Once you have identified the root cause/s of why you are feeling overwhelmed, it's time to put into place an action plan to help move you toward a more healthy life balance. Let's continue with the example we used in the last post of work overload.
STEP 1: PRIORITIZE YOUR LIFE
Determine what is most important to you. Ask yourself a series of questions to find out if the amount you are working is congruent to your life's goals and ministry. I'm all about working and working hard -- to me, it is a GOOD thing to do! The hustle of being our best, chasing our bliss, burning energy to benefit others is definitely worth it! And if we can get paid to boot, well, that's amazing! BUT we must choose wisely how we invest our time.
Time is our most valuable asset. Use a simple pie chart to track exactly how you are spending your day starting today. Do this for one week. Is your time investment congruent with your top priorities in life? If not and you find that you are physically and mentally drained from overwork, then a change is definitely in order!
STEP 2: SCALE BACK
Once you have a clear idea of what is most important to you in life and once you have analyzed whether the ways you are spending your time are congruent (or not congruent) with achieving those top priorities, you should have a pretty good idea of what to cut out off your workload.
The time is right to eliminate those time wasters (late night Netflix, video gaming...).
Something that really helps me to scale back is to remember that I don't have to either say "yes" to requests for my time that come my way. And I certainly don't have to answer immediately!
I can say instead push the pause button and really consider this time investment. I can say:
Most folks understand, and they truly want someone to be energetic and happy to say yes. So slow down a bit as you consider how to spend your time.
STEP 3: BECOME AN ULTRA ORGANIZER
After you have prioritized your tasks and trimmed those items that don't quite line up with what is most important to you, let's look at ways to save time and energy in dealing with all that remains.
1. Use a large monthly desk calendar so you can have a broad idea of what's coming up.
2. Create cell phone reminders for all your appointments and meetings. You can even get auto reminders for birthdays, etc., to remind you yearly! Technology is wonderful tool!
3. Consider a digital, online group calendar to help as well--some families have one central calendar where both kids and parents post their events and chores. Makes planning so much easier and can help avoid scheduling conflicts.
4. Buy a few small whiteboards to record your daily to-do list, like errand running or house chores.
5. For the most important action items, use sticky notes at your desk or in your car.
6. Declutter as you go along. How much time is wasted when we cannot find the scissors?!
7. From a dear friend Kathy B. who shared this idea in our Facebook group: You can even organize your dreams! Keep an ongoing google doc bucket list. Create a list of inexpensive dreams and more pricey ones. Insert hyper links with important information and details.
STEP 4: GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
So you have prioritized, scaled back, have become really organized with your top priorities but you still feel a bit overwhelmed? Well, it may be time to become really creative on how you might help yourself manage what remains.
1. Is there anything on your workload list that you can outsource?
2. Can you ask a few friends or family members to help you do certain things on a rotation basis? Do a monthly house deep cleaning with friends, taking turns going to each other's houses for a Saturday clean. Or try co-op babysitting, carpooling, etc.
3. Take short cuts! If you are serving others by baking or taking meals, consider store-bought instead. Yes, you would love to make those fresh cookies, but grab some at Kroger just this once! Or let my friend Elizabeth at Sweet Paradise Baking Company bake them for you! Don't guilt yourself and stress yourself into trying to hit a home run when just getting to first base is enough!
4. Can you double dip with high priority chores? For example, spending time with family and supporting them is at the top of my life list. Each week when I visit my parents, I take my granddaughter along with me. In this way, it is a win for my parents, a win for my daughter and granddaughter, and a win for me. Plus I get to serve more of my family all at once which really saves time!
Other possibilities include: exercise while talking with a friend on the phone. Make a date to can beans with your sister so you keep a sense of community and connection in your life! Stop ironing your clothes. Let your standards drop just a bit--keep doing your chores, but just less often!
5. Use laughter, pray, take naps, daydream, exercise...to reboot your brain and relieve stress.
STEP 5: REALIGN YOUR EXPECTATIONS
When I am feeling really over the top stressed, that is usually a signal for me to pay more careful attention to my thought life and expectations. I have made a practice of capturing those self-limiting, toxic thoughts with healthy, robust, and hopeful ones.
I remind myself often that God gave me a wonderfully organized mind and energized physical body ready to work in His "vineyard." Sometimes just adopting the expectant mindset regarding productivity and time management is a necessary and energizing game changer.
Even the best made plans can go bust.
Recently I had two live video chats scheduled with two separate groups of my online students. For days leading up to the chats, I had been making mental notes that the chats began at noon. I set my phone reminder. I made my sticky notes. I neglected, however, to confirm the times. Big mistake.
When I showed up at 11:50, you can imagine my horror to realize the chats were scheduled to start at 11. My email account was bombarded with messages from students who were waiting for me in the chat room, wondering where I was. These are very busy people who had scheduled this appointment with me. I felt horrible. Such a train wreck.
Life 101, yes? All this to say, we are not perfect. Although I don't make these types of mistakes often, usually when I do, they serve as great indicators that I am doing too much. I need to start with Step 1 and begin to analyze my time investments more closely.
Hopefully, these tips offer you a bit of motivation and inspiration on how to handle all the stress. Life is not easy. It can be really messy at times. The mess and the stress can actually help us to grow, to learn to be flexible, to desire something different.
If you are waking up morning after morning with a sense of apprehension, this is a signal for you that something in your life has to change. You do not have to do life alone. You can take back your life and wake up instead with a sense of hope and excitement each day!
You can choose to re-frame the "mess" into the beautiful gift of life and living that it really is.
As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, comfort us, and give us wisdom. More on the final post about anxiety about how our faith helps us to overcome whatever distressing and challenging situations we may face.
The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
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