Over the last century, our life time has expanded and our working hours decreased. Do you, like me, wonder where all that “free time” has gone? Do you often feel overloaded, overwhelmed, rushing under the pressure of getting it all done? Our timetables are so full even the most adept organisers among us sometimes feel there is simply too much to be done and, have you noticed what generally comes out of the window first: our personal time!
Where are you going?
The first step is to look at your current life balance and write down how much time you dedicate each week to work (including work you may be bringing back home, work-related emails and phone calls from home…), home, family, friends, hobbies, me time, TV, internet, sports… Be honest with yourself and look at it carefully. How does the result make you feel?
Then ask yourself:
What makes me feel great? What brings me joy? Where do I take my energy from?
What is vital/important/not very important/a waste of time/draining?
Where do I really make a difference and where can I delegate?
What can I simply not do (learn to say no!)/do less often/do differently?
If this were my last day and I were looking back on my life, what would I want my life contribution to have been?
Some “first aid” solutions
The idea is to put first on the agenda what is very important for you, what brings you joy. You will feel better and with more energy for the rest. Favour high-quality relationships, honour your well-being, physical, mental and spiritual and do not forget to enjoy life!
One step further, the “deeper” strategies
But what if, you will ask me, I am already doing all these things and I still feel overwhelmed? Well, here is a secret: do less and you will be able to do more, slow down and you will arrive first. Intrigued?
Our biggest mistake is to overwork, to pile up chore after chore, task after task and to never stop. Our bodies are not meant to function that way for too long a time. Our attention span, concentration level, energy level all need refreshing. We need to stop in order to be able to function efficiently.
At the end of the day or at the end of the week, we are exhausted; we have forgotten to take a break. Waste of time? Quite the contrary, big mistake! Only a few seconds of break can make a big difference on your energy levels at the end of the day. Learning to rest and relax is essential, life does not require all our resources all of the time, it is dangerous! The first step in going forward is to stop.
Take a break: Sophrology “quick fixes” to use during the day: how a 1 minute break can recharge you for the rest of the day
Take micro-breaks during the day: for 30 seconds, close your eyes, breathe out deeply, let your shoulders down, unclench your jaw, feel your feet on the floor and listen only to your breathing. Then open your eyes and go on with what you have to do. The secret is to do it several times a day, every day.
Weekly rest: one day a week, give yourself a day off everything. Do not plan anything and do whatever you feel like doing on that day. Whatever you do that day, do it as simply and slowly as possible. Treat yourself to freedom! No work, no meetings, no friends over, have a lie in, maybe a slow motion bath, a quiet cup of tea, a good book or soft music, a gentle stroll, no TV, no phone, no computer… Breathe! Take time to daydream or to do absolutely nothing.
Holidays: Of course, do not forget to go on holidays and make sure that at least once or twice a year you get at least 3 days in a row of complete break, in a calm and agreeable place, with fresh air, nice surrounding, silence and peace with not mobile, laptop… Why not even try a silent retreat for a few days?
Get to know yourself, your needs, limits and rhythms: how to use time and not let it use you
Know yourself: do you know how much sleep you need and at what time? Do you know your own limits? Do you know when you work at your best?
Several times a day, listen to how you are feeling, to your body, your breathing and take it into account. You can for instance listen to how you are breathing and feeling when driving, when arriving home, when cooking dinner…
Live a mindful life: how not to multi-task and still get it all done
Try concentrating on just one thing at a time, whenever you can. Try it first for instance washing the dishes, drinking a cup of tea or eating. You can even practice mindfulness when the phone rings: breathe in and out and then answer (with a smile!).
This is very different from living in the short-term which is a kind of constant emergency. It is being present completely to what you are doing. You will then be able to use your full focus and be more effective in what you are doing, with much less energy wasted going from one thing to another. In the end, most things will get done quicker and, guess what, you will have more time… to relax!
The aim of course is to live as much as possible in mindfulness, but do not put too much pressure on yourself, start small, try it on something easy and build from there!
Do not forget to enjoy life along the way!