I don’t know about everyone else, but I personally like to be busy. I get bored very easily so tend to ensure I have a lot on my plate to keep boredom at bay.
What I don’t like however is to be rushed. Being rushed means always doing five things at once, feeling out of control and like time is never on your side.
I can remember a period in my life where my days were scheduled right down the minute to deal with this feeling of time never being on my side.
Rushing was a permanent fixture of that period because life generally did not work to my schedule. Little contingencies popped up each day ranging from the toddler I had at the time needing a nappy change one millisecond after I finished wrangling him into his car seat, to spending an unexpected hour mollifying an unhappy stakeholder.
When my days were heavily scheduled I did not have time to deal with these things and consequently when they happened (which was often) they ruined my day and often saw me playing catch up in the evenings. Playing catch up in the evening also meant I missed out on downtime with my family. Not cool. Especially when it was the rule rather than the exception.
So how did I reduce the rush factor in my days?
1. Reduced commitments
This sounds like such a no-brainer but when you’re that person who says yes to everything it’s really hard to keep a lid on commitments. But the simple truth is that if every second of your every day is heavily scheduled, then you are overcommitted, and you need to start saying ‘No’.
Do you find it hard to say ‘No’? Then commit to this: never say ‘Yes’ in the moment of being asked to do something. Instead, say, ‘Let me get back to you’.
This will allow you to at least remove the ‘knee-jerk yes’ from your life. You can go away from the moment, ask honestly whether you have time to do the thing being asked … and then let the asker know your answer via email. Saying ‘No’ via email is infinitely easier than saying it to someone’s face!
2. Created realistic to-do lists
I totally live and die by my to-do lists. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what I am supposed to achieve on any given day without them. What I used to do a lot though was create these ‘perfect world’ to-do lists that simply didn’t allow for anything unexpected to crop up during the day. This meant I never ever achieved everything on my to-do list which again meant I was either spending my evenings catching up, or I was simply adding everything that didn’t get done on to the next day’s list.
So I got real with my to-do lists. I made sure I allowed for 1-2 hours each day to deal with all the unexpected stuff – having to compose a long email, or go pick my son up early, or have coffee with a client who dropped by unexpectedly. On the days where the unexpected didn’t crop up – well they were the best. I had enough time to do everything properly in a single-tasking kind of way rather than trying to juggling five tasks at once and not doing any of them well.
3. Got real with the promises I made
You know how people say under-promise and over deliver? Well I used to over-promise and over-deliver. Clearly this is not a sustainable way to do things so I started doubling my original estimate for getting any given job done and the pressure this relieved on me was immense.
4. Got our mornings under control
If I was going for a run the next morning, my running clothes were laid out ready to put on. Work clothes were also laid out and mine and my kid’s school bags were packed. I also made sure the living area and kitchen were both tidy so that, in the morning, I could just do the minimum amount of stuff required to get us out the door. I also set up morning routines that everyone in the house was across.
And then I resisted the urge to fill the space created in our mornings. I ruthlessly maintained the gentle pace.
The difference was staggering. If your mornings are always rushed, then your whole day will also tend to be rushed – it’s very hard to pull things back. But if you can leave your house each morning with an air of calm, that calm tends to permeate the day and even when things are stressful, the overall effect doesn’t seem as pronounced.