How many directions are you being pulled in?
If I asked you, “Hey, how are you? Haven’t seen you in ages!” Your answer would probably be:
“Oh you know, busy busy!”
“So many things going on right now…”
“Well it’s soccer season, sooooo!”
Meanwhile, we compare our lives to the neighbor, the class mom, the lady in the cubicle across the way. How do ‘they’ get a 5 mile run in before work, have straight A students, run the HOA and keep a perfectly organized home while making cookies for the Brownie troupe and looking flawless on instagram?
If we could just fit more into a day, find the right supplement to give us more energy, use the right house cleaning method or make the kids listen better, it would all be ok.
So you do all the things, buy all the things, take all stuff. Work harder, push more, sleep less. Drink more coffee, take breaks by scrolling insta (which then makes you feel more behind, less capable, less efficient), at the end of an exhausting day open that bottle of wine / binge worthy netflix series / box of cookies to feel better. You’ve bought into the lie, and you are wearing the very expensive “Busy Button”.
My friend, it’s all smoke and mirrors. Worse, I hate to tell you social media, television and that bottle of wine are not helping you. Let me explain.
How did this happen?
Have you ever thought of a woman’s life now versus 100 years ago, and asked why we are so stressed? Women used to have to cook nearly all day long. By the time breakfast was over, it was time to make lunch and think about dinner. On average the family size was larger, so there were more mouths to feed. When they weren’t cooking, they were cleaning up after cooking, or washing clothes or finding a way to make the resources for the family last. Freezers were not in the home, and refrigeration was still not in every house. This means shopping daily also. Each sock was scrubbed by hand. Cars, if you had one, were used by the man. It was hard work and long days. Yet now, we have all the appliances, our own car, and all the convenience food we could want and we are still stressed? Why are we so busy?
Our expectations of ourselves have changed. I’m sure you expect running water, and working toilets in your house, something not everyone had 100 yrs ago. We also expect a level of ease in our lives, which appliances give, yet instead of transferring that extra time into ease and happiness, we create ever higher expectations.
In the 60’s, while the women’s liberation movement was starting to take hold and give women the opportunities we have today, it caused a problem for the women’s magazine market. Sales were going down as women were looking outside the home and traditional roles, and the magazines had to do something. The very effective answer they discovered was to start creating unrealistic expectations for women in the form of articles and quizzes to create problems no one ever thought about. Fashion models became something most women could never emulate. Then they could sell the products to achieve this unrealistic ideal. One of the most famous fashion models from the 60’s is Twiggy. She was the beginning of a craze for smaller and smaller models to be considered the ideal female body. Fashion was geared to young, curveless bodies, and more and more products to support the new ideal of women to be something other than they had always been.
Things have evolved. Fast forward now, we still have the waist trainers, contoured makeup, shapewear, instagram filters and photoshop. Meanwhile, you are expected to have an education, a career, a healthy relationship and thriving children living, in a Pinterest worthy house, while documenting it all on Instagram, and running your side hustle on Etsy. We traded one form of control for another. Now these expectations are running our lives. Because these are unrealistic expectations on anyone, we turn to things like wine, checking out by binging TV, or scroll for hours on social media just to take a break. Unfortunately none of those things add something positive or productive to our lives when done on a regular basis. The price we’re paying now is our health, mental and physical.
How to burn the “Busy Button” and take control of your life
Everyone has the same 24 hours a day. How we use those hours is completely up to you. Unfortunately, because we were never taught how to prioritize and make sound decisions around one of our most precious assets (time), we are wasting it, giving it away, and wishing we had more. So what can we do to pull our time back? Here’s the step by step.
First and most important is to sit down to do the next steps. Make the time. It’s a priority. If you had dollar bills falling out of a hole in your purse, blowing in the wind as you walked down the street, you would stop to fix it. You are leaking time everywhere you go. Let’s fix that too.
1. What is really most important to you?
Be honest. Is it making money? Career? Getting healthy? Raising good kids? Your marriage? Write it all down. Brain-dump it all on a piece of paper. Then number it in order of importance. Now look at the list. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself:
“Is this my priority list or someone else’s?”
If it’s yours, great! If it’s not, renumber, and renumber and renumber until it feels good.
It’s ok, no one is going to see this but you. Be honest. Is making more money more important than the kids right now? Maybe it is. Should getting some weight off, and being healthier so you can do all the other things, really the priority? Whatever your answers, be true to yourself, and know this is the beginning of being in control of your own life. No one cares about your life as much as you do. Time to act like it.
2. Start planning a new week.
Whatever the day of the week it is, start planning the next week, starting on Monday.
