Take the Crazy Out of Busy: How to Live a Balanced Life
Doing It All
If you typically eat a rushed lunch over your keyboard because you're too swamped to take a break, or you check e-mail on your phone when you're talking to a loved one, you're doing yourself more harm than good. While you may think you're an expert multitasker, being pulled in too many directions can take a toll on your health. Busyness is a top excuse for skipping workouts. And when you're constantly frazzled with so much to do, your sleep, sex life, and mood suffer. But if you streamline and prioritize your schedule, it's possible to work and work out, get everything done and carve out downtime. Start now.Reevaluate your busyness.
Be honest: Are you truly busy, or does constantly being on the go help you define yourself? "You have a sense of purpose when you're busy," says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Chicago and the author of A Happy You. "Having a lot on your plate makes you feel significant and important." If you have things in your life that aren't going well -- maybe your job is no longer challenging or your relationship is on its last legs -- but your to-do list is always calling your name, you don't have to slow down and focus on the fact that some bigger issue may need addressing.
What's more, even though a frenzied state might feel productive, it's not. "Research shows that when you're stressed out, you focus intensely on problems and obstacles instead of solutions," says Jill Farmer, a life coach and the author of There's Not Enough Time... and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves. "We have difficulty prioritizing; every task feels as important as the next one, which isn't usually the case." Physically, your body is producing the stress hormone cortisol, and while a little cortisol can provide the jolt you need to get you going on a project, a nonstop flow will leave you exhausted and frazzled.
Track what you do every hour for a week, advises Laura Vanderkam, the author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. While that might sound somewhat excessive, the trends you'll see over the course of seven days will give you an accurate picture of where your 168 weekly hours go. "I've had hundreds of people keep track of how they spend time, and every one of them had some space to repurpose if they wished," Vanderkam says. An app like aTimeLogger (free, iTunes) makes it easy to keep a tally.
While portions of your day are most likely filled with the demands of your family, your boss, or a leaky faucet, the reality is you have more control than you think you do. "We actually have quite a bit of choice about how we spend our time, but we often don't look at it that way," Vanderkam says. She suggests that you come at your obligations from a different direction: Instead of feeling as though your tasks control you, realize that you make decisions about how to spend each 24 hours and that your choices reflect your priorities.
If you find yourself missing workouts repeatedly or you haven't been to the doctor for an annual checkup in years, say out loud, "My health is not a priority," and see how that feels. Chances are, it probably doesn't feel great. (No worries, keep reading.)
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