How to make progress when you have zero time

I’ve been waking up at 4am regularly again.  This means that I don’t have enough time during the day and my mind wakes me up thinking of everything I need to get done. Our schedule is too packed, I’m too busy and I’ve noticed things are starting to pile up because I don’t have time to make the progress that I normally do.  I’m too busy, have zero time and it’s stressing me out.

I bet you’ve felt like this too – your schedule is full, your place is a mess and your stress level is rising.  I encourage you to take time to make necessary adjustments to continue making progress, even if you have zero time.  If you do this now, you’ll have a better chance of improving your schedule, your stress level and your sanity.

Remove things from your life.

When you look at your schedule, what do you see? I’ve got a packed work schedule and a packed free-time schedule. And it isn’t working for me.  I don’t have time to think if I’m running from one meeting to the next. It made me realize that I needed to start removing some things from my schedule, from my thoughts and from my life.  After taking a long look at what I’ve been doing, I started to make changes.  I’ve removed important, valuable things from my schedule.  Some of them weren’t easy to remove.  All of them were necessary to remove.  I could tell it made a difference as my stress level decreased with each removal.

I encourage you to look at your schedule right now.  How can you get others to help you? What can you remove? What adjustments can you make? The more you choose to focus on the most important things, the more you’ll start to realize how your schedule shouldn’t be filled up with the other things.

Be realistic with what you can accomplish.

You can’t be all things to all people – you end up making compromises that may not make sense for the original goal.  Think about what you can realistically accomplish and plan around this – even if it means you are slower, or you have to make adjustments, or you have to take a step back.  When you set realistic goals, you’re more likely to accomplish them without detriment to yourself.

My youngest son is in eye therapy right now.  We’d noticed a problem after he’d use his iPad each day.  The doctor recommended eight months of therapy and we’re finishing with his fourth month next week.  I’m ready to give up – not on his eyes, not on therapy, not on his exercises – but on the mental energy that is draining from my body just thinking of everything.  Our little guy is a trooper, he’s learned to do his exercises regularly to strengthen his eyes, he’s learned yoga, taken up rock climbing and has mastered the warp wall at our local Ninja Warrior Gym.

We know his eye health is important and want to do what’s best for our son.  What we’ve noticed is that as he’s more active, he’s using electronics less and his eyes are improving.  Many changes we’ve purposefully made as a family support his stronger eye health.  And so we’ve set up a meeting with the doctor to reassess the best next steps (which we think is eliminating his weekly appointments).  I trust the advice of trained professionals, but I also know we need to take a step back and do what is best for our kid and our family and my mental health – if the changes have worked, quarterly check-ups and limited iPad usage seem more realistic. (My life lesson here is be careful how much you let your kids use hand-held devices like iPads and tablets.  It’s not good for their eyes at all).

Do just a little bit each day.

Even if it seems too small, make a little progress each day.  It will add up significantly over time and that will make an impact overall.  I was speaking with a co-worker a few months ago and he told me that his goal was to accomplish 10 emails from his inbox each day.  It sounded so simple, I scoffed at him a little bit. Only 10? But his reasoning was sound, if I could get through 10 (lingering emails) each day, soon I’d make progress and eventually have a clean inbox.  He’d been using this strategy for a while and was regularly cleaning out his inbox.  I’d talked to him about it when I was drowning in 200+ emails and felt overwhelmed even knowing where to start. This conversation helped me put my inbox back into perspective.

Then a few days ago, I had a mega project to complete and I thought “I’ll just do 10 today, that seems reasonable.” And I realized the genius in his method.  If I just think about the 10 items I need to accomplish today, and think I can do that every day, the project will soon be done and I can move on to my next project and complete it 10 items at a time.

I encourage you to use this method.  Don’t think about the full project, instead, think about the 10 things you can get done today to get you closer to your goal.

Rearrange your schedule to make time to exercise and relax.

No matter how busy you are, you can’t go full steam all of the time and survive.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  In the past when I’ve done this, the results have never been good (I’ve gone to the point of collapse – two weeks in bed from being too tired sound ridiculous – but it’s a thing).  Now, I schedule time to exercise daily and regular time to relax.  And because I’ve got it in my calendar as an official, important appointment, I know I’ll show up and I know I have the time.

You are valuable and so is your time spent on yourself.  Figure out how to adjust your schedule to incorporate a regular workout into your schedule (I take walks with my baby in her carrier, just to get my daily steps accomplished) and set up times to do things you enjoy that will help you recharge.

I’m already starting to feel better since this weekend’s realization that we have zero time because we’d made ourselves too busy.  It took a few important and honest phone calls, some serious conversation and adjustments to our schedules – but I think we’re back on track to a (still busy) realistic schedule that will benefit our family and my sanity.

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