Life in the Fast Lane
My plate is full. I often want to stop this merry-go-round and get off. But that’s not going to happen. I know I am no different than most of us. I ask myself sometimes what happened to the four-day work week and all the leisure promised us when the electronic age popped up in the 1950s and 1960s. And my answer usually is,” those robot helpers took over my life.” The only solution I have lies in finding a way to manage my time, my life, and my disposition.
Here are some of my solutions. Maybe some of them can help you manage yours.
There are two main areas: (1) a plan and (2) balance. Don’t try to make all the changes at once. Try the one most important to you first. I’ve been working on the aspect of balance most of my life, and everything is rooted in balance. Thus, I have focused on these two main areas and the seven vital areas of live.
1. A Plan: I begin my day with a plan. It used to wander through my day doing things as they hit me in the face. Now, I need to track things, make a list, check it off, follow up, and watch the deadlines. Without a daily plan, I tend to be at the beck and call of the loudest voice or the closest thing at hand. And there are too many things at hand.
For example, my house’s value assessment has gone up. The new value will cost me $1,000 more in taxes. Wow, Priority! How long do I have to contest the increase? What do I need? The Realtor doesn’t call me back. ISSUES LIKE THESE NEED TO GO (1) ON TOP OF MY TO DO LIST, (2) IN MY APPOINTMENT BOOK, AND (3) RESCHEDULED IN BOTH LOCATIONS WHEN SOMEONE DOESN’T GET BACK TO ME.
So, the first task is an appointment book on my phone or a hard copy I can take with me. Everything must go in it. I even make my TO DO LIST in it. And highlight or check items off when completed. Otherwise, I can work my way through a day and find I’ve accomplished little. That IS discouraging.
2. Getting my life in balance is important. I have learned that if any of the seven vital areas of my life are out of balance, I eventually suffer. Those areas are health, family, financial, intellectual, social, professional, and spiritual. These areas are intertwined. For example, if our finances are out of balance, we are more prone to stress, to argue with family members over money, and to be unable to focus on the other areas. If I don’t take time for my health, all the areas can be endangered. It is important to look at each one separately to see what can be improved upon.
Sleep. Studies show 75% of us complain about feeling tired on a regular basis. People may have enough hours of sleep, but the quality is poor. Their days are stress-filled. They feel out of control, may be working harder but not smarter, and cannot turn off their minds at bedtime. If you plan your day, then work your plan, you have a higher sense of accomplishment and experience less stress. Less stress equals a more restful night’s sleep.
Exercise. Get some exercise, preferably out in nature. There is a benefit to being with nature, even your own back yard. If you are fortunate to live in an area where you can hear the wind blow the trees and the birds singing, see a wild animal or a neighbor’s herd of horses run in that wind, you are even more blessed and relaxed. If not, certainly take to the gym or your stationary bike. Move the muscles if you have a sedimentary job. Park your car at the back of the parking lot instead of the front and walk those few steps further. Take time to stand and stretch at your desk, turn your head each way, shrug your shoulders. Move that body any way you can. Let it know you are alive.
Diet. Watch your food intake. Gluten and sugar are as addicting as drugs. And they are the two food areas that put on the big belly which can shorten your life. You don’t have to diet to lose weight. Instead, you must watch more carefully what you eat. Currently there are all kinds of comprehensive informational programs created by excellent physicians and dietitians. Watch the TED videos on diets. Broken Brain 2 is an excellent program delving into mind-body import of what we eat. The Four Winds has a program on detoxing and food intake without the use of diet pills or harmful products.
Science has determined that what we eat affects our mental abilities such as focus, memory, learning ability, and more. Check out this website: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/worst-foods-for-your-brain#section7. And the bottom line on food is to eat organic, non-processed foods as much as possible. Yes, it consumes time to prepare food this way, so consider one day of cooking and freezing food for easy eating during the week. Find simple meals to prepare or invite a friend to join you in making her own week’s supply of good eating.
General Health. Have an annual checkup. Find out if your blood levels are good or if you need assistance for your thyroid, cholesterol, or something else. Arrange to have a medical directive created if you don’t have one.
