When Your Schedule Becomes a Stressor

happy woman in a fieldWhen you feel the pressures of work, home and personal life bearing down on your schedule, you probably do your best to juggle, prioritize, and fit everything in.

Still, that might not be enough! If you’re stressed by deadlines and challenges to be met, it’s time to work on reorganizing your time to help reign in the pace of your lifestyle.

Declining offers, keeping your own schedule realistic, and putting your personal goals first are actually habits of a well-balanced person—if you have to say no, it doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you’re selfish. It just means you understand how to prioritize, because you’re not endlessly available.

But the ability to be confident in saying what you can’t do, or don’t want to do, can be tricky to develop. It doesn’t come as naturally to many of us, since we were taught to pitch in, be a team player, and care for family and friends.

So how can you learn to say no, and still feel good about your contributions and your relationships? Try practicing, little by little, with these reminders in mind:

Getting More Done

There’s a difference between energetic hustling to fit in a few extra tasks during a busy week, and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of tasks you have scheduled for yourself. The difference? It might be your expectations.

Many of us strive to “get more done” by improving our focus, learning time management, or building productivity habits. However, it’s also wise to consider whether you have enough on your plate as it is. Instead of trying to get more done, you might need to redefine the importance or the reward of the “more” you are trying to achieve.

What is of value to you?

The answer to that question is where you will find a better perspective on the activities that help you get more out of each day, instead of each day taking more out of you.

What if Your Time was Limited?

There will always be things you tend to put off, rush through, or give less attention to. Maybe you’ve grown accustomed to saving tasks for someday “when you have more time.” But for most of us, we really can’t say when that will be. Next year? After that promotion? Once you retire?

We all have to make choices with how we spend our time—until the day comes when we really don’t have any time left, or opportunities have passed us by. If you knew your time was limited, what would you actually schedule for yourself?

When you’re always feeling pressed for time, a simple way to check your choices and how well they serve you is to make a list of things that are truly important to you. What do you want to spend your time on, but somehow, you really don’t get around to it? What priorities would you make more time for, if you could?

Your list might include:

  • Learning about things that fascinate you
  • Seeing beautiful sights that inspire you
  • Laughing, joking and sharing old stories
  • Spending time in nature
  • Spending time with significant others
  • Meditation, prayer or matters of spirit
  • Relaxing at home with a good book, film or meal

Know Your Limits and Your Values

The next step to making more time for what’s important is to review your list, and compare it to your actual day-to-day, year-to-year schedule. Often, you will discover clear conflicts between the time you allow for doing things you truly value, and the time you spend doing other, less rewarding or less important things.

For instance, do you spend more time watching TV than connecting with nature, even though you know getting outdoors is important to you? Or maybe you make more time for cleaning or shopping on the weekends than you would choose to do if, say, you only had this weekend to spend with distant family or friends.

There is no one right way to balance a schedule between work and play, or personal development and contributions to others, because we make our own choices on what means the most to you—or at least, that’s what we should do. But so often, we let our schedule and lifestyle choose for us, and eat up our time.

The good news is, even with your responsibilities to work, community, family and health, a few simple tweaks to your schedule can make a world of difference in the quality of your discretionary time.

  • Re-evaluate what you actually do, and don’t do, to feel and stay well day-to-day
  • Get on track with time management by blocking out time for priorities and people first
  • Allow time buffers between important tasks to avoid chronic overscheduling
  • Plan your time realistically, so you can comfortable stick to your commitments

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