Let’s say you somehow got granted two extra hours in a day. No one else knows about these extra two hours, so you get to spend them however YOU want. What would you spend them doing? I have asked this question of clients who would like to have more balance or less stress. None of them answered “work more,” “check my email” or “watch tv.” The most frequent answers are: sleep, exercise, or spend time doing something fun with family (kids) or friends.
This is your mind and body trying to tell you something.
The Busy-ness Cycle
The last time you asked someone how they were doing, what did they say? 9 times out of 10, people say “busy.” Do you answer this way? So many of us – especially women – feel we need to be busy as a badge of honor. If we are not busy, we are not proving our worth. But, this constant “busy-ness” is a fast road to burnout, chronic stress, and missing the best of what our lives have to offer.
Your Body is Telling You Something
I have had many successful female clients tell me about their “wake-up” calls as it relates to their stress and busy-ness. Some had some serious health scares themselves or ended up with symptoms of illnesses that have no real explanation. Others find themselves turning to food or more to do in order to stay awake or make it through their day. So many of us have stopped listening to our body’s cues to slow down. We just keep pushing forward until our body makes us stop. This is not a healthy or happy way to go through life. But you already know this.
It Starts with What You Say
In her book You are a Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living An Awesome Life, Jen Sincero writes “Stop talking about how busy you are. Focus on what you enjoy about what you do and the spaces in between the doing instead of feeling weighed down by it all.” Reading this allowed me to change my own perspective and increased my awareness. If I stopped talking about being busy, what would I say? It turns out that the simple act of changing this perspective allowed me to reexamine my priorities. Give it a try the next time somehow asks you how you are.
What Are Your Priorities?
In her book The Sweet Spot: How To Find Your Groove At Home and Work, Christine Carter suggests that we aim to spend 95% of our time on our top priorities and saying “no” to virtually everything else. She writes “Spending 95% of my time on my top priorities left only about 5 hours a week for other things. Something often had to give; for me, it was my health. Like many working mothers, I had put my own well-being on the back-burner, never exercising and rarely getting enough sleep. I was sick all the time.” But once she started looking at her time from a place of sufficiency (there is enough time), understanding that “more is not better,” and realizing her power to change things, she was able to shift her time and focus.
So, get really clear about your priorities. YOUR priorities based on YOUR values. Not the ones you think you should have or that someone else thinks you should have. Try picking three to five top priorities and use them as deciphers when starting or stopping an activity.
Listen To Your Body
Our bodies are pretty amazing if you consider all they do (and all we do TO them). It’s important to honor this and start listening to your body’s cues. For example, do you find yourself in a mid-afternoon slump – having to push yourself to finish one more thing? Or – maybe you reach for things like food (or wine or coffee) to help you feel comfort or even to push through the day. I’m not saying all of this is bad. I’m just asking you to take a deep breath and decide if your body is trying to ask for what it needs. For example, maybe you’re actually dehydrated in the mid-afternoon. Research shows that many people feel much more alert after drinking 8-12 ounces of cold water when this happens. And, if you couple this with a quick walk around the block, researchers have found that many people come back to their work or tasks more productive and with a new perspective.
Time for You
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our routines and forget about the priorities and goals you’ve set for yourself. Sometimes the best place to start is to stop doing something. Take a good look at your time spent on different activities each day. It might even be helpful to keep a running tally for a week. You can create different categories: taking care of kids, work, housework, self-care, sleep, social media/email, cooking meals, driving. Keep a running tab of how much time you spend in each category. If you have new goals, like starting to exercise, cooking more meals at home, or even finding more time to rest, take a look at the different categories and decide what you can stop doing to make time for your goal. This might require that you outsource, ask someone else to help you, or stop doing it altogether for a period of time. Creating systems to group certain activities for efficiency (like meal-prepping) can also help. The trick is – once you’ve created the extra time for your new goal – you have to make sure to not fill it with something else. Use it as time for you!!!
Happiness Instead of Busy-ness
Let’s all make a decision to start focusing on our happiness or productivity instead of our “busy-ness.” It starts with each of us deciding to do things differently to shift this new norm. And – maybe you’ll even end up with the extra two hours to spend the way you want without having to call upon your fairy godmother. 🙂