We need to have time for those we love. It doesn’t matter if your family is humans or a couple of pets. To find that time may require behavioral changes. Then take that time you free up and do some things that both you and your loved ones enjoy. A special time is needed in relationships. No one likes to be taken for granted. You may have to make behavioral changes.
Learn to delegate. So what if the ironing isn’t as perfect as you could do? If the wearer doesn’t like the job done, they can correct it. In fact, I am trying to buy no-iron items and get to the dryer quicker to rescue my clothes before they crumple into wrinkles. So, what if the job must be corrected? It usually takes less time to make the corrections than to do the whole job. The added bonus is that it is easier to see someone else’s mistakes than your own. Just remember to say “please” and “thank you” and to compliment people on a job well-done.
Use dead time productively. We all understand the wait times at the doctor’s office and similar holding times. Take a book you want to read, write a personal letter, or complete some other task. I have a friend who crochets during informal meetings and wait times.
Learn to say “NO.” This is a hard one for me when it involves a family request, but they are as important to refuse as those social and business requests. Don’t take on every responsibility, task, or duty requested. You may have to explain the “No” with a comment about your current task load or the fact that someone else is equally qualified to do the job.
Simplify your life. Arrange errands around an essential trip out. Buy and address birthday cards and other greetings at the first of each month. Keep them in a visible spot and cover the mailing date you place in the upper right corner with their stamp (or if it goes on a gift) with a pretty little sticker. Have a centralized spot for outgoing mail and another for mail to be handled when convenient. I keep a small white board on the hidden side of my refrigerator where I can list items that need replacement. I transfer this to a shopping list when I have other errands needing attention, i.e. bank, hairdresser, a doctor’s appointment, etc. It is the trips to the store, finding a parking spot, waiting in checkout lines that take time.
Organize your home and your home files so you can find things. I just cleaned off my bookshelves and rearranged my books according to subject. I had been hunting for a specific book and couldn’t find it. The reorganization cleared up that issue, and I also discovered books I hadn’t read or didn’t know I owned. (Yes, I am a bookaholic!) This suggestion works for any collection you might have. Know what is in it, what you want to keep, and get rid of the rest to Goodwill, a neighbor, or your trash.
I packed away projects I knew weren’t going to be tackled this year where I didn’t see them. Less clutter, less stress. I marked the boxes in the garage as to what their contents were and grouped them as much as possible into categories that made sense to me. I eliminated years of accumulation of papers – old teaching files went in the recycling bin, tax and investment files over eight years of age were shredded. Not having to look at these things freed my mind up and helped my disposition.
If there is debt, eliminate it as quickly as possible. I’m not talking mortgage payments, the five-year no interest car financing, or the school loans. I’m talking the credit card debt and overspending. I worked as an accredited financial counselor for decades, and I know people can get out of debt. But it takes commitment and family cooperation.
Not all debt comes from conscious buying. Do you know your money personality? There are many reasons people are in debt. Some shop for stress relief. Others buy because they don’t know how much money is already committed to payments. A few believe that the more and better material goods they own make them more important, more wonderful, more whatever. And there are those in debt due to loss of income or medical issues that eat up their cash. Knowing the underlying causes of our overspending helps shrink future spending.
Complicating the above issues, many marriages have one partner who is a spender and the other is a saver. The two sides need to meet on common ground, which isn’t always easy. Talking about money isn’t always easy. But it begins with understanding money and, in particular, your money. Every family unit is different.
Make a date with your partner to talk about money. Begin with making a chart of where your money goes and then create a budget for future use. This is a time-consuming task, but one well worth the effort.
Teach your children about money. Many good ideas on money management and retirement planning are on the market, and much information on these subjects can be found online. Money is a large stressor in people’s lives. Reducing and eliminating debt goes a big way in improving dispositions.