First put in the non-negotiables. So if you work 9-5, block that out, including plenty of travel time. Have one off things like a Dr’s appointment? Put it in. Now block out sleeping time. The highest productivity people get at least 7-8 hours sleep. Block it out, and some winding down time. For me, I can’t sleep for at least a half hour after laying down, so that is included in my sleeping time.
Now here’s the hard part. 10% of your day needs to be for you. That’s 2.4 hours. Why 10%? It’s part of a tithing principle that many successful people use to improve their lives in various arenas. I round that up to 2.5 hours because I like the idea of abundance in everything.
2.5 hours may look like meditation, taking a walk alone, doing some skin care, taking a bath with yummy oils, a massage once in a while, lunch with a friend or a quiet coffee by yourself on the porch. It doesn’t have to be all at one time, in fact, if it’s spread out through the day, it’s better. It must be every day. Weekly and monthly breaks need to happen too, but that’s the expert level once you’ve mastered the daily challenge.
Block out that time. It won’t happen if it’s not on the schedule. Then celebrate yourself every time you do it.
Next, what’s priority number 1? If it hasn’t already been scheduled, don’t be surprised. Most people don’t have a balanced life. Work / life balance is a myth.
Say it outloud. Let it sink in.
It’s a lie to keep you in the Busy Button Club. Plug in the next priorities, and see what time you have left. Make sure you allow for travel times and preparation times. I need 10 min to get myself in the car, 20 min if it involves other people. When we pad our time with preparation and travel time, we feel less stressed, and we have that extra few minutes to stop and get a drink, or gas, or take away.
If you got through your priority list, filled out your schedule and still have time left, Congratulations! If you are like most women, you have no more time, and more on the list than what can be done. This is why we always feel ‘busy’. We are trying to shove too many things into too little time, and never feeling accomplished or finished with anything. Not only is this bad for our own mental health, it can lead to long term high cortisol levels in our bodies. Long term high cortisol levels lead to all kinds of problems including heart disease, resistant belly fat, and is linked to fibromyalgia and autoimmune disease.
3. So what about all the things not on the schedule?
Time to start acting like a high powered CEO. After all, you probably are the CEO of the family. What do CEO’s do?
- Delegate – Be ruthless. If you don’t absolutely have to be there in person for the event, or if someone else could do it, who else could take over?
- Online shopping, pay someone for food prep, get someone once a week to do the cleaning, laundry, and rideshare kid’s activities.
- Simplify – Create processes. The most successful people have processes for just about everything they do. What’s your process for the morning? How can it be more effective? Create a process to get everyone out the door. Where are the keys, the bags, is the dog water full? Make it a step by step process. Maybe even a checklist for everyone. Prep bags for sports activities the day before so no one is looking for clean socks at the last minute. Create evening rituals. Dinner, clean up kitchen, baths, brush teeth, 5 min tidy up, reading and free time. Do it the same way every night, and kids will respond surprisingly well to bed time. Less structure at night, leads to more chaos, less peace and more busy.
- Cut it out – Be a quitter. Quit everything that doesn’t fill your priority list, or make you happy. This can dovetail back to delegating, or look like quitting that book group you hate but feel obligated to attend. I stopped being on all committees or counsels, and I no longer accept social engagements unless I really want to. If you are doing something because you don’t want someone else to feel let down, or feel obligated, that’s a big red flag. Worry more about your own health, life and priorities than what anyone else thinks. Trust me, they are not sacrificing their lives for you, why are you giving up your best time to make someone else happy?
After you’ve delegated, created processes and cut out the excess, there should be some free time. If there isn’t, go back and make another pass at it.
The quick and dirty of it all is this:
- Your value is not measured by how busy you are, but WHO you are.
- Stop caring what other people think. Most people are too busy worrying about themselves to think about you anyway.
- Make the first things first in everything, everyday and in every way. What is more important than the most important things?
- The time to learn all this is yesterday. Since yesterday is gone, better do it today.
Now that you have more time, what have you always dreamed of doing? Maybe it’s just taking an afternoon siesta everyday to recharge. Maybe now you can write that book, do that craft project or just stare out into the backyard and appreciate how far you’ve come.
About the author:
Brooke O’Connor is a seasoned coach who helps people organize their brains and overcome whatever it takes to get results they never knew how to get before. She trained with Tony Robbins, is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and PGI Consultant for Bob Proctor. She’s studied shamanic healing, as well as many more modalities and is an avid student of mind / body medicine. She has worked in 7 countries, 3 continents, and 2 languages. She’s currently back home in the United States to focus on women’s health, specifically a topic close to her heart, which is overcoming fibromyalgia and chronic pain. She is developing a program specifically for women and fibromyalgia which will be launching summer 2021.