We live in a society of fast-paced and always on the go. Sometimes it feels impossible to fit in time to do the things we want to do for ourselves in our practice of self-care. In my previous article, What is Self-Care?, we learned how to define what self-care looks like for us daily, weekly, and monthly. This article will help you to look at a broad view of your schedule and help you to strategize how to spend your time more wisely so that you are feeling less stressed and overwhelmed, and to replace the activities that waste your time with activities that fill your cup. It can even be as little as spending less time on social media and more time reading, crafting, or spending time with our loved ones.
A study in 2004 done by the Families and Work Institute in New York City, showed that 45% of workers in the U.S. believe that they are expected to multitask in their jobs and in their personal lives. The mindset being, “How can I get more done in less time?” But have we acknowledged the (lack of) quality of what we are able to achieve when we multitask. We have gotten so used to doing everything at once that we haven’t connected to how working in this way contributes to the anxiety and stress we feel day to day. You may feel so pressured to take care of the many demands and all of the details in your life that you rarely have guilt-free time for yourself. Or you maybe have loads of free time, yet you never get around to doing the things that would give you the most satisfaction.
Ask yourself, do you feel one or more of these: constant rushing, frequent lateness, low productivity, energy, and motivation; frustration, impatience, constant back and forth between alternatives, difficulty setting and achieving goals, procrastination, lack of focus and purpose, unproductive multitasking.
People who manage their time effectively have learned to structure their lives so that they focus most of their time and energy on what is most important to them, and minimize the time they spend on activities they do not value. The real key to time management is setting priorities and focusing on what you need to accomplish in the moment.
Here’s the most helpful tip to take away from this article: the 80-20 Principle by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. That 80% of what we gain comes from 20% of our effort; conversely, 80% of our effort produces only 20% of value. In a 2007 article called “Managing Your Time When You Don’t Have the Time,” Barry J. Izsak listed these tactics for effective time management: focus on priorities; be proactive, not reactive with your time; plan your day, schedule your tasks, schedule appropriate tasks to the time and energy you have, don’t procrastinate, don’t be a perfectionist.
OK! Let’s get into the meat of this. There are six steps working from the Relaxation and Stress Reduction workbook by Martha Davis, PhD; Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, MSW; and Matthew McKay, PhD.
1. Clarify Your Values: career, health, home, family, spirituality, finances, leisure, learning, creativity, happiness, peace of mind, and communication. Knowing what you value most gives direction to your life. Once you have identified your highest values list them from most to least important.
2. Set Goals: Here are five questions to ask yourself when designing effective goals.
a. Is this goal what you really want to devote a lot of time and energy to accomplish? Or is it a dream?
b. Is this goal consistent with your highest values?
c. Is this goal achievable?
d. Is this goal positive?
e. Are your goals balanced?
Number your goals from long-term, mid-term, short-term.
3. Develop an Action Plan: Specific steps you need to take to achieve each of your goals. The most common reason that people do not attain their objectives is that they don’t have an action plan that describes step by step how they are going to get from where they are now all the way to their goal. Don’t forget to evaluate your progress!
4. Evaluate How You Spend Your Time: Begin to keep a log, in real time, about how you spend your time. The book recommends to assess three times a day – morning, noon, and night. The purpose of this is to see how you are spending your time, you’ll be surprised to see where it all goes. Once you have an idea of how you spend your time, evaluate your time log and ask yourself these questions:
a. Which of the activities on your daily log are in line with your values and goals?
b. Which of the activities are not in line with your values and goals?
c. Are any of your values being contradicted by any of the activities on your daily log?
d. Are some of your values and goals being neglected or ignored?
5. Combat Procrastination: Get yourself unstuck! What activity are you avoiding? Compare it with your values. Does it contradict one of your priorities? If not, what can you do to change your circumstances in the future so that you will no longer contradict one of your values? Sometimes to get unstuck, it takes setting an action plan or get more organized. Here are other suggestions to combat procrastination:
a. Stop worrying
b. Start small
c. Count the cost
d. Look for hidden rewards
e. Confront negative beliefs
f. Double your resistance
g. Take responsibility for each delay
h. Tie a distasteful activity to an activity that you know you will do
i. Reward yourself for doing activities that are unpleasant to you
j. Finish things
6. Organize Your Time: Here are eleven suggestions to structure your time and focus your attention on creating the life of your choice:
a. Purchase an organizer/agenda/planner
b. Make sure that your list of daily goals and your calendar reflect your long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals
c. Plan for efficiency
d. Minimize time wasters
e. Learn to say NO
f. Make a list of things to do when you’re waiting
g. Set aside several short periods each day for quiet time
h. When you are performing a high-priority activity, focus your full attention on it
i. Arrange your environment to support your values and goals
j. Don’t waste time on decisions that involve equally attractive or inconsequential alternatives
k. Reward yourself for improving your time management
Organizing your day: managing your time on a daily basis requires setting immediate priorities and sticking to them. At the beginning of each day, develop a to-to list that reflects your goals as well as the necessary tasks. Prioritize by sorting activities into these three categories:
1. Top Drawer: these are the most essential and most desired items
2. Middle drawer: You can put these activities off for a while, but they are still important
3. Bottom drawer: You can easily put these tasks off indefinitely with no harm done.
This article has set you up for success! All you need to do is plug in your data and start implementing the strategies you created. Remember to take baby steps, you don’t have to do all of this in one sitting. Break it down into small, easy steps done daily, and you WILL see an improvement in the flow and productivity of your day! The big goal here is to free up time so that you can have more “me-time” to relieve stress and anxiety, while keeping focusing on what is important to you.
If you are feeling overwhelmed about the whole process, I am here to help! Shoot me an email or message me to schedule a session to work on this together. The more that you can use your time wisely, things will flow better and more positively!