As someone who is very involved in many activities, I have always struggled in having time for myself. I have had a very unfavorable pattern of work including my job, school, volunteering, writing, home, and other personal responsibilities. Sometimes, I have broken down at the shrink’s place in frustration that this rat race never ends and that my life feels like an unending to-do list. Being very generous in my support of other people, I have struggled to say no to people when I am asked to help. I always feel a sense of obligation to help especially when I know I have the resources or information that the person needs.
My close friends know about this struggle. I have been very open to them, and to hear their suggestions. This September, I promised to work on "respecting my time" by doing several things. My top priorities are going to the gym at least four times a week and sleeping at least 6 hrs a day without interruptions. These two are yet to happen, but I have successfully improved the quality of my time with the following tips.
Respecting My Time
Following a friend's suggestion, I have developed different to-do lists for different categories of my work. I have a separate to-do list for the following responsibilities:
With this separation, I have encouraged myself to only do job-related activities during my job hours, and meet school demands on campus. This boundary also keeps me focused and makes my duties look less burdensome.
Not More Than 5 – A Golden Rule
When putting my to-do list for the day together, I ensure that there are not more than five urgent tasks on it. In my planning for future dates, I also ensure the same; that there is not more than 5 activities per-day on it. When it reaches 5, I move to another day.
I have developed the courage to say no to people, primarily if they can obtain the help somewhere else. If it is a quick request, I may take it, but if it is something that demands a lot of time, I kindly decline and explain to the person that I feel overwhelmed by my other demands. To make myself feel less guilty, I ask myself, if I did not exist or if I fall sick or die from stress, will this person find help somewhere else? Most likely, the answer is yes.
I have stopped promising or committing to do things for people especially when I am not asked. I have stopped jumping ahead and placing myself in a position to compromise my time first.
I realized that sometimes, my work is delayed by other people's procrastination. I have disciplined myself to inform others that I stand by the deadline I provide to them. I inform people that whether they do their part or not, I am moving on, as needed. I have come to the consciousness that I am only responsible for what I do, and I should leave other people to take responsibility for their action and inaction as well.
Multi-Tasking is a Scam!
I have accepted that multi-tasking is a scam that makes me feel productive even when I am not. Productivity includes the effective and efficient use of my time to complete tasks. Not leave one, halfway and jump to do another, but to finish one at a time.
Being Honest with Myself
I ensure that I am honest to admit when I don't feel like doing something and I set it for a later time. I always try to do important activities that I will derive the most pleasure from, at the moment. I try my best to be present in my activities and be honest if I feel overwhelmed.
While setting boundaries for my giving in time, I have developed an appreciative attitude towards receiving. I no longer believe that I am a superior or wise person for giving more than I receive. I equally desire that the people I support give me the best in their time when we meet, and I also need help. I have learned that it is as much of a blessing to receive, as it is to give.
Quit Boasting about the Wrong Things
I have developed a habit of feeling ashamed of my lack of control over poor time management and self-care. I no longer boast about sleeping only 3-4 hrs a day and being sleep-deprived. It is like bragging about slowly killing your health or being unproductive all through the rest of the day. I have learned to take more pride in sleeping at least 6 hrs a day and when I spend time to do things for myself.
Making Myself a Priority
I have started making myself a priority, and I eliminate thoughts and people that make me feel selfish for taking care of myself first. Every day, I ensure that I am doing something for myself either by spending an hour at the gym or reading a book for 30 minutes when my day starts. I have learned to have myself as much as I am letting other people have me.
Although these tips may seem simple, they have been beneficial. I feel less overwhelmed, and I feel more capable of controlling my time.