Not Enough Time? Maybe You Just Think You Are Too Busy!

Often, stress arises when we feel we do not have enough time to do everything we’d like. The problem is not that things do not get done. The problem is attached to the things we tell ourselves.   Such thoughts are often not very pleasant. These negative thoughts are what creates the stress, not the unfinished task.

The out of control feeling  we have when we walk through the house and realize that not everything is perfectly in place, or the disappointment we experience when we look at our lists of things undone, is tied to perception. We attach meaning to things that are neutral. So someone else might look at the stain on the rug and think “so what,” but every time you walk by, you remember that your neighbor’s kid dropped the grape popsicle and you should have bought the stain resistant carpeting and you wonder about the warranty and whether using shampoo will void it.

That’s one example of a re-run, a thought we have many times per day. Most of our thoughts are re-runs. How often do you have these types of negative thoughts? First, realize that your thinking is creating the stress and chill. Relax because now is all you have, but you needn’t give up on getting things accomplished. Oh no. Not at all! If you are procrastinating and that is causing anxiety, begin by analyzing the tasks.

There may be reasons that lurk behind the procrastination, or maybe it is mere overestimation. You may think about a project and believe that it will take too long to accomplish now, so you wait for a time when you have a gap in your schedule. Of course, such a time never arrives, so you continue to put it off.  What is the answer? You must make time to do it. Realize that we tend to overestimate how long a given task will take.

Get started. Plan to go at it for an hour and revisit the task during another scheduled time next week. If the task includes multiple components, make a list of possible steps. For example, Step 1. Call the carpet manufacturer and find out about the warranty. Step 2.  Research ways to get grape popsicle out of the rug  and so on. The next time you walk by the spot, you will know that you are taking care of business and the mind clutter is gone. Once you get started, you gain momentum and may go beyond the planned hour, or you may realize that the task was not as time-consuming as you thought. And when you accomplish one thing, it is easier to finish other things. What’s next on the list? Yes, that is what you will be thinking as opposed to feeling overwhelmed.

We like Nike’s advice: just do it. When you just start your tasks rather than either over thinking or ignoring them you get the satisfaction of achievement without the mind clutter and without the angst.

So You Didn’t Exercise Today? What Stopped You?

Sometimes it is hard to know if you are ditching the workout for a good reason, or you are not working out because you are making an excuse. If your motivation to work out is low, you can come up with many seemingly plausible reasons why you didn’t exercise. You might be experiencing a busy day, or you might not feel well, and those are legitimate reasons for not getting to the gym or doing your routine, but sometimes, the reasons we tell ourselves really stem from a lack of motivation.

To provide some of that motivation, you may want to engage in positive self-talk and focus on the outcome. Tell yourself how good you will feel after you exercise. You might also want to reward yourself with something for sticking to your plan. For example, after you exercise, take ten minutes to do something you enjoy like reading a book or picking flowers or doing a crossword puzzle.

If you feel you are motivated but end up skipping the workout, ask yourself, what stopped you? If you are overscheduled and really could not find the time on a particular day, perhaps you should reevaluate your strategy. Maybe waking up earlier and working out first thing in the morning will result in a better track record. If you are often running out of time, try another strategy, and keep trying something new until you find a routine that works.

Above all, be flexible. Emergencies do happen and illnesses can prevent even the most motivated exerciser from following a plan. So pay attention to any negative self-talk if you do end up skipping a workout. Then, simply make a decision to do your best every day and know that tomorrow will be another opportunity to succeed. Imagine that you are a vigorous, healthy person who exercises routinely and you just might find that the person you envision is the person you become.

Making Space in that Cluttered Head of Yours

Your mind is really a concept. After all, where does it exist? You cannot point it out in a chart. You may have learned about it in Anatomy and Physiology class…well, no, you didn’t, because the mind is nowhere to be found. It is conceptual. So if the mind is not real, what is all that mental clutter you carry around, and what effect does it have on you?

It is often the case that mind clutter makes it so we can’t think. It stifles us. We look at the stack of bills, the unfinished projects, the list of things to do, and instead of making progress, what do we do? Often, we procrastinate. Sometimes, we just sit and do nothing. We deny our problems. We substitute positive action with things that seem to put our minds at ease: alcohol, Xanax, chocolate, a movie, a shopping trip. You get the picture. Situations become larger than life so we try to avoid thinking about them. But the thoughts return. They take over so we can no longer think clearly. This is why making space in your mind can help.

Practice making space in your mind by eliminating less useful thoughts. This leaves room for more relevant, productive thoughts. Doing so leads you to raise your awareness and make conscious decisions to create new productive patterns. Rather than ruminate over things you haven’t done, you can start that new project or engage in a hobby without that mental clutter. This is something that can lead to greater satisfaction.

Mental filing is just one method of creating space. If you find yourself in a place where your thoughts have stopped jumping around, and you have filed the worries and are ready to dust the crevices of your mind to create more space, there are other methods: mindfulness breathing and meditation are excellent ways to create room in your mind. When you create space, you allow new things to come into your experience, and that is when life gets really really fun.