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By Nathan Bailey, MA, LPC

One of the most common cultural depictions in shows, movies, commercials etc. is one of the individual bouncing from one thing to the next, doing 5 things at once (ever shaved in the car?), always on the go from the time the alarm goes off until they collapse at the end of the day. This seems to be the accepted practice, so much so that anyone not following along with this lifestyle is looked down upon as lazy, unmotivated or less then. At the same time we might complain about this way of life, we just keep plugging away at it. The result is anxiety, digestion issues, poor quality of sleep and the list goes on and on. We also find that while we’re super busy, we aren’t even doing much of what we really want to do. If you’re realizing that some of this speaks to your current experience, have hope, there are changes you can make!

1. Know why you do what you do, make a personal mission statement

This is a great place to start. Why do we do so much? Sure we have lots of responsibilities, but how much of it really matters to us? If we don’t have clear goals and values as individuals, as a couple, as a family etc. how can we know what to do or not do? There’s plenty of choices out there and the reality is we’ll probably need to close doors even more than opening them. Knowing which doors to close comes back to knowing what you really want out of your life, your relationships and your careers. 

2. Things change over time, re-evaluate often

What worked for your schedule years ago (or even months ago) might not work now. When we try to make it fit, we get frustrated and run down. Life moves in waves or seasons and when this occurs, taking the time to re-evaluate and adjust are critical. You wouldn’t try going to the beach in snow pants and a hat, why would we think our winter schedule/plans/priorities wouldn’t also need to change in the summer? If kids join your family (and get older), you’re constantly needing to shift, change, adjust and we can either react (not recommended) or develop a plan that allows us more control. 

3. Try zero based budgeting (but with your time and commitments)

In the accounting world, Zero Based Budgeting is the process of starting from scratch. Instead of tweaking a budget, you clear it and start again. There are times where we can make minor adjustments to our commitments/activities/goals or tasks and then there’s time we need to start from scratch. Take it all off the page and consider what we’re putting back and why. The goal of this exercise is to look really critically at what you’re putting back on the list. Make sure it’s in alignment with your personal mission statement (see above). 

4. Say no (or “no thank you”)

We’re not so good at this. We live in a time where there’s far more things for us to do or be involved with than ever before. Choice is great, but when there’s virtually unlimited options, we need to really be selective in what we invest our time and energy into. How do we choose? Well, it starts with a clear understanding of what your priorities are. How do we know our priorities? Start with the things you value the most (family, friends, physical fitness etc.) and build from there (sounds like a personal mission statement…). This process can be challenging (sometimes we have competing priorities) but it gives us a “compass” from which we can say “yes” or “no” as we consider what we do. Another challenge is being able to say no with confidence, understanding that we’re not letting anyone down, we’re making good healthy choices for ourselves and/or our family. Another thing to consider is that a “no” in this season of life might be a “yes” in another season when things have shifted or changed. 

5. Unitask

You can’t go 5 minutes without being pressured to “multi-task.” Research tells us that we can’t really multitask as much as rapidly switching between single tasks. The end result is exhaustion. Remember good ole fashioned unitasking? It’s getting the “luxury” of investing our time and energy into one thing at a time. You will likely find that not only is this a better way of living, but you’ll be even more efficient than when you “try” to multitask. 

6. Don’t fill up your schedule, leave open time

One of our problems is that we try to accomplish more in a day than is possible. We need to keep in mind that things will invariably pop up, something will take longer than planned etc. and so we’re almost guaranteed that we won’t have enough time. By only filling 80% of your day, you create an opportunity to adjust as things arise. (True story, as I was writing this part of the blog, something came up, pulling me away!)

7. Rule of 3 

JD Meier, a productivity guru and consultant, suggests we focus on 3 outcomes for our day. Have just 3 priorities for what you want to accomplish. Doing this gives you clear direction for your time and attention and while 3 seems like a low number, it’s probably more than you’re doing now (you might work on or start more than 3 things but do you actually finish them?). If you finish your 3 and have more time,  you could keep going, but overall your day will likely feel more manageable. 

Need assistance?

Lime Tree Counseling has a team of skilled therapists available to help you. We offer anxiety counseling, addiction counseling, trauma counseling as well as other services. While our office is in Montgomery County Pennsylvania, we also offer online counseling in Pennsylvania, online counseling in Colorado and online counseling in North Carolina. Contact us today to schedule your first appointment!