When life gets busy and you get stressed, it’s natural to look for ways to be more efficient and add more ease. The tendency is to look for things you can eliminate. Unfortunately, sometimes this doesn’t work out so well. One way to have less stress and overwhelm is to be clear on the activities and routines that are essential to preserve.
Here are eight things you don’t want to do when you are stressed out and short on time—and some tips on how to make them happen.
- Cut back on sleep. As tempting as it may be, sleep is not the place to try to save time. Seven and a half hours seem to be the magic number. If you are getting less than this on a regular basis, you aren’t going to be as effective or creative, you are likely to be hungrier, and have a lower tolerance for stress. NOT what you want when life is demanding.
- Cross yourself out of your schedule. When you are looking at an over-full calendar, it’s tempting to see your own stuff as expendable and put yourself last. Too often it’s the stuff that keeps you functioning (sleep, exercise, healthy meals, stress-relieving activities) that are the first things crossed off your schedule. You know better. Instead of eliminating the good stuff, consider cutting back if you have to. Shorter workouts, simple fast meals, quick phone calls to friends, and less aiming for perfection in areas that don’t really matter.
- Multitask like crazy. Multitasking requires your brain to work in more than one direction at once. Guess what—it can’t do that. So instead of being “efficient,” you end up asking your brain to switch back and forth between tasks. Neither gets the attention it deserves. Is it okay to clean the sink while you’re on hold with your cell phone provider? Of course, but multitask with care.
- Eating on the go. This is a form of multitasking. You should know that women who eat while they are doing something else tend to eat more and feel less satisfied with what they have eaten. Make the shift to viewing your mealtime as an opportunity to get grounded and be present with yourself. That’s the kind of multitasking that works. Savor your food and allow yourself to enjoy the calories. Pay attention to how you are feeling, whether you are hungry or full, tense, relaxed, anxious, or bored. Practice asking yourself what you need that is not food. It only takes a few minutes and it can make all the difference in the rest of your day (as well as with your eating and your weight).
- Skip the pre-game planning. When life is crazy, it’s tempting to just jump in and start moving. The problem is, we all know how easy it is to spend a day working hard and still not really feel like we’ve accomplished much. Investing ten minutes on the front end of your day to get clear on your priorities, adjust your mindset for success, and address any potential hurdles will be worth its weight in gold–and it will probably save you stress and time in the long run.
- Underestimate the power of ten. Have you noticed that many of the things I’m reminding you not to skip can be done in small ways? If you are telling yourself, “I don’t have time,” ask yourself whether you can think smaller. Don’t get caught in the high-achiever head trap of all-or-nothing-thinking. Just because you don’t have time for an hour-long cardio workout doesn’t mean you can’t go for a ten-minute walk. Five minutes of journaling might untangle your brain. A ten-minute email might get you the help or the answer you need to save hours. Taking ten minutes to transition after work might save you a pre-dinner pig-out session with the holiday cookies. When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to allow yourself a little breathing space.
- Go it alone. “It’s quicker for me to do it myself” is the phrase that leads to a lot of unnecessary stress. It may seem like it in the moment, but trying to do everything will set you up for vicious cycles of overload and overwhelm. Ask for help. Be specific. If you can’t be specific, tell someone you trust, “Is there a way that you could help with this?” You may just be amazed at the results you get.
- Skip meals. “I didn’t have time for lunch” often leads to an evening of eating that feels out of control. If you manage to control your eating, you’re likely to feel tired, edgy, headachey, and no fun. Remember the ten-minute rule. If you have a list of quick, healthy options, eating doesn’t take a lot of time. If you don’t have a list, make one now. Five to ten things you can grab that will keep you fueled and on track. Keep it simple—tuna, Greek yogurt, almonds, cheese sticks. Stuff that will stay with you and won’t lead to a blood sugar slump in the afternoon or evening.
What must-dos keep you on track when life threatens to pull you off course?