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.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Season

While you are preparing for Christmas don’t forget yourself. How do you manage that when you only have 24 hours in a day? Streamline your activities. Write a list of everything you feel you want to get done by the holiday, and then scratch off anything that can wait until next year. As for the rest, decide what to keep. For example, you may want to nix the holiday cards or say no to a few invitations in order to create space in your calendar, but hold on to the activities you most enjoy. Do what you absolutely must, and what you really want to do, and enlist the help of others when possible. Streamlining will leave more time to take care of yourself.

Uninspired

Today is the first day back to work for many of us. Maybe you were traveling or hosting guests or shopping or just spending time with family, and while the busyness of the Thanksgiving weekend is over, you are not inspired to get back to business.

You may feel uninspired to do anything because you have not taken sufficient time for yourself. You are making the transition from the holiday weekend to an average workday, and that can be difficult.

When you are uninspired, think of it this way: maybe you are inspired to do nothing, and that is something! When you feel like this, take five or ten minutes to just be. By taking time for yourself, you will be enjoying the silent moments.

Revel in the quiet and look for the silence between your thoughts. Cherish boredom. Enjoy the slowness, the stillness, and the lack of activity wherever you find it. These quiet times are always there and noticing them will help to bring moments of peace to the frenzied pace of the holiday. To find it, all you have to do is close your eyes.

How it feels when you do put yourself first

When you do not get caught up in life, and you work on being present and feeling your body and feeling good, you achieve balance. There is nothing more important than that.

Part of the reason we stray from the path is that we seek instant gratification, and taking care of our bodies takes time. We rather put in an hour of overtime at work, or do another household chore, than hit the treadmill. Realize that while doing something else gives you external rewards, there are intrinsic benefits that come with exercise. Pay attention to how you feel after you exercise. If you choose to take care of your body before you take care of the next obligation, you will feel good.

So let’s look at someone who is taking care of her body. She feels good about herself and her life. She is better equipped to handle stress or anything life throws at her. And the secret to living this kind of life stems from the experiential knowledge of how it feels after you exercise. Such knowledge contributes to the development of the right motivation and is something we will address next week.

Make Time to Make Change

In our book Change Your Mind: Lose Weight, we explain that in order to lose weight, we have to plan for it just as we would plan for anything else. When you go on vacation, you call the travel agent, you arrange care for your pets and plants, you tell your boss that you want specific days off, and you make sure your hair is coiffed before you leave. You plan. In the same way, you have to plan for weight loss. You have to figure out when you will exercise, when you will shop for food, when you will cook your healthy meals, and how you will handle social events.

While planning is key, it is not everything. If you tend to be thrown off track a lot and find yourself not sticking with your plan, you are not putting yourself first. We write about why it is so important to do that in next week’s Clear Monday post.