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By Mary Hoofnagle
Shocktober is here. The fall brings a stress phenomenon I like to refer to as the Fall Wall. As fall approaches everything starts moving a little faster. Schedules start to fill up as kids head back to school and their extra curricular activities begin again. The holidays are looming and with them come to do lists and preparations. Before you know it, it’s October already, and you’re behind! Stress! All of a sudden everything feels like it’s spinning and we start repeating the mantra, “There’s just not enough time.” But time is an illusion. I’m sure many of us have had an adult or mentor say at some point in our lives, “You don’t have time; you make time.”
What the heck is THAT supposed to mean?! I’m not a wizard!
True. We can’t create minutes and hours where there aren’t any. But we can free up a lot of time by putting first things first. Instead of time swirling away from us as we get bogged down in the little stuff that doesn’t matter, we can make time for ourselves by looking at all our tasks and start on the big priorities first. Check out this video from Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
I’d like to take a moment to point out some of the more commonly overlooked big rocks in that video:
Spouse: Put your relationships at the top of your list. We tend to neglect this area when we are stressed because we count on other people being there for us no matter what. Trouble is, if we neglect our people, our people feel neglected, and then we have added stress when our relationships start to suffer.
Planning and Preparation: Planning out the day is not time wasted. For the five to ten minutes we invest in planning, we’ll gain back much more time when things run smoothly later. It costs a lot more time to problem solve in the moment when something hasn’t been planned out well. And as a good friend of mine always says, “Hope is not a plan.”
Another, overlooked, benefit of planning is the opportunity to survey our tasks and delegate. If someone else can do it 80% as well as you can, delegate. You’ll be more effective overall if you recognize the strengths of your team and relinquish some control to their creativity and skills. Don’t fall into the “It’s just easier to do it myself” trap.
Don’t feel guilty for removing things from your list altogether.
The over-scheduled child is a phenomenon discussed often in the media. But overscheduled children come from overscheduled parents. We don’t have to do it all. We can say no to things that aren’t that important to us in favor of downtime and self-care.
Sharpen the Saw: Don’t neglect self-care. It keeps us sharp. This includes anything from exercise to taking time for our favorite hobbies, to sleeping. We are more effective in every way when we take care of our physical needs, social/emotional needs, and spiritual needs.
And don’t underestimate the importance of sleep!
Sleep is critical for keeping us fresh and functioning at optimum levels. Not only is our mind sharper, but sleep brings more patience as well. Numerous studies show that we are not the best judges of our own sleep needs, even though we like to think we are. Additionally, around 50% of Americans in each age demographic, including 13-18 year olds, report getting insufficient sleep each night. Sleep deprivation can affect your health, weight, memory, appetite, stress level, mood, blood pressure, heart, and risk of cancer. Even losing one hour of sleep a night can have lasting negative results, so get your eight hours in, and make sure your kids do as well. And sleep medications are not necessarily the best way to go. Most of the time when people take medications like Ambien and Lunesta, they aren’t actually getting good sleep; they just aren’t remembering the terrible sleep they had.
So, as daylight savings approaches next week, and we all gain one precious hour, take a moment to prioritize your commitments and choose how you will use your time.