Have you ever had the feeling that there is not enough time to do what you truly want or need to do? This feeling can lead to an array of negative emotions (i.e anxiety, anger, sadness). Furthermore, it can drive us into a frenzy of trying to get everything done and in the end, feeling like we have done nothing.
The Illusion Of Time
You may have heard it said that time is an illusion but how much do you believe that? How much value do we put on the concept of seconds, minutes and hours? How could we possibly break away from our conceptualization of time when everything we do in our day-to-day lives is structured by time (i.e work, schedules, events)? If we can’t break away from this conceptualization, we can at least learn how to make time work for us so that time itself is not the source of our stress.
Here are a few strategies:
Prioritizing If it truly matters, you can make time for it. Imagine that you have a to-do list of 100+ tasks and then all of a sudden you see a fire in front of you. Regardless of what’s on your to-do list, naturally you would prioritize putting out the fire. However, it is difficult for us to see the “fires” in our own lives. The mistake many of us make is trying to do everything at once and missing what is most important to us.
“Buy” Time What can you post-pone? What can you put off? This is not to encourage procrastination but to promote a strategic way of putting off things that don’t need to be done immediately. Doing this helps to give us more time to focus on our priorities. Instead of completely blowing off tasks, we can identify new realistic deadlines for these tasks.
Take Breaks Many of us often think that we don’t deserve a break or feel like we will be more effective without one. However, breaks are not only healthy but they increase productivity. Give yourself at least a 5 minute break in the middle of a lengthy task. Take note of how much better you feel and perform afterwards. See this NY Times Article On How Breaks Increase Productivity: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/jobs/take-breaks-regularly-to-stay-on-schedule-workstation.html?_r=0
Take Care Of Yourself Often times, when we are under a great deal of stress, the LAST thing we think about is self-care. Actually, people are more likely to engage in self-harming (i.e overeating, smoking, unhealthy habits) when they are under a great deal of stress. What if instead of hurting ourselves when we are stressed, we put more energy into helping ourselves? The next time you find yourself under a great deal of stress, plan to partake in at least one healthy stress-relieving activity that day. Notice how your productivity and mood changes afterwards. Here are some ideas: SELF CARE ACTIVITIES LHLH
We must also make sure that we are taking care of our basic needs (i.e getting adequate sleep, eating enough meals). Sadly, we often pride ourselves on being able to complete tasks without sleeping or eating for extended periods of time. However, this is not an accomplishment. Depriving oneself of basic needs is not only unhealthy but it is likely to increase stress. It also makes us more unproductive. For instance, it make take you twice as long to complete a task when you are sleep deprived than when you have adequate rest.
If you are having trouble sleeping or eating, consider seeing a health professional to get to the root cause. Ironically, stress can be the cause of difficulties sleeping and/or eating. See this article for tips on how to sleep better: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-better.htmv
Organize, Schedule, Plan One reason many of us remain stressed is because we are operating on survival mode- completing tasks minute-to-minute, day-by-day, or last minute. Though some spontaneity is always good, organizing and planning can make a huge difference. Use to-do lists to help write down tasks to complete and then prioritize these tasks. It may help, in some cases, to put a deadline or an order of importance for each task to identify which one to complete first. Here Are Some Tips on Making An Effective To-Do List: http://greatist.com/happiness/make-a-to-do-list-get-shit-done
Organizing is not just about writing to-do lists, it is also about organizing your environment. Start by organizing your desk or environments you frequent. Notice how different your mood is when you’re organized versus when things are cluttered. (Tips On Getting Organized: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/82924)
Breathe! If you feel like you don’t have enough time in the day, make sure that you give yourself at least one minute a day to literally focus on your breathing. Find a quiet place. Start with three or so deep breaths and then just focus on your regular breathing. You can literally start by doing this for one minute and then increase the time as you feel more comfortable. Notice how different you feel. More on mediation here : http://www.how-to-meditate.org/
Ask For Help Sometimes we take on more than we can handle. Other times, we may feel better completing tasks on our own. However, this in itself can increase our stress. Asking others for help can give you an extra helping hand or at least an ear to vent to. The worst thing someone can say in this situation is “no.”
What if this doesn’t work?
Every individual is different. There is no cookie cutter way for everyone to be happier and less stressed. You can start by becoming more in-tuned with your true wants and desires. From there, you can identify practical ways to work toward those wants and desires. Stay positive. Don’t beat yourself up if you are doing the best that you can. Furthermore, give yourself time to reflect, plan and relax. This is the start of having a more stress-free and productive life.