As I’ve said before, my illness taught me quite a few important life lessons.
So while I would obviously never have chosen to become chronically ill, I am in some ways grateful that I went through what I did because of what I learned from it.
And I think the biggest lesson for me was that being too busy and living such a rushed life wasn’t beyond my control. I could and can actually choose to be less busy and to make more time for the things that matter most.
I think I learned this because as I became weaker and weaker, the things which before were previously absolutely essential both at home and at work became impossible for me to do. And yet things kept going. With a lot of help and support from those around me, we found ways to get things done.
Being able to do so much less also reminded me how nothing is more important to me than spending time with my loved ones.
And as I started recovering, I decided that I was going to do things differently this time round.
Most importantly, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t go back to being overly busy and would always try my hardest to make time for the things that matter most.
It’s still something I need to work at all the time, but with these 9 strategies, I definitely manage to find much more time than I used to previously for the things that matter most:
1. Be crystal clear about your priorities and try to live your life in line with them as much as possible. I really believe that the most important thing is first of all to know exactly what your priorities are and then to try to make decisions and plans with them in mind. I’ve always known that spending time with my loved ones is my top priority. But I didn’t always live my life in line with that and I try to do that much more now.
2. Learn how to say no. This is still a tough one for me. I’ve always had a bit of a problem saying no. The thing is that by saying yes to something, you automatically have less time for something else. I’m trying to learn to make decisions based on my priorities. So at times I have to turn down things that I’d love to do just because it would mean I’d have less time for the more important things.
3. Plan your ideal day and week, scheduling time for the things that matter most. I really find that in general what I schedule gets done. So knowing what my ideal day looks like really helps me to find time for the things that matter most, rather than getting to the end of the day and realising I got so caught up in one thing or another that nothing happened the way I would have wished it to.
Of course sometimes life happens and you mustn’t worry if things don’t go 100% to plan but always look forward to a more ideal tomorrow. I also find that having some fixed things in my schedule that get done no matter what really helps as it saves time not having to think about whether or when I’m going to do them.
4. Learn how to call it a day. I’m a chronic over-planner but whereas before I would keep going no matter how tired (and slow) I got, now I’m really trying to master the art of just calling it a day. Getting enough rest and having some margin in your life are so important. No matter how busy you are, you deserve and need some time for yourself. Don't discount the importance of that. If you don’t do this you’ll just burn out so you’ll become less productive and won’t really be able to be there for anyone else anyway.
5. Try to worry less because worrying too much can leave you stuck. Again this is a difficult one for me because I’m a worrier by nature. But now I really realise how much time worrying wastes. Sometimes I get caught in my own worries and rather than moving on to the next thing I just keep going round in circles on that one point. So nowadays when I catch myself doing that, I really try to stop myself and keep things in perspective (as much as possible of course – unfortunately I know this can’t always work in all situations). I also try more than ever before to be fully present in everything I’m doing in the moment instead of thinking and worrying about what I should be doing next.
6. Focus on one thing at a time and stop trying to multitask. This might surprise you but as it turns out, research shows that multitasking actually slows you down and decreases the quality of your work (you can read more here). Technology and social media provide a lot of distractions but I find that when I shut off distractions and focus on one thing at a time, I feel much calmer throughout the day.
Also, while I still love my to-do lists (I’m definitely a lists type of person), I no longer allow myself to see one long chunk of a list. I just keep the things I definitely need to get done visible and whenever something new crops up, I follow a rule I love. If it can be done in 2 minutes or less, I do it there and then. Otherwise depending on what it is, I plan to do it at a later stage or ask someone else to do it.
9. Constantly readjust things to see that your life is as much in line with your priorities as possible. I don’t think anyone really manages to live their life in line with their priorities at all times. But by constantly readjusting things and following the strategies above, I definitely do find more time for the things that matter most. I love the way Michael Hyatt describes it:
“Work-life balance isn’t a problem to solve but a tension to manage.”
What other strategies do you use to find more time for the things that matter most? Let me know in the comments below - I'd love to hear your thoughts.