I’m busy and stressed all the time…help!

There are very few people who do not feel like this every day and it only gets worse as we draw closer to December. Here are a few tips to help you manage your time and emotions:

Beware the “busy-ness” trap: all too often the response we give and get when people ask us how we are is that we are busy, that life is so hectic. We have become socially programmed to think that it is acceptable to be out of control or stretched almost to breaking point. Are you busy doing things that are making a positive impact on your life or are you wasting time on meetings that you don’t need to attend, on wandering through each of the aisles at Checkers in an effort to figure out what you need in your grocery cupboard? Look objectively at how you spend your time. Are you really busy or are you just saying so?

Slow down: rushing around from “A” to “B” is very stressful. That’s why the Slow Lounge at OR Tambo exists. You need to give yourself time to breathe, to take “time out” to think clearly and objectively. Slowing down also allows you to focus your attention on the task at hand. That focus is what will allow you to do a better job in less time and with fewer mistakes. Sebastian Vettel doesn’t win F1 races by thinking about anything other than what is happening on the track.

Plan your day: Another line from the conversation above is that we don’t know where the year has gone. Know what you want to achieve in each aspect of your life and know what tasks or activities will get you there. Once you know that, you can divide your day accordingly. Start by blocking time out for regular activities, for example, exercise, spiritual study or family activities. By scheduling these things to happen at regular times, you can start forming healthy time management habits. You can then manage daily tasks and activities by scheduling them throughout the rest of the day. You don’t have to be rigid about this: I attended a training session years ago that advocated the use of labelled lists to manage tasks: @ home. @ telephone, @ laptop etc. Doing this focuses your attention directly on what needs to be done when you are at a particular place. It’s an efficient way of getting to the task when the opportunity arises. You have not restricted yourself to a tight schedule of making a particular call at a particular time. Over-scheduling can lead to failure and stress when unplanned for events throw your plans out.

Use “flat spots” in your day: what do you do when you are being driven to a meeting or when you are waiting for the children to finish sport? Use this time to make the phone calls on your “@ telephone” list or to review the document that needs editing. If you want to use this time to relax and read a book, do so without feeling guilty. The point here is that you should use these flat spots in your day constructively, rather than simply waiting for time to pass.

Do something fun: the pressures of day-to-day life wear us down and you may feel that you don’t ever get to do something just for the fun of it. Think about what brings you joy and factor that into your days. Do something not because it should be done or because you feel obliged to do it. Do it just for fun…and don’t feel guilty or conflicted because you have allowed yourself to do something for yourself.


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