You know that saying, “So much to do, so little time?” Well, sometimes “so little time” isn’t really the problem. Do you ever find yourself with so much time that you can’t get anything done? Whether you are out of a job or you work odd hours or perhaps you’re entering that weird time between finishing school and starting a job or maybe you’re trying your hand at entrepreneurship, having an open schedule can be pretty overwhelming and even, at times, can bring about feelings of disappointment, self-doubt and self-reproach.
Some of us of are most productive when we have virtually no time, but when it comes to having too much time, it feels impossible to get started, to find the motivation or perhaps it’s far too easy to lose track of time engaging in “mindless” or “meaningless” activities. Maybe for you, it’s the opposite. You don’t manage a packed schedule well, aren’t good under pressure, feel anxious and have a hard time getting started when the to-do list is too daunting. No matter who you are or what you do, time can be a tricky thing.
For many, the thought of the looming week ahead-whether packed with never ending to-do lists or absolutely nothing at all, can be incredibly overwhelming. When you have too much or even too little to do, feelings of anxiety, stress and even panic set in at the mere thought of Monday morning or even just tomorrow morning. Planning ahead and creating specific daily and weekly rituals can help those with so little time and even those who have WAY too much time to find balance, to feel a sense of accomplishment, success, gratitude and pride.
Identify Personal Goals
Planning, organizing and identifying small personal goals for the week ahead is a great way to create balance, enhance feelings of accomplishment and develop self leadership skills. Each week, identify one or two personal goals that you wish to accomplish. Personal goals can be things like going to a yoga class, going to bed by a certain time, writing a new blog post, reading a book or article or even having a conversation with one new person every week.
Create Your Own Schedule
If you’re someone who needs structure in order to be productive and to feel a sense of control, creating your own daily and/or weekly schedule can be a helpful way to hold yourself accountable. Evaluate your needs and habits in order to create a schedule that will work best for you. Perhaps you are someone who needs every hour accounted for or maybe you’re someone who just needs to outline a few specific tasks each day or week. Mark your calendar, set appointments, employ a work-break schedule, schedule meetings (with yourself and/or with others), plan your meal-times, establish an office space at home or workspace outside of the home and plan ahead. If you are someone who has a lot of time on their hands or someone who doesn’t have a set schedule or routine, create one and stick to it.
Get Up and Out of the House Early
Often, when you have too much or even too little to do, time spent in bed, scrolling through Instagram or Facebook or even simply being home, can produce rumination, over-thinking and other anxiety related symptoms or anxiety producing practices that make it even harder to get started. And while the above avoidance strategies can cause anxiety, the act of putting things off often results in running late or being behind which will only make things worse by increasing those existing feelings of stress and overwhelm and decrease feelings of self-control and self-worth. Waking up and getting out of the house early can help to increase efficiency, timeliness, productivity and overall feelings of self-worth and self-control. Not only does waking up and starting the day early increase timeliness and productivity but developing an “early morning lifestyle” will allow you to ease into your day with a few moments of slow-moving-morning peace and quiet, to set a daily intention, for meditation and even perhaps complete energizing morning workout. Things like avoiding that snooze button, giving yourself extra time in the morning, setting early morning appointments, signing up for early workout classes and planning to complete errands before noon, can help get you started and over time, can even help the eliminate avoidance behaviors all together.
Night Time Ritual
Create a nighttime ritual that will help you to evaluate and establish closure for the day. A nighttime ritual can include a consistent bedtime, journaling, reading, listening to soothing music, using essential oils, meditation, sipping some hot tea or even writing a to-do list to clear the mind. Writing down thoughts and including a practice of gratitude in a nighttime ritual can help to boost mood and increase positive feelings overall. Incorporating journaling into your nighttime routine can help minimize rumination (those repetitive thoughts that keeps us up at night), and encourage empowering, positive and goal oriented thinking.
Set Limits With Screen Time
Limiting screen time, whether morning, midday or night, can help to boost productivity by eliminating time spent engaging in “mindless” or “meaningless” lurking, scrolling and clicking on social media as well as endless viewing of your favorite Netflix series. Social media specifically, is not only addictive (which makes it incredibly time consuming/wasting) but studies show that it can also decrease feelings of overall life satisfaction as we compare ourselves and our lives to the idealized versions of others’ lives. Engaging in excessive screen time can produce or exacerbate feelings of anxiety or worthlessness, take the focus off oneself and lead us to believe that we don’t do, have or feel enough. Logout of Facebook or Instagram after each use, avoid using social media upon waking and just before bed, set time or episode limits with TV shows or series.
Set Reasonable and Flexible Expectations
It is important to set goals and have expectations for oneself. Expectations however, should be reasonable and attainable. While setting and meeting expectations is important it is equally as important to be kind and flexible with oneself if and when expectations are not met. Identify and avoid “All or Nothing Thinking” that often keep us from making progress toward goals. If your goal is to do one hour of yoga, for example, but you are running behind and as a result, have only 20 minutes and you choose to skip it altogether (because 20 minutes isn’t enough), you are choosing nothing at all. The truth is, there any many options between all or nothing. All or Nothing Thinking can make you think that you have to choose nothing. While small quantities may feel insignificant, something is ALWAYS better than nothing and an accumulation of small somethings can have a major positive impact on your life over time.