Do you have too many tasks on your to-do list and not enough time? Ever feel like you’re running from one thing to the next with no time to breathe? Are you tired? Stressed out?
Yeah, I think we all are a lot of the time. But do we really need to be? Honestly, I complain just as much as the next person about how crazy-busy I am, but I am the one who signed up for all of it. Yes, all of it. Whether you did it because you wanted to or because you felt bad not doing it, you still chose it. And, you choose the standards to which you hold yourself. Whether those standards were realistic or not.
A teacher friend and I were recently talking about cutting ourselves a break, appreciating what we have, and not constantly striving for perfection. Sounds great, right? But it’s not so easy when someone is right there asking you to do something. It’s hard! They need volunteers! Who will do it if you don’t, and….gasp….what if it does get done, but it’s not done right? It’s a little easier to tell yourself no, but when you have to tell other people no, that’s when our backbones turns to jello and we hear that YES coming out of our mouths.
Should we be direct and let others know that we really would love to help, but we just don’t have time right now? Yes. But if you’re like me, you hate letting people down and find it almost impossible to tell people no on the spot. Well I have a little gem for you, friends. I was contemplating how to explain why I just couldn’t possibly help with _____ (fill in the blank with something you know you are going to be asked to do but that you don’t want to or don’t have time to do) when it came to me: a phrase that has the potential to get you out of that on-the-spot acceptance and give you more time to think about whether or not you really want to, and can, help. Here it is:
I’ll think about it.
It probably doesn’t seem all that revolutionary, but it never occurred to me before to ask for more time to think about a request and get back to the person. I always pretty much just agreed to help/volunteer/sign up/work/whatever. Those four little words take you out of the heat of the moment, give you time to digest the request, and then let you think about how you will respond if indeed the answer ends up being “no.” It’s hard to tell people “NO,” but it’s much easier to say you need a little time to think it over.
What all of this really boils down to is we need to consciously budget our time. We need to decide, in advance, what things we will do, when we will do them, and how much time we want to spend on those things. Without a “time budget” in place, you could be spending way too much time on activities that aren’t priorities in your life (and maybe even ones that you don’t even like!). Take a close look at how you’re spending time now and see what it suggests is most important to you. If you’re not spending your time on what’s important, you need to make some adjustments.
Right in line with the “I’ll think about it” trick is a list of other steps I’ve taken lately to take back time I was losing due to inefficiencies in my habits and too much time spent on activities that weren’t priorities for me.
5 WAYS TO TAKE BACK YOUR TIME:
- I’ll think about it. When asked to volunteer or take on a new role or task, say “I’ll think about it” before automatically agreeing to do it. Then think about it carefully.
- Set a timer. This was LIFE-CHANGING for me. Social media break? Set a timer. Watching TV? Set a timer. Taking a quick nap? Set a timer. Setting a timer lets YOU decide how much time you’re going to spend on activities that tend to be open-ended time-suckers. Don’t let Pinterest decide how much time you’re spending there. When you use a timer, it’s your call! The hardest part is having the discipline to log off when the alarm sounds. 🙂
- Delegate chores, with choices. I used to do all of the housework because, sniff, I am the only one who knows how to do it juuuuuust right. Well one day I decided I didn’t care if things were juuuuust right anymore and it was taking too much time. Now I make a list of chores that need to be done and my husband and the boys and I divide them up among ourselves. Some trade negotiations do occur (I’ll trade you taking out the trash and the recycling for walking the dog tonight), but things mostly end up getting done without nagging. You can also “assign” chores that are more age- or skill-specific, but I find people grumble less when they’re doing chores they have chosen from a list.
- Exercise in the morning. Whether you’re a morning person or not (I didn’t used to be), you have to admit that things are less likely to “suddenly come up” at 5am than they are in the afternoons or evenings. I can’t tell you how many after school workouts were scrapped because I had to get kids to activities, scramble to make dinner, or deal with life (arranging for car repairs, doctor appointments, and on and on). Yes, you’re getting up an hour or so earlier and potentially losing sleep to work out at 5am, but you are also buying yourself time at the end of the day. Setting out your workout clothes before you go to sleep makes it even easier to roll out of bed and go get your sweat on.
- Make a visible list. The simple act of writing things down helps you weigh their importance and think about when you’ll tackle them. Once written, you have a record and you can check things off as you go, which will keep you focused. Put the list somewhere you’ll see it, like near your computer keyboard, on your refrigerator, or on your bathroom mirror. I love sticky note lists that can be posted in visible places. Getting your to-do list accomplished helps you not have to scramble around at the last minute frantically. There are tons of beautiful planners and handy apps that can help you keep track of your to-do list, but good ‘ole sticky notes work just fine, too. Whatever you use to make your lists, just make sure they’re somewhere you will “see” them: lists are zero help if you never look at them.
All of these tips help me get things done with a little time to spare. With my spare time I like to hang out with my kids and family and take naps! More time with kids, family, and naps = one much healthier, happier mom.
Whenever I think I have absolutely NO time to spare, if I look closely, there are usually things I’m spending time on that I can either trim or cut out entirely. What are some of the ways you guard your time?