Here’s the story of how I eased my stress…
Need more hours in a day? Do you feel like time is slipping away and you plow through your work but still seem to where you started? When you try and catch up work but you don’t even know the time is just slipping away. WHAT, midnight already??!?
More and more we’re running around, unsatisfied with our achievements. We’re scared of missing valuable opportunities. So we listen to one more podcast, open another social media account, add another book to our ever-growing wish list.
How do I get out of this cycle of Never Enough Time and Always More To Do.? Over the past few days, I have started working on a solution that seems to be working and I hope it helps you. I started working fewer hours and virtually eliminated stress. But I still got my To-Do list done!
Here’s the story of how I eased my stress…
The past few gruelling weeks of endless work, my body protested and decided to give up.
I finally realized I had to make drastic changes to this habit that was slowly driving me to be drained physically and emotionally. I finally admitted I was ill.
I’d always been a workaholic. I always wanted to get a little more done, achieve a little more. But I could not continue to work like a maniac.
To-do lists are a source of stress
I never had a to-do list before. I use to write down important stuff on pieces of paper I found all around my desk and every time someone cleaned my notes were gone. Between emails and clients running in you start to feel overwhelmed. You never remembered the small things you had to do and you forget important details about the projects you had.
I couldn’t keep up anymore. I got ONE book for ONE purpose. Write down my to-do list for the week. It WORKED.
I know it seems like such a small change but it made a significant change in my work life! Instead of missing the small things I could check it off the list and I remembered every detail about the bigger projects. I also felt like my brain wasn’t overloaded with trying to remember what I had to do and when it has to be done for.
My to-do list took up about half my notepad every day with urgent work that always seems to come back with more work. I was proud to admit though that when new work came back I knew I was doing something right. The to-do list also motivates you to work faster because there is nothing better than scratching something off your to-do list that has been on there for weeks.
BUT BE WARNED!
Say you’re invited for a podcast interview. The interview takes only 30 minutes, and with a little preparation, and some emailing to agree a time, this will take you at most an hour. Sounds doable, doesn’t it? You can squeeze that one hour into your week.
Next, you decide to set up an Instagram account. To evaluate your efforts in a month’ time, you know you need to be consistent in sharing photos and drawings. You put Instagram at the top of your to-do list. It’ll only take you 15 or 20 minutes a day. That’s not much, right?
Also, you decide to put more work on your list because you don’t think it would take longer to do like, for example, make more time for blogging or uploading work to the website.
You can see where this is going, right?
To-do lists fool you into thinking you can easily squeeze a few extra tasks into your week. Working 15 minutes harder a day doesn’t sound like a lot. But your working hours are sneakily increasing. You slowly destroy your productivity.
Be REALISTIC! But it on the to-do list but mark it so that you only do it when you have time so that you don’t start to work your day away again.
You might prioritize and reprioritize the to-dos on your list. But a to-do list doesn’t force you to evaluate whether you have time for each task.
I’ve cursed my lack of productivity because my to-do list always grows. And as I don’t have an off switch, I kept running and running, trying to work harder and harder.
But my lack of sleep and permanent headaches forced me to take a step back.
As my energy levels plummeted, I asked myself this one simple question:
If I can only sit at my desk for 3 hours on average a day, what shall I do?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this simple question completely changed my working habits. Rather than hopelessly stretching my time to try to do more, I fixed my time frame and decided what I would do.
You can’t manage time
Time passes by whether you like it or not. You can’t speed it up and you can’t slow it down.
So stop trying to manage time.
To radically reduce stress and working hours, stop focusing on becoming a more productive machine. Instead, decide how much time and energy you have. What do you want to do with your life?
At first, I couldn’t answer this question. I knew how much time I could work, but I didn’t know how much time I spent doing various tasks.
For a few days, I tracked what I was doing. And once I knew how much time I spent on various tasks, I started making decisions on what I would and wouldn’t do. I asked myself:
- Which tasks help me run and be efficient?
- Which tasks give me energy? What do I enjoy doing most?
When you know the size of your energy basket and the size of your tasks, you find it easier to choose what to do and what not to do for the day. You become aware that saying yes to one task means saying no to something else.
How many hours can you work? How many hours do you want to work? And what do you want to do in those hours?
I used to be deadline-driven
I thought I was thriving on stress.
I was addicted to the adrenaline rush of getting stuff done just in time. I loved working long hours. Late at night. This was a problem I had in college as well.
Some of us were built to believe in hard work. Stamina. Perseverance. That’s what we need to build a business, right? Being busy is a badge of honor. Being exhausted is part of our identity.
I didn’t want to work fewer hours or take a lunch break once in a while?
Sometimes I felt like a pushover with my clients. I swear they believed that they were your only client and then everything is urgent where it is not.
Being a graphic designer isn’t easy when clients think you are a magician that does all of these magic tricks when they need them.
But the truth is this:
I work fewer hours on certain projects and focusing on getting one task done at a time. But I’m more creative. I have more ideas, and I can implement them faster.
Sure, I’m no magician. I’m not disciplined. My rebellious mind still resists. But most of the time when I work, I work. I mess around a lot less. I stop when I’m tired. I take afternoon naps. I’ve learned to listen to my own body, and accept its limitations.
By allowing your body to rest, your mind refuels, too. So take time for daydreaming, staring out of the window, doing nothing and binge watching that series you have been dying to see.
I am a ball of loud, talkative energy that explodes once in a while with verbal diarrhea and these batteries of mine need to recharge once in a while.
Because your energy is a precious resource.