Always racing from one task to the next but accomplishing very little? Follow these simple tips to make your busy schedule more manageable.
1 You spend a good amount of your time worrying about it
If you find yourself endlessly running through your to-do list in your head, arranging and rearranging your diary, or wishing you could gain an extra hour in your day, then time itself has become a source of stress.
Take a mental break. Remove the least important thing from your schedule – whether it’s letting the laundry wait another day or postponing a work call. Spend those minutes instead totally luxuriating in something in the present moment (such as eating a delicious piece of cake or listening to some music) and avoiding all thoughts of your schedule or future plans.
2 You eat most of your meals on the go
How often have you had a snatched lunch in the car, at your desk, while on the phone – or worse, not at all? Savouring a meal at a leisurely pace is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and we lose connection with our food and bodies if we eat surrounded by lots of distractions. Eating mindfully is also better for your health – experts say that it takes about 15 to 20 minutes for your stomach to send your brain the message that it’s full, so eating more slowly prevents overeating.
Today, take one meal free of all distractions. Eat slowly, enjoying the flavour and texture of each bite. If you typically rush through lunch at your desk, go out and enjoy a bite with a colleague or friend.
3 You haven’t talked to your best friend in weeks
It’s an irony – the first relationships to go when we’re busy are the ones we take for granted, which tend to be those that are actually most important to us. If you can’t remember when you last had a proper chat with your best friend or closest family member, you need to slow down and make time to reconnect – you’ll be happier for it.
Write down the 10 most important people in your life and when you last spoke to them properly. How often do you wish you could talk to them? Write regular reminders in your diary to catch up with each person – and don’t let yourself use e-mail to do it. Even if you end up leaving a voicemail message, just hearing a voice helps us stay better connected.
4 You never do the things you really love
We each have something that is our ‘time indulgence’ – maybe it’s a hobby like painting, a luxurious weekend getaway or a lingering breakfast over the paper. Although it’s easy to sideline these activities when faced with more pressing issues, they matter because they nourish us and ensure we enjoy life.
Ask yourself, if you had a whole day free, what would you do? Make a list of activities, and be as specific as possible – a croissant and coffee from a favourite café, a one-hour massage, a matinee screening, sending a card to a friend. You don’t need to wait for an entire free day to do any of those things. Do one a day for the next few weeks and see if your life is more joyful.
5 Everyone tells you that you’re too busy
People around us often see things before we do, so if you start to hear a lot of off-hand comments or complaints from your loved ones telling you “You’re so busy”, “You’re wearing yourself thin”, or “I never see you any more”, it’s one of the surest signs that your routine needs an overhaul.
Don’t dismiss their comments as meaningless nags – your friends and family care about you, and are quite likely seeing something that you’re not, which may be a progression in an unhealthy direction. So stop, take a day for yourself – even if you have to take a day off work – go somewhere peaceful, and assess your life priorities and your time. See what tasks you can delegate or possibly afford to pay someone else to do. Most of all, don’t be too hard on yourself: change doesn’t happen overnight. But, by this time next year, make it your aim to hear your friends and family make more comments like “It’s so nice seeing you again.”
6 You’re grateful for cancellations
The end of the day is rolling around. A meeting-and-drama-packed day at work has left you exhausted. You have dinner plans across town with a friend, but you’d love nothing more than to go home and collapse with a bubble bath and a glass of wine. If you find yourself cancelling a commitment more than once a week, or praying that someone cancels on you, it’s time to address your diary management.
As difficult as it may be to pare back, force yourself to be ruthless and cut at least three appointments from your diary over the next two weeks. See how you feel when you have extra breathing room in your life.