When I asked you what you were struggling with last week, the most commonly named problem was all about not having enough time and the wish to be more productive.
First off I want to thank each and every one of you that have answered my question and shared a part of your life with me. I feel humbled and so excited to have all you amazing people in our community.
Today we’re going to address the problem of time management. Ever feel like there is never enough time? This is something a lot of us struggle with, myself included.
I’m going to tell you a personal story and share the lessons I learned from saying no to one of the biggest opportunities in my life.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
Our relationship to time
Let’s kick this off with a quote that talks about our relationship to time:
“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” … We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of… Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we did, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack…” -Lynne Twist in “The Soul Of Money”
This quote adequately sums up how many of us relate to time. We feel like we’re in a rat race with a never-ending to-do list. No matter what we do, it never seems to be enough because there’s always the next day and the next item that we need to get done.
Does that sound familiar? I know I’ve been struggling with this in the past. To be honest, I am still struggling with this.
Let me tell you a little story to about how I was trapped in the “never enough time” mindset and what I did to escape it.
My personal story about what’s been going on between Mr. Time & me
A couple weeks ago my college semester was about to end and I had an incredible amount of work to do. On top of that, I was working hard on the blog and at my job.
That’s when I was offered a scholarship at an online coaching school in exchange for me working as their coaching assistant. I was super excited! I had been thinking about the best way of improving my skills as a coach, and attending a coaching school had been one of my favorite options. This opportunity seemed perfect because it would help me to grow as a coach without going into debt to pay for education.
I was confident that I would be able to fit the coaching school and the added coaching job into my already crammed schedule. I thought all I had to do was work harder or smarter. I would be able to handle it and if not… well, I could not let this opportunity pass me by. I would make it possible, no matter what it would cost me.
What I didn’t put into account was that I was already feeling more and more exhausted. I was tired, unable to focus and generally felt rushed and unable to relax on most days.
But I didn’t want to see it. I denied how I felt because I thought that I had no choice but to push through it and make things work. I needed this education.
So I tried to push myself even harder and told myself that it was not a big deal. But truth is that it was. I was burning myself out.
The bitter truth: Sometimes you can’t do it all now
Even though I resisted this realization with every cell of my body, I had to accept that I had too many projects going on. I had to cut back and do less.
Now I don’t know about you, but even though doing less sounded so appealing, I felt like there was no way for me to do so. It scared the bejesus out of me. Everything on my list seemed important. How could I possibly do less when I felt like I needed to do more?
It took me weeks to accept that I had to indeed do less, simply because I couldn’t do it all. It wasn’t because I was lazy, ineffective or unproductive, it just wasn’t possible.
So I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in my life: I let go of the coaching school. My gut was telling me that it wasn’t right for me. Even though I tried to convince myself and listed every possible reason that I needed to grab the opportunity, I had to see that it wouldn’t serve me in the end. It was not just my crammed schedule that spoke against it, most of all it was that little voice that kept telling me that I needed to focus my attention on other things. I had been ignoring this voice for quite some time, but when I allowed it to speak up, it became so loud that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. And I’m glad I couldn’t.
A few weeks have passed since I made the call to turn down the opportunity. How do I feel about it now? I don’t regret it. When I made the decision it immediately felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Today I’m going to share the golden nuggets and survival lessons that I learned from making this decision so you don’t have to burn yourself out like I did. You don’t only get Iris-proven strategies and ideas, there’s also a lot of wisdom I learned from my mentors, coaches, and supporters that I reached out to search for help.
How to get off the hamster wheel: 5 Things you can do right now
Listen to yourself. The first step to change is always to acknowledge what’s here now. Allow yourself to listen to your emotions and feelings and see if they’re telling you that you need a change. Don’t ignore your feelings like I did, it will only make you get sick (mentally and maybe even physically). You need to know that you’re not okay in order to know that you need to change and what you need to change. And remember, It’s okay not to be okay.
Understand your mindset. Most people don’t like to hear it, but your mind has more control over how you feel and how you perceive your reality than you realize. When you’re in the “never-enough” mindset and believe that there is not enough time in the day guess what, that’s exactly what you’ll experience.
So take the time to understand your own relationship with time and your beliefs about it. See if some of them are working against you rather than for you. Common misconceptions about time (that I had as well) include thinking that there’s never enough time in the day or the belief that we will achieve happiness and calmness only when we have achieved a certain goal and must power through it now. Those are perfect examples of beliefs that are not serving you well at all.
Then when you’re ready, it might be time to…
Reframe it. When you discover a belief that is not serving you, it’s best to replace it with a new, more empowering belief. The easiest way to do that is to find a mantra that will help you shift from a feeling of scarcity to a feeling of ‘enough’. I know mantras freak some people out. Relax. It doesn’t have to be woo woo. It can be as easy as telling yourself “No matter how much I get done today, it’s enough.” That one is especially good if you tend to tie your self-worth to how busy you are, like me.
When we develop a mindset that says that there is enough time and that we are enough everything feels lighter. It’s as if a giant weight has been lifted from our shoulders. We’re able to see more clearly. We can fully engage in the task at hand and now that what we’re doing is enough. We don’t have to worry about all the other things we should be doing right now.
We can breathe.
Suddenly we realize that we could indeed…
Do less. This is the part that freaks almost every one out. “But Iris, I can’t do less! I’m already behind on my tasks!” I hear ya. It was the same for me. Do you think I was ready to let go of the coaching school just like that? I resisted it in every possible way. I found excuses on why I needed to keep it and how it would all work out.
But no. Sometimes you need to do less.
And guess what? Contrary to our first reaction, doing less actually helps us be more productive. How? It eases our mind and takes away a lot of the stress and pressure an overwhelming to-do list likes to trigger. We’re better able to focus and fully engage in the task at hand, rather than worrying about all the things we need to get done.
Of course, you can’t just cut back on everything. There are certain areas where you need to…
Do more. We often feel burnt out because we’re doing too much of the wrong things and not putting enough emphasis on the right things. What are the right things you ask? Everything that helps you unplug, recharge and enjoy the journey. In a word: Self-care. Again, contrary to what we might think, spending more time replenishing our energy reservoirs often helps us get more done. When we spend less time working and add in small rituals of self-care, it helps with our concentration, focus and the energy we have available to perform each day.
What I need you to do now
If you feel trapped in an endless cycle of doing every day feels like a struggle. There’s no time to breathe, to sip some tea, or to read a good book.
I encourage you to look up from your messy to-do list and ask yourself whether or not it makes you feel good. And if you feel like you need it, pick one strategy from the list above and apply today. See if you can be courageous and listen to yourself, take time to understand why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling and then do less of the things that drain your energy and more of those that replenish it.
What my experience with the coaching school opportunity taught me is that in the end, is that it’s not so much about the time we have available. It’s more about how we balance the time we spend working and the time we spend taking care of ourselves, and the mindset we bring to the things we do.