Several years ago I was in the situation where I ran a successful bookkeeping practice, helped my (then) partner in his fishing business, his eldest daughter had just had her first baby and we both had parents and grandparents who needed support with frequent hospital visits! I felt like I was being pulled in a zillion directions with multiple priorities and a never ending to-do list!
I was in a constant state of overwhelm, and it was having a major effect on my physical and mental health, and my relationships. It left me feeling anxious, dis-empowered and exhausted.
Things had to change.
I realised that I couldn’t take care of the people I loved unless I was taking care of myself first.
Here are the strategies I learned to gain control of my hectic life:
# 1: Get out of my head
With so many things to do my memory was failing me, I was forgetting appointments and losing sleep worrying about it! I bought a diary and entered my upcoming appointments, then wrote a list of every task I needed to complete. From that list I grouped things together into categories to be more efficient and save time (highlighter pens are great for this) e.g.
- if I was going to see a client in a certain suburb could I combine the visit with other errands in that area.
- I made a “running list” of tasks my parents needed help with and crossed them off as they were completed.
If you are tech-savvy, an electronic diary is even better. I have since learned to use the iCal and Reminders programs on my Apple devices; iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air. They sync with one another, so when I am out and about anything I put into my iPhone is automatically updated to my other devices and vice-versa. The Reminders can be set up to alert me at a certain time, or even when I am in a certain location e.g. if I put in the local shopping centre as the location all the jobs I need to do will pop up on my phone when I get there.
# 2: Important versus Urgent
One of the greatest lessons I learned during this time was the difference between “important” and “urgent”.
I found the Eisenhower Box to be a great decision-making tool when scheduling what got done in my day.
Here is an example to illustrate this idea further:
# 3: Avoid Multi-Tasking
Talking on the phone, making notes, doing the filing and typing an email all at the same time… I used to think I could do it all at once.
I was kidding myself.
Multi-tasking is inefficient and tasks take you longer to do than if you focussed on one at a time. Our attention is fragmented, switching back and forth from one thing to another, so we never fully get “in the zone” for any activity.
By learning to slow down and focus on one task at a time I found I achieved so much more by the end of the day, with less mistakes and far less frustration.
# 4: Saying NO, setting boundaries and delegating
Being a “people pleaser” ends up pleasing no-one. That was my experience anyway.
Be discerning about the invitations or requests that you accept. Just because someone asks you to do something for them, it doesn’t mean to have to do it.
If you are not sure about accepting a request, ask questions first before making a decision. If you are still not sure, tell them you need time to think about it and will get back to them (and then make sure you do get back them when you say you will).
A polite and respectful “no, thank you” is sometimes all you need to say. You don’t need to justify your decision or make excuses.
Other ways to say no nicely:
“That is not in my area of expertise, but I’d be happy to put you in touch with someone who can help you.”
“I would love to help you out, but I already have other commitments. Thanks for your understanding.”
If someone starts talking to you about their problems, instead of rushing in to help them you could say:
“I can see that must be really hard for you. What are you going to do about it?” and then say nothing more…
# 5: Meditation
Breathing – focus on the breath. In order to quieten the monkey-chatter in my mind I had to give it something else to focus on. So I simply let my awareness follow my breath in, filling up my lungs, holding for a second, and then follow it out again, pausing for a second, breathe in… When the never ending to-do list popped back into my head, I would thank it, let it slide out of my thoughts and return to my breathing.
Sometimes all I could manage was 3 breaths, but it was better than nothing. It broke the repetition of overwhelming feelings and thoughts so I could feel calmer and more centred. And I could do this anywhere, anytime.
Guided Meditations – another great way to quieten the monkey-mind.
There are loads of CD’s and MP3’s on the market so it is a good idea to get some recommendations from friends or family of ones they enjoy.
I find using an App on my mobile phone is an easy and convenient way to schedule in meditation every day. I personally use www.headspace.com. You start off doing only 10 minutes a day for 10 days, and I found that I really noticed a change in myself after the first couple of days.
Above all else, set up a support network of people and resources around you.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, dis-empowered or exhausted and you want support to put strategies in place, I am here to help you.
In just a couple of counselling sessions you can be back on the path to feeling calm and in control again.
Call me on 0498 434 838 to make an appointment.
Judy Glover Dip.Couns.
ADIA Counselling & Support Centre
Nambour Wellness Hub
Suite 7, upstairs, 65 Currie Street,
Nambour Qld 4560