It’s that time of year again. To buy, host, decorate and exchange; to stand in line, shuttle between families and swear like Russell Crowe when the person in front of you at Best Buy takes too long to pay for that Inception DVD with exact change. Calendars get full and tensions can run high.
But they don’t have to. Though feeling there is “not enough time” is a common reaction to the holiday season, to-do lists and calendars aren’t inherently stressful, it's our relationship to them that can be. Often, our conditioned response is to view them as a source of anxiety, when the real source of angst is our belief that there is a scarcity of time. When we realize this is merely an interpretation - a creation of our own minds, not the "truth" - we also realize we have a choice. We can choose to see full calendars, family obligations and to-do lists as pressure, or we can choose to look at them and say, "there's just something else to do.”
As you head into the New Year, consider making a resolution to redefine your relationship with time. If you perceive it as scarce, it will surely feel that way, and your interaction with it will be an exhausting one. However, if you perceive it as abundant and regard yourself as in control of how yours is spent, there will be space for feelings of overwhelm to disperse and a sensation of empowerment and efficacy to move in.
Beyond noticing and labeling your reactions as interpretations you have the power to change, here are five practical tips to put in place for improved time management:
1) Allocate Your Time – In the morning, write a list of your tasks for the day and decide how long you will spend on each, such as, “Cleaning, ½ hour” or “Respond to emails from 11 – 12.” Setting limits in advance is key to avoid letting tasks expand indefinitely.
2) Prioritize -- Develop a system to rank tasks into categories of importance. You can label them "A, B or C" and do all of the A and B tasks first, or simply place asterisks next to the most important, so you are less apt to get sidetracked.
3) Create a Schedule for Success – Many people feel victimized by time and guilty for not completing everything they said they would do as a result of over-committing themselves. Make sure you create a schedule that allows you to succeed. If you consistently book every minute of each day, you run the risk of creating an "I can't do it all" feeling. Before taking on new tasks, consult your schedule and assess whether it is feasible given your other commitments.
4) Set Boundaries - Do you often find yourself distracted from your own schedule and projects by co-workers, family members, friends or business partners? Do you automatically say "yes" to tasks and favors others ask of you without figuring out if it fits in with your plans? Consider setting - and enforcing - firmer boundaries. We all want to be seen as helpful and cooperative, but if you agree to every phone call, bake sale and favor that is asked, pretty soon there won't be much time left for your goals.
5) Leave Time for Yourself - Recharging is essential. Create a personal oasis of time for yourself each day to indulge in something that brings you joy or peace. Maybe it's a half hour of reading before bed, a mid-day cup of tea, a bath, exercise or 15 minutes of meditation. Whatever it is, make sure to leave room for it in your schedule.