Calming the Stress From a Busy Schedule

I used to wear my busy schedule like a badge of honor.

Maybe a small part of me thought of it as a reflection of how important I was.

The stress created from poor time management was palpable at times.

There are many demands for our time. Work, family, friendships, chores, and volunteering are just some examples of the commitments we make.

I’ve studied time management skills and strategies for a very long time. I teach them to my clients.

Yet I struggled with being on time; those skills seemed elusive to me. I understood the strategies logically, but application was another story.

I never meant to disrespect others or to act like my time was more valuable than anyone else’s. In fact, I was ashamed of this bad habit that I couldn’t seem to break.

Part of the problem existed around my expectations of myself: they were unrealistic. I tried to fit too much into the time I had available to me.

I wasn’t planning and prioritizing correctly.

I went through my to-do list like my grocery list—without rhyme or reason to it—and that to-do list was always long.

All of us get the same 24 hours in a day. I thought others were so much more successful with their time. I wanted to feel less stressed. I wanted to figure this out.

I began making decisions with my priorities in mind. I’d ask myself, “What’s the most important thing today?” and “What’s next?” If I felt overwhelmed or stuck, I would just focus on the next right step.

Learning how to be intentional with my mindset was also key. I quit telling myself that I sucked with time. I stopped letting that story determine my future. Instead, I started to practice encouraging self-talk.

In case you didn’t get that: our past does not determine our ability to do something different in our future.

When I make a mistake, I feel disappointment but focus on figuring out what to do differently the next time.

Distractions are my enemy.

Good boundaries protect and reinforce what is most important. Being rigid isn’t necessarily the solution; just pausing to think back on my priorities is helpful.

Protecting my time sometimes means saying no to others. It also means saying no to the distractions around me.

When you know your priorities, you also know what doesn’t need your attention.

The struggle is real when we think that we don’t control our schedule or own our time. Bosses, coworkers, family members, and friends demand our time, but we are still responsible for deciding what we are going to do or not do.

Rethinking wastes time. When I organize my schedule and make decisions with my priorities in mind, I don’t spend time rethinking my plan.

I am working on keeping my word to myself—I do what I say I’m going to do. This is valuable in all areas of my life. It builds self-confidence.

Being kind to myself when scheduling my time is incredibly valuable too. I ask questions such as: What will my future self think of this schedule? Will she thank me? Will she be stressed? Is there enough balance of work, play, and rest?

Time management is one of the top challenges my clients bring to me. I help them take ownership of their schedule so they feel in charge and experience less stress.

This is not a complete list of the thought and behavior changes that support me. Decreasing stress around time is a work in progress, and I anticipate it will continue through the rest of my life.