Let me ask you a question – do you ever feel pulled in several different directions and lack clarity in terms of what to focus on?
Does this cause you stress? Are you feeling stressed?
In the United States alone, 77% of people are feeling more and more stressed. They feel the physical effects of stress regularly and cite job pressure as the top stressor according to Statistics Brain.
People feeling stressed is on the rise and often overlooked even though its symptoms can be quite physical.
The folks at The Mayo Clinic say, ‘You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent insomnia or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the culprit.’ Feeling stressed or being stressed can be the underlying cause of headaches, skin rashes, insomnia, weight gain, or weight loss, addictions, body inflammation, and more. One of the chief causes of stress, and one of the easiest to deal with, is our time demands.
In Rebecca J. Rosen’s poignant piece in The Atlantic, she discusses how this topic of overwhelm and stress needs to be at the forefront; more importantly, how we need to re-think it. Rosen wrote, ‘but I discovered soon enough that these are hardly “Mommy” issues—these are human issues, how we work and live, the pressures to spend so much time at work, or living up to crazy ideals, is affecting all of us.’ Both men, and women, parents, non-parents, couples, and singles, are stressed about time and more specifically what they feel they are not accomplishing in that time.
I coach my clients, and students, to understand that they have more time than they realize. If they kept a detailed log of their time, or simply meditated on how they spent their day, they would soon see where they were wasting time. A conversation that went on too long, watching videos on social media, getting overly caught up in the news, constant trips to the grocery store, writing needlessly long emails – the list is endless. We all waste time and you can argue that you don’t however you are somewhere and it is a choice.
Many people proclaim that if they had more time they would feel less stressed. Time is finite so there is simply no more time however we can always be more deliberate with the time we have, up our efficiency game, and free up space that allows us to do the things that will effectively lower our stress like yoga, run, mediate, read fiction, play with our kids, and even make love to our partner.
Time is also a universal commodity. We have the same amount of time as Oprah, Warren Buffet, or Howard Schultz. It isn’t about the amount of time we have, it comes down to what we are doing with our time. High achievers use their times wisely whereas those who never seem to make any gains also tend to be the biggest time wasters.
If you want to let go of stress and re-claim your life, here are 3 strategies I suggest you employ right now:
Are you one of these people who is chronically late? Do you think you can squeeze one more thing in? Are you trying to get as much done as possible only to find you still have items on your ‘to do’ list at the end of the day? Brene Brown suggests that we be vulnerable and here is a major point of vulnerability for me – I am sometimes this person and working hard to release this person from my life.
Like many entrepreneurs, I am full of ideas. There is no end to the things I want to create, the people I want to serve, and the life I want to live. At times, usually when I am highly energized, I overcommit. The result is that, in doing so, I end up just a few minutes late for everything. In taking back my power, I realized that much of my overcommitting tended toward people pleasing. Last fall when I was gravely ill after a trip to Africa, I took stock of my life and decided to only commit to things that aligned with my life’s purpose, do more of the things that brought me joy professionally like writing and podcasting, and that I would also stop trying to please people who could not be pleased. The result is a happier me with more time to do the things I love.
If you want to create more time for yourself, take a long, hard look at what you are saying ‘yes’ to and ask yourself if it aligns with your vision. If not, then be bold and de-commit.
2. Be Present
A dominant source of time stress is guilt. When we are running from one thing to another, our minds tend to be preoccupied and a catalyst for that preoccupation is guilt. We feel guilty about the workout we missed, or the food we ate, or the perception that we are not giving our kids enough attention, or the way we left a conversation with a friend, or the work we didn’t get done. When our mind is focused on guilt, we are not present, and when we are not present we miss life’s most important moments which only serve for us to feel guiltier.
If you are a parent, please understand that your child has very little awareness of a length of time. You know this to be true if you have ever started out on a ten-hour road trip and five minutes in, a little voice asks, ‘are we there yet?’ Your children want quality not quantity and you cannot give quality if you are not present.
In business, we can be much more productive if we are present. Listening intently, as an example, can shorten a conversation, making it more effective than if we were not present and had to spend more time disseminating the dialogue. Tasks also take longer when we are not present. If you want to have more time, be present and see how much more efficient you become.
3. Be Realistic
Many of my students, and clients, are unrealistic about how long tasks take and thus, they get fewer things done. Each person has unique strengths and also – unique weaknesses. Therefore, what takes one person fifteen minutes to accomplish may take another two hours. An example of this is my son, who has a processing challenge. It may take him a month to read a book whereas his sister can plough through the same length of book, in a day. Conversely my son can effectively clean the kitchen in about thirty minutes whereas his sister may take over an hour. We have our strengths.
In business, the same holds true. Masterful sales people can close sales in short periods of time, as an example, whereas people new to sales may take much, much longer. The good news is that time can be compressed with experience and skills.
I have friends who have taken speed reading courses. I can type very quickly and that is why I am able to write books and blogs very efficiently. My philosophy is that if something will compress time for a task that is essential, I want to learn it. Currently I am taking courses on how to program Infusionsoft™ because I don’t want to waste time with contractors where I am not asking the right questions or getting the desired result due to my naïveté.
Learning new skills, and additionally modelling time-efficient people, can help us with efficiency however no matter how adept we become at something, there will always be a time commitment and being realistic with that commitment will assist us in navigating the tasks that truly matter.
A strategy I employ, when I have several deadlines, is to list out what is necessary and realistically how much time each task will take. I then order the tasks by urgency, eliminate distractions and get things done. I have found this to be effective and ultimately more productive.
Palliative care nurse, Bonnie Ware, studied the regrets of the dying and one of the most prolific was not spending more time with loved ones. As John Wooden wrote, ‘there is activity and there is results. Let’s not confuse the two.’ At the end of the day our life will be defined by what we did with our time so release the guilt, choose to do the things that make the biggest impact, and re-claim your power.
Susan Sly is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, certified NLP practitioner, coach, and trauma recovery specialist. Susan specializes in helping people become more productive so they can lead ridiculously fulfilling lives. She is the mother of five and has been working in human potential for over two decades.