Do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day and find yourself struggling with time stress? You know, that feeling that there is so much to do, not enough time to do it, and you’re so overwhelmed you aren’t even sure where to start. Or maybe you end the day wondering where all your time went and begin to stress about all the things that still aren’t done and when you will find the time to catch up. Well, you aren’t alone. Most people struggle with time stress. But there is good news, these 5 tips will help you reduce time stress and finally feel like you can get your head above water.
1. Ditch Scarcity Mentality
Most of us wake up everyday already feeling like we don’t have enough time, this is scarcity mentality. When you consistently feel this way, your thought and actions will align to this belief. That means that you’ll also consistently find yourself not having enough time. And, even when you would otherwise have enough time you’ll find more and more to do so that is no longer true. The real issue isn’t that you don’t have enough time it’s that you have too many things to do. Rather than embracing the idea that time is scarce consider reducing your productivity expectations. Spoiler alert: you can’t do it all. If you want to break free of time stress it’s time to reverse the scarce time / abundance of tasks lifestyle and instead embrace abundance of time / scarce tasks way of life.
2. Create Clarity
Ok… before you head to the comments section to tell me how unrealistic that 1st tip is, consider this, are you really doing only what matters most to you? I’m betting the answer is no. Now, keep in mind that I’m sure you’re doing things you don’t enjoy and I’m not saying to eliminate all of them because many you do because their outcome does matter. For example, many of us don’t like working or cleaning our house. But having an income and a comfortable home do matter to us. Where we really get into trouble with task abundance is when we spend our time doing the things we think we should. And believe me, a lot of things fall into this category.
We are constantly surrounded by messages of not enough… not having enough money, not having a clean enough house, not being fit enough. And we spend a lot of time and energy either doing these things or feeling guilty about not doing them. When we create clarity about what matters most to us it’s easier to reduce time stress by letting go of the things that don’t. I’ve created the EPD method to streamline this process because I know first hand how hard it is to figure out what really matters and what can be let go of. You can get access to it in my Take Control of Your Time Course which is available on the UA courses page or offered free to Inner Circle members.
3. Mindful Scheduling
Listen, I’m not saying you have to write it all down in a planner or on a calendar but having a schedule makes all the difference. This might be a series of routines or set days that you take on certain tasks (like a laundry day for example). But what is essential is that you have considered how long each task will take. This will keep you from over committing yourself and feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Before I started keeping a schedule I worked from what felt like a never ending to-do list and I felt disappointed in myself every day. Because inevitably I would expect myself to get 26 hours worth of tasks done in 16… sometimes 20 waking hours I was setting myself up for failure. Now I like to keep a planner but originally I started with time tracking. This helped me identify how long various tasks take. Then when I made my to do list I simply put an estimated time next to each item and only selected the number of things I had time for. Voila… my first “schedule”.
4. Embracing Realism
The dictionary definition of realism is “the attitude or practice of accepting a situation as it is and being prepared to deal with it accordingly.” Raise your hand if you do this as it relates to time. *No hands go up*. Yeah, that’s what I thought! Me neither!
For years I struggled to embrace the reality that unexpected things happen in my daily life. Things like traffic, sick kids (umm… I have 5), things getting misplaced (I also have a husband, haha). Maybe it usually only takes me 15 minutes to get to that appointment but today there’s unexpected traffic. Perhaps it would only take me a half an hour to pay bills but someone (I’m not saying who) used the stamps and didn’t put them back, or worse yet, used the last one and didn’t buy more. Yes, unexpected things happen and they throw us off schedule and when we’re already tight on time these things are even more stressful and frustrating. Am I the only one who’s gone on a regrettable rampage over something like this (btw, the fight that ensues is a huge time sucker too)?
When you embrace realism you give yourself transition time and cushions in your schedule for the “what ifs”. If those “what ifs” don’t happen this is a great time to relax.
5. Unwind Intentionally
Having time to rest, relax, and unwind isn’t a luxury, it’s essential. The physical and mental health benefits are profound and in addition, you’ll be more productive, creative, and focused if you get that down time. Your brain and body know this and will crave it and sometimes without conscious intention make it happen. This is how you end up scrolling social media for hours or binging a series on Netflix. This is what causes you to lose time and wonder where it all went. If you don’t plan to unwind you’ll do it anyway but it won’t be nearly as enjoyable or fulfilling. So, unwind intentionally. Schedule downtime, time to play, time to rest, and yes, even time for scrolling and binging. I know, it sound indulgent but it matters!
You Aren’t Wasting Time
When it comes to time management the temptation is always to get better at it so we can get more done. Let me remind you though that the joy of life is in the small moments, the ones where we’re really present and not thinking about all the things. It’s not only ok to not be productive, it’s essential. One of the things that really helped me when I struggled with time stress and feeling like I wasn’t doing enough was to remind myself that I am a human being not a human doing. Spending time being you, resting, and doing what you love isn’t wasted time, it’s what life is really about. So, let go of your expectations around efficiency and productivity and give yourself the time you deserve.