I hear quite a lot ‘I need more hours in the day’ or ‘I just need more time’ from people who are talking about not getting things done. I understand. Too many jobs, too little time leaves us feeling stressed and frazzled.
The actual issue isn’t the time we have, but how we use it. We don’t need more hours in the day – we have twenty-four already; we need strategies to manage our time better.
Time management isn’t something we haven’t heard of or thought about before, we’re all familiar with it. After all, how many of us have calendars, organisers, schedules, to do lists and reminders set up on our phones, computers, desks, kitchen walls or written in our hands? Exactly. We all have plenty to do and yet still don’t seem to have enough time to get it all done…We have the planners, the tasks and a full day to use but we’re not getting everything done, what’s going wrong? We need priorities, boundaries and honesty to make our schedules work for us, not just our jobs, families and friends. Let’s figure that out.
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First of all, let’s be clear about one thing: effective time management is not about doing your job well, it’s about living your life well; you should have time for everything you want to do (work, play and rest). If you’re overloading and not keeping things balanced, chances are you’re headed towards burnout.
What does Burnout look like?
Burning out will lead you to some, sometimes even all, of the following:
· Feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do, and unable to plan your next step.
· Loss of enthusiasm and creativity from things you enjoy doing.
· Becoming increasingly irritable and losing your temper easily.
· Feeling mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the day but being unable to sleep at night as you have too much going through your mind.
· Basic, every day things like eating feel inconvenient.
· Feeling like no matter how hard you work, you’re just not achieving as much as you think you should.
· Feelings of self-doubt and lacking motivation.
· Pushing people away as you don’t want anything to interfere with the work/tasks you have to get done but getting no pleasure out of any of it.
If you’re in burnout, you won’t be at your most creative or productive and you certainly will not be enjoying your life. You can’t keep going like that for long before things start to crack, so you need to make some changes. Let’s talk how…
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Embrace some, or all of these changes:
· Start your day well. Try not to be rushing through your morning and running out of the door to get to work/school/meetings/appointments or whatever you have scheduled. Take some time to gather your thoughts and prepare yourself for whatever the day may bring (it doesn’t have to be long, just a few minutes is enough).
· Have a plan. Setting yourself a plan for what you want to accomplish will help you stay on task and focused throughout the day (make these goals reasonable – creating a list of things you can’t possibly achieve is not setting yourself up for success).
· Break big tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Big jobs/projects/tasks can feel overwhelming, and if you’re not careful, getting caught up in those feelings can stop you from getting things done. The key is to break a big task down into smaller chunks that you can get done over a few days or weeks until it’s all finished.
· PRIORITISE! Decide what the best order is to do things in and decide what needs to be done no matter what happens; do that first. Prioritising like this will probably mean sometimes saying no when people ask you to do things – don’t feel bad, this is an important part of time management; sometimes we have the time, energy and mental bandwidth to do extra, sometimes we don’t and that’s ok.
· Delegate. When possible, delegating things to the team you have around you will leave you space and time to do what you’re naturally better at. This doesn’t necessarily mean a team of colleagues at work (although sometimes it does, so get on board micro managers), it can mean family members, other relatives, friends, helpers, whoever is around you. It’s far easier to get burned out when you’re doing things you don’t like. Sometimes delegating some of those jobs is the best thing to do.
· Plan time for self-care. Yes, this includes meals, exercise and socialising. It may sound like something you shouldn’t have to plan, but if you’re the kind of person who gets absorbed in what you’re doing, then you need to consciously plan these things to make sure you make yourself a priority – remember, when you’re burnt out, you’re no use to anyone. Taking care of yourself is an important part of daily life.
· After a big project or busy time, RELAX. Sometimes we all need to work extra hard to meet a deadline; this can be a work project, a family celebration, helping children finish a school project, making a costume, anything you’ve poured time and energy into, and, when it’s finished, you need to make some time to relax. It’s important, even if you feel like you don’t need it.
· Practice the ten-minute rule. We all have jobs we dread doing. We put them off and develop anxiety as they loom in front of us; this is an energy draining cycle and the key is to just get started. Work on it for ten minutes. You’ll probably end up working on it for longer when you’ve started, but if you plan on just ten minutes a day over a few days, you’ll feel much better about it.
· End the day with a plan for tomorrow. When you’re a busy person with a lot to do, it’s a good idea to make a quick list (physical or mental) of what you need to do the next day, so in the morning you don’t need to stress over what’s coming or what you need to get done, it’s fresh in your mind and you already have a headstart on the day.
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When you’re in the midst of a burnout, things can just seem too much. You’re not alone in that feeling, it hits us all at some point, but you can’t stay in that place for a long time, no one can mentally or physically maintain that level of stress. Our bodies are not designed for it and it’s not good for us so time management is a crucial part of life. Think about how many times you’ve thought about taking an exercise class, going to see a show, having dinner with friends, going away for the weekend, spending the weekend playing with the children, or whatever else you’d really like to do or try but put it off by saying you don’t have the time or you’re just too tired? We’ve all done it and honestly, none of us can do everything by ourselves.
I know when you’re tired and feel overworked, what I’m saying may not seem realistic and yes, it is easy to type some words out and give advice. I used to hit burnout too often, until I changed my way of managing my time, which helped me change my priorities and perspective. I have a busy household and family life with school runs, medical appointments, therapy appointments, dance classes and my extended family live far away, which means the people I would usually turn to for support aren’t around. On top of that I have my professional jobs which I’m passionate about and committed to; without managing my time carefully, I wouldn’t be able to commit myself to everything I care about and that’s important to me. Sometimes I have to be honest with myself and admit that I need a rest day or a quiet weekend and we have carpet picnics and build indoor dens and stay indoors. It’s ok – my children and colleagues appreciate me more when I’m calm, fulfilled and happy, which means making my needs a priority as well as everyone around me. Sometimes we get very caught up in the idea of what we think we should be doing, or how we might appear to others, which is a stress we don’t need. Your focus needs to be your well being – that doesn’t mean ignore your family or job, just consider it all of equal importance. Time management is about enjoying life and that’s something you deserve.
Remember, life is for living. Surviving is instinct, thriving is choice.
Health Coach & Nutritional Therapist
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