Dogs barking. Kids crying. The boss yelling. There are bills to be paid, the lawn to be mowed and appointments to be kept. Every day can start off with the alarm clock feeling like a pistol at the start of a race and you steaming ahead to the finish line, trying to get it all done before night falls and you collapse into bed.
Most people have "to-do lists" which can stretch out to two and three pages of unfinished tasks and hopeless attempts at completing something. The day wears on and the panic can rise – "How will I ever get it all done?" "When can I take a break?"
In most businesses, the mantra is "more with less." Cutbacks mean more work for those who are left, and those who are left don't want to rock the boat so they just take on the extra work. Parents have no end to their children's events, whether school- or sports-related. Recitals, camps, presentations all demand attendance and attention.
It seems as if the clock just ticks and mocks us by marching along while we drown under the piles of stuff to be done. Busyness can steal our calm, increase our anxiety and make us less effective. How do you get your personal power back when the things to do just won't go away?
You can bring calm to a busy life and still get things done, but you have to choose to stop the madness. Take these five steps to bring your power back and be more effective:
Choose your priorities for the day. Look at the to-do list and organize it. Force an order of what matters most to you. Instead of looking at everything that needs to be done, just focus on three things at a time – the most important things. Don't let yourself get distracted by the others, they will still be there, but get productive around what matters most.
Chunk it down. One of the problems with most to-do lists is that the to-dos are so large. "Clean the garage," for example, could be 10 hours of work. Break it down. Instead of having large tasks, have smaller steps. "Clean the shelves in the garage" could be an example. Or "Sweep the garage." Break the big things into little things so you can make progress – and feel good about it.
Slow Down. When you feel frenetic because there is just too much to do and you can't do it all, that's the time to slow your pace down. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it? When you are rushed and trying to juggle too many things, you could drop something. A calm, slower approach allows you to pause and consider what's best. Be deliberate about what to do next. Calm and steady does win the race.
Take breaks. Again, it seems counter-intuitive, when you don't have enough hours in the day, to "take a break." Some people don't have time to eat their meals or go to the restroom! But when you are fast-paced, overwhelmed and drowning, that's the most important time to take a break. Just five minutes here or there. Step outside. Stand up and stretch. Go into the bathroom and hide for five minutes. Breaks allow our mind to refocus.
Remember, "This too shall pass." Repeat the mantra as many times as you need to. When you are snowed under and the work is piling up, it can be easy to think that's all there is, but your life is much more than your to-do list. As bad as it is, tomorrow is another day. Do your best to keep an attitude that time is fleeting -- it ebbs and flows. What's critical to do today might not even matter tomorrow. Everything passes, so take it one easy step at a time and realize that this is not all there is.