Intellectual growth in connection with our professional jobs is only one aspect of this category. Inquisitiveness and learning remain valid as long as we live. It enhances our lives. It has been proven that an active mind is one of the best ways for seniors to stay healthy and live longer. I may not want to tackle learning a new language unless I am going to visit the country or move there. But there are things that still tempt me to gain more knowledge in: quantum physics, watercolor painting, reading a good biography, or learning how to play Sudoku. Pick something you enjoy and learn more about it. You never know what doors will open in your explorations.
Humans are social animals. We have groups we enjoy. Casual get-togethers introduce us to new people and open new vistas: a night out seeing a local play with friends, a weekly card game, a baseball night with a group that follows your favorite team, who we mix with on baseball night, or a writer’s group to focus on increasing skills and knowledge. We often find someone special in our social group who becomes a friend.
Friends exist in our social life at a different level than acquaintances. Friends are people we can speak our hearts to; people who will honestly listen and reply. Just telling the story our life as it is presently playing out helps us to understand ourselves better, and a good friend’s input can be valuable.
Most of us have a large circle of acquaintances, but our group of friends will be smaller. Choose your friends wisely. Everyone has energy and you can feel a person’s energy. For example, if a person drags you down with stories of victimhood or is manipulative, those ties will only add to your discontent and stress. Letting these types of people slip away into the acquaintance group is wise.
The Messy Desk Syndrome. Studies show a person who works with a messy desk, spends on the average 1.5 hours a day looking for things or being distracted by them. That is 7.5 hours a week. Out of sight, out of mind; in sight, in mind. Put it on your “To Do” list and put it out of sight.
Take a lunch break. Working longer does not always mean working harder or smarter. While you can work though lunch and be productive, you may not be as productive as you think. After working for several hours, we start to “dull out.” IF you take a break and charge your batteries, you are more likely to tackle the difficult tasks, which in the long run, make a positive difference in personal productivity.
Interruptions -- Phone calls, text messages, people, etc.
Solution: Block out time marked “Not to be interrupted.” Tell people who nevertheless appear that you will have to catch them later, that you are working with a deadline or similar explanation. Of course, there are times when you will allow the interruption as a necessity.
Do not check your phone or text messages constantly. Twice a day for each is enough. Just be sure to check them at least an hour before quitting time in case there is something that should be done immediately.
Take the time to get the training you need. Learning to do a task the best way possible ultimately speeds up the time it takes to do that job.
Procrastination: We tend to put off things we perceive as difficult. We often don’t feel confident or in control of the material. However, I find if I start anywhere with a “difficult” task I can build momentum to finish it. Some people may not have as great a success with this suggestion because they are linear, and their natural inclination is to begin at the beginning and take on step by step through the process. Still, I suggest everyone try it. Once the nitty gritty core of the material is written down, the lead in and conclusion come easily.
Another thing which helps me is to make bite-size pieces of the project. Then I prioritize them and include each small step on my “To Do” list. Crossing them off allows me to feel in charge. Here you use what psychologists refer to as a “visual clue” of your achievement. It acts a reward for doing that next step, thus incites you to achieve it.
Procrastination can become an ingrained habit, and we even procrastinate in things that are not difficult, just not liked. One technique for this type of procrastinating is to offer yourself something you love while you do the unloved chore. You might watch a favorite TV show while ironing or listen to an audio book when exercising.
To eliminate some types of procrastination, like daily exercise, a calendar can help. Place it conspicuously and mark an X when you exercise. Watching the line of exercise Xs grow entices you to keep exercising. The idea is simply not to break the chain, and you will create a new habit – a beneficial one
This aspect gives meaning to life. And it adds a new dimension. If we live only in the physical world, we will never have enough. The physical world leads to fears, while the spiritual leads to faith, miracles, and renewal. We need to believe in something bigger than ourselves to find happiness.
And we cannot believe without experiencing it. So be open to synchronicities. Learn to be grateful for the gifts you have. Find quiet time. Try meditation. Read of other’s experiences in the spiritual realm. Remember your dreams and learn how to find their meanings. And never forget that nature is a great place for renewal.
Even applying a few of the suggestions above may make the merry-go-round move a bit slower and free up time for relaxation and enjoyment.