The one thing we all wish we had more of. It often seems like our time only decreases as we get older. When our husband has cancer, there is even more on our plate… more tasks and responsibilities demanding our time and attention.
Our first response is just to add more to our list. Just do more. Seems so simple.
It can work for a while, until you get so exhausted you can’t get out of bed.
My approach to time management during periods when my husband wasn’t able to do the things he normally did in our home was to simply add them to my list. I just tried to do more. This did work, until I got so exhausted I started to get angry and resentful. I started to feel stuck. I felt powerless. What options did I have? Everything was important and needed to get done.
The Cost Of Doing More
The problem with simply trying to do more is that there is a cost. The cost is usually our own health and mental sanity. We can make it work by just pushing forward. But there will come a point at which we simply run out of fuel. By that time we are also so bitter and angry with all this extra responsibility thrust on our shoulders, all we see is how stuck we are. We can’t see that we have any other choice. Our whole focus becomes on much we have to do and how little time there is to do it.
The way the mind works, what we focus on we get more of, so lack of time becomes our only reality.
What Is Time?
Time is an idea. That’s it. We use it to mark the progression of events. It is our most valuable asset because it’s the one thing we can’t actually get more of.
Time is also egalitarian. It treats us the same in that we all get the same amount each day. Young or old, rich or poor, we all get the same amount of time. (Except of course when our time runs out.)
Why It’s Valuable To Us
Ask yourself why time is so valuable.
The answer I get when I ask myself this question is because of what I can do with it.
We all want more time because of how we want to spend it.
The crazy thing is, a lot of us aren’t even deliberate about how we spend the time we do have.
How We Spend It
When it comes to how we spend our time, there are things we can do to waste it and other things we can do to “make” more time.
A lot of us are wasting our precious time without even realizing it. When we just operate off of our default thinking and aren’t conscious and managing our thoughts and processing our emotions, we will end up wasting a lot of time.
Here is a list of time wasters. Some may surprise you, but all of these actions use our time, distract us, and burn up energy.
- Worry: Worry is indulging in negative emotions with no useful outcome. It pretends to be necessary, but really is just a distraction. It burns up our time and mental energy with nothing to show for it.
- Indecision: By putting off a decision and being confused, or spending time in endless research, we don’t progress. We aren’t taking any action, so we are not getting any more information that could help us with our decision. Indecision burns up time and energy and keeps us stuck.
- Arguing with reality: When we spend time arguing with reality or wanting things to be different it costs us time. When we are constantly thinking things like “this shouldn’t be happening,” it keeps us distracted and focused on the part of life we have no control over. This wastes our time and energy.
- Distractions: Playing with our phones, unplanned TV watching, eating out of boredom or nerves, drinking too much, or doing easy tasks (like cleaning) to avoid other harder tasks. All these distractions take up and waste our time.
- Avoiding emotions: When we avoid our emotions and let them fester, they don’t go away. Instead they lurk in the background, keep us distracted, or wake us up at nite so that we don’t get enough sleep. They take our time by wearing us down emotionally and physically.
- Overwhelm: When we spend time thinking about what we have to do, but not actually doing it this wears us out. Our mind doesn’t know the difference so thinking about things is just as tiring as actually doing them! Indulging in overwhelm tires us out, but doesn’t actually produce anything.
- Keeping things in our head: Our mind is not a good storage device, so when we try to keep our “to dos” in our head, our mind will keep these tasks on a constant loop so we don’t forget them. This will be a constant distraction for you until you get your list out of your head and onto paper or in a calendar.
How we think determines how we make use of our time. When we think on default and go off of the thoughts our brain offers up, we will end up wasting our time. When we can be deliberate in our thinking, we will be able to make much better use of our time.
On the other hand, there are some actions that make use of our time, or make our time more efficient and effective.
- Planning: The easiest, yet most often overlooked activity that will make you time. Simply taking the time to plan your day or write down your most important tasks will order your mind and create time in your day. Instead of deciding what you need to do from hour to hour, you just need to follow your plan and execute. This not only saves time, but frees up your energy as well.
- Making decisions and sticking to them: When you make decisions and commit to them, you keep yourself moving forward.
- Constraining: This is a huge one, but something most of us resist doing. Constraining means focusing on just the most important tasks. This will mean taking things off your list, or pushing certain things till later. You will have to decide what is most important and then be willing to let the other things go.
- Saying “no”: Learning to say no is a skill, especially if you are a people pleaser. You can’t do everything. Sometimes people may be disappointed. That is OK. Let them be. Before saying yes to anything, decide if you truly have the desire and the time, otherwise, say no.
- Honoring ourselves: When we honor our commitments to ourselves, as opposed constantly adjusting our schedule to meet others needs, we will actually save time. This is a skill and can be difficult at first. It may mean the kids have to wait while you take a walk. However, when you become practiced at honoring yourself, you can accomplish so much more!
- Focusing: With all our distractions, it is even more difficult to focus. However, focusing on one thing at a time is the quickest way to get things done. Multitasking is not efficient.
- Processing emotions: We often think we don’t have time to be upset, or down… there is just too much to do. In reality, emotions will wait for us, and usually crop back up at the worst time if we don’t take time to feel and process them. The quickest way around an emotion is through it.
Food For Thought
I just want to plant some seeds here to help you think about where you may be wasting time without even realizing it. Time is always precious. When we are stressed and worried about all we have to do, we won’t be available for that opportunity to connect with our husband or our kids. We will miss the beauty of the present moment.
I want you to take just one action today to become more deliberate in how you spend your time. Choose just one thing from the list of “time makers” and implement it today. Commit to it and see the difference it makes.
Are you suffering from overwhelm and indecision and don’t know how to get out of it? Are you constantly worried and distracted? Are you avoiding your emotions?
I can help! Join my Resiliency Coaching Program designed just for caregivers like you.