carpe Diem! As a child, I refused to nap. I didn’t want to miss the action while I was wasting away in bed. I never knew there was a name for this condition – or that I had fellow sufferers. One day I heard of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and knew I had found my people. We are like Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol.” There we stand, nose pressed to the glass, pining away for all we don’t get to experience.
During my grad-school years, standing with my toes in the sand at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, I had a realization: I’m not going to get to do everything. If I’m only going to read so many books, they’d better be amazing. Since I have a limited number of friendships I can cultivate, I want to pour into those and make them special. You get the idea. Limitation is actually a gift. It forces us to pick the best for ourselves and those we love.
Think about how knowing your limits can help you to choose well.
Gratitude has also been a great antidote for FOMO. The more we look around at what we already have and enjoy what we get to do, the less we worry about the 1,000,000 things we are not doing.
Solution: Welll …
Honestly, I actually still often put off distasteful and routine things. I’m very motivated by deadlines. What has changed for me is that I don’t stress out reminding myself of due dates months or weeks in advance. If I know I’m going to give certain things a last ditch effort and be able to pull off a win, I put the project out of my mind until I’m actually going to work on it.
I break most routine tasks into smaller bites and then set aside blocks of time weekly and sometimes daily to do a piece of the larger whole. Email sorting, clearing my desk, spot cleaning the home, decluttering and gardening all fall into this category. I call this “The 15 minute conquer” and I’m going to formalize that approach one day
… when I get to it.
This TED Talk by Tim Urban is mandatory watching for procrastinators. If that’s not you, um, yeah, watch it anyway.
Problem: Always thinking I can do it all
- Filter opportunities through priorities
Below my superhero cape of “accomplishment girl” lived a fearful and insecure (mild-mannered) person just hoping you would notice me for all my achievements and abilities. If you suffer from performing to gain approval, it is important to learn to separate your value from “doing” and start finding contentment in “being” who God made you to be. There is great freedom in this process.
I also have devoted time to really deciding what matters most to me. On what do I want to spend my short life? Looking objectively at each activity or opportunity I ask myself some key questions, such as, “Does this line up with my primary purposes and goals?”
This approach has very practical applications. Consider my inbox. I’m sorting through around 100-200 emails daily. Some of these offer courses or webinars. If the training lines up with my overarching goals and direction, I may have to take something out of my existing schedule to fit it in. Otherwise, I delete the email, forgo the opportunity and press on towards what fits me best.
We have to face it. Most of us have bought the lie sold to us. Productivity is king and multitasking is the rule of the land. Many studies show our brains literally cannot multitask. That doesn’t mean you can’t run the laundry machine while having your InstaPot cook a delicious supper so that you can play Twister with your children and their friends. You can and should.
The trouble comes when we try to fit so many things in at the same time that we aren’t present for any one of them. Practicing monotasking keeps us from frenzied living. We truly crave simplicity and the capacity to be present right where we are.
I think Paolo Cardini says it way better than I do. Plus, he has such a fun accent.
Did you see yourself in any of what I shared here? If so, I would love to continue to support you as you grow with me into more intentional time management. I have a whole section at PattyHScott.com devoted to Simplifying and Slowing. When you subscribe, I send you regular resources and encouragement to help you mother with intentionality.
I will also provide you my “Making Room for What Matters Most” Bookmark as a tool to help you manage your time. It has great tips for you to use to keep yourself focused.
If you have a friend who lives in overwhelm or needs some encouragement and practical tips as to how to slow down and simplify, let’s bless her with some hope. Share this post with her.