I did a little homework over the weekend and have come up with a few ways to make this time of year...or anytime, really, less stressful and more pleasurable.
Those experts who study these kinds of things tell us that in today's fast culture, most humans (and dare I say frogs, too) feel they don't have the time to make friends, go on a date, take a vacation, sleep enough hours, or even eat lunch! In one study, eight of out ten Britons said they didn't have time to eat dessert...that's if they took the time to even eat dinner. And the average high school kid today is experiencing the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient of the 1950's. Yikes! Neuroscientists tell us that being too busy isn't healthy. in fact, it can actually shrink your brain. So how did we all end up in a such a place? You may not believe this but it's really all an illusion. In recent studies, it has been shown that, globally, we have MORE leisure time now than at any point in our history. If that's true (and it is) then why do we feel so overwhelmed and stressed-out all the time? John Robinson, a leading sociologist who is also known as "Father Time," says it's because our time is so fragmented. As it turns out, multitasking really isn't helpful Switching back and forth between activities and jobs is actually more draining than finishing one task before moving on to the next. Mr. Robinson tells us that multitasking makes us stupider...effectively worse than being drunk or stoned. Yet we continue to push ourselves because being "too busy" has somehow become a status symbol. When we ask someone what they've been up to, I'll give you a dollar to a donut that they'll give you a one-word answer, "Busy."
So how can we put an end to all this craziness? here are a few tips that you can use during the holiday season or whenever you life gets too overwhelming.
1. Write it all down. Do a "brain dump" and write down all the things you think you need and want to do. Science has proven that writing things down reduces worry and organizes our thoughts. Take a few minutes and write everything down. And even though you may feel like you're wasting time, in the long run, you'll accomplish more.
2. Prioritize of "die." Experts tell us that most of us can't possibly get everything done each day. The best way to handle this is by repeating (over and over) "I cannot get it all done." When you look at your list, it'll be obvious that some things are more important than others (like sleeping, eating, picking up the kids from soccer practice...) it is super-important to learn to prioritize your tasks. At the end of the day, you want to feel good about the things that matter most...taking care of yourself, your family/friends, and your job/house.
3. Make things automatic. Things that are habitual don't tax your willpower. The more tasks and activities that you can turn into habits the less overwhelmed your brain will feel. the secret to getting more done is by making them habits.
4. Work like an athlete. Humans (and all animals) were not made to work 24/7. To maximize your output, learn to work as an athlete does. Sprint, rest, sprint, rest, etc. Alternate hard work with a little rest and you'll find you'll always be at your best. And hard work doesn't have to mean physical labor. mentally-challenging tasks are definitely included here.
5. It cannot be over-stressed. Learn to single-task. Complete one job before moving on to the next.
6. Move to OHIO. No, not the state, although I understand it is a lovely place to live. The OHIO I'm referring to is the acronym meaning Only Handle It Once. Don't keep going back to the same task and thinking about how to do best handle it. Not only is that a waste of time, it's mentally taxing, as well. When you have a job/task/request that you are unsure about how to proceed with...take a few minutes and think about your options. make the best decision you can. Don't obsess over it...and then MOVE ON. Revisiting unimportant things is mentally-draining and is a time thief.
7. Have leisure goals. This may seem like an odd thing to list here but have leisure time will actually make you more efficient. Don't think about leisure time as a time of not doing. That's a trap many of us get caught up in. Research shows that we're happier when we feel we're accomplishing things, even when those things are playing sports with friends, working on that novel, or simply sitting and reading the newspaper. Set a single-task goal of enjoying yourself. You'll be glad you did!
I hope these tips will you any of you that find yourself under constant pressure to do more.
Take a deep breath, relax a little and start learning how to pick and choose what's really important every day. You'll be glad you did. (And so will everyone else!)