Have you ever noticed that you can never find the time to do the things you need to do? Have you ever felt like life would be easier if the days were just a couple hours longer? Yeah, me too.
I especially felt this way at my last job. As an Operations Director for an electrical contractor, I had a lot on my plate. I had to take care of my customers and employees, go out on estimates, write and sell contracts, and sometimes even go out in the field and do electrical work. With so many responsibilities, it often felt like there wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done.
There was a lot going on at home, too. I had a side business that I was trying to build, a baby on the way, and a girlfriend that didn’t drive, making me the one responsible for getting her to and from work. I rarely saw my friends or did any relaxing at all. I was burning the candle at both ends, and I was constantly exhausted and overwhelmed.
Fortunately, it’s not like that now. I still have just as much on my plate (minus the full-time job, but I’ve discovered that when that went away, the workload for my own business skyrocketed.), but I’m not nearly as overwhelmed.
The secret? I learned how to be proactive instead of reactive. In other words, I stopped trying to find time, and started making time instead.
Why We Can Never “Find the Time”
Look, when you’re trying to find the time to do something, you’re basically saying that you have other things on your plate that are more important. While that might be true in some cases, the more likely scenario is that you don’t know how to prioritize the things that are actually important to you. As a result, we spend most of the time reacting to whatever gets thrown at us, making it the most important thing right now. Then, when something new gets thrown at you 10 minutes later, that new task becomes more important, but the task you turned away from is still in the back of your head, nagging at you. This is how we get overwhelmed. This is how we burn out.
This inability to prioritize is the reason why we can “never find the time” to relax, or get a project done, or pursue a hobby. It’s why we have so many unfinished projects at work, and why our kids only see us at mealtime and when it’s time to go to bed. It’s why, very simply, we feel like we have no personal lives.
It’s Time to Start Making Time
There is a way out of your overwhelming lifestyle, and it has nothing to do with taking things off of your plate. There’s a way to have more of a personal life, to get more done at work, and to take your life back. It’s going to require a little bit of a shift in your perception, but it is possible.
In order to do this, you’re going to need to learn how to prioritize what’s important to you, and start making the time to do those things. But how do we do this? It’s actually a lot simpler than you think. Let’s look at a few of the actions that you can take immediately.
Figure Out What’s Important to You
What are the areas in your life that you want to stop neglecting? What are the things you wish you had more time for? List them out. Don’t worry about being judged by other people. This is your life, and you need to start doing the things that make you feel whole.
Maybe you have a hobby that helps you relax, or a family that you want to be around more. Maybe you spend a lot of time with your family already, but that time is mostly spent thinking about work, so you’re really only halfway involved when you’re with them, and you would like to improve the quality of the time you spend with them. Whatever is important to you, write it down, and keep that list in your mind.
Organize Your Work Day
This one really helped me. Like I said, I had a lot of responsibilities at work. It felt like there was a new task being thrown at me every 5 minutes. In order to keep myself from getting overwhelmed, I put all of those tasks in one of 3 lists; “urgent,” “important,” and “non-priority.” Whenever I was given a new task, I made it a point to ask what the timeline was, and how urgent it was that I get it done, then I would place the task in the appropriate list.
Throughout my day, in between phone calls and emails, I would focus on the urgent tasks. When I finished those, I moved on to the important tasks, and then the non-priority tasks. This allowed me to stay focused on what was important and avoid getting overwhelmed by my workload.
Remove Your Excuses
When I say “remove your excuses,” I don’t mean that you need to find a way to motivate your brain. What I mean is that you need to take positive actions to make your excuses for not doing something invalid. Confused? Let’s look at an example.
I had a lot of excuses for not exercising, and as a result of listening to those excuses, I hadn’t worked out for over a year. I was overweight, out of shape, and self conscious about my body. I tried watching motivational videos, talking myself up, and even telling people I was going to start getting healthy. None of it worked.
My only option was to make my excuses invalid. What were my excuses? The big 2 were that I didn’t have the time and I couldn’t afford a gym membership, and my house has hardwood floors so I couldn’t work out at home.
What did I do? I started waking up an hour earlier, taking away the excuse that I didn’t have the time. I bought a yoga mat, so I had a padded area to work out at home. And when I just didn’t feel like it? I used Mel Robbins’ 5 second rule and did it anyway. I now have no more excuses to not get healthy.
Learn to Say “No”
So, we’ve figured out what’s important to us, organized our day and removed our excuses. Now comes the hard part.
Look, there will always be people asking you to do something, whether it’s at work or in your personal life. If you’re anything like me, your first instinct will be to say “yes” to all of it. This is one of the quickest paths to burnout. If you want to keep from being overwhelmed by your own life, you will have to learn to say no.
Whenever you are faced with a new request, ask yourself, “will this take away from what’s important to me? Is this something that I have to do?” If you have to do it, than do it. If you don’t have to do it, but it won’t interfere with what’s truly important to you, then it’s up to you. However, if it’s not necessary, and it will take away from what’s important to you, then, in the words of Nancy Reagan, just say “no.”
Over to You
How do you make time for what’s important in your life? Let me know in the comments!