What to do when you have lots to do

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR HEALTH -

Q: I’m about to move coun­tries, change jobs and sell my house buy in­stead of be­ing mo­ti­vated, I just feel over­whelmed. I feel like time is against me. I know this is im­pact­ing my­health. Any help ap­pre­ci­ated! – So­nia.

A: So­nia, I un­der­stand. A friend of mine did this re­cently, too.

Would you feel less stressed and more productive if you could rip up your to-do list and work from your cal­en­dar in­stead? When you ex­plore time­m­an­age­ment re­search, one con­sis­tent theme keeps com­ing up: highly productive peo­ple do not work from a to-do list.

When you have a bot­tom­less num­ber of tasks to get through in a day and/or you have other peo­ple re­ly­ing on you, the only way the ul­tra-busy can pull it all off is to keep a pri­ori­tised sched­ule that, for some of them, is al­most minute-by-minute. The bot­tom line, when peo­ple were asked to re­veal their se­cret for get­ting so much done in each day: if it doesn’t get sched­uled, it doesn’t get done.

If you feel that your big­gest health and en­ergy zap­per is a con­stant case of feel­ing that there are not enough hours in the day, try these sug­ges­tions:

Don’t let your cal­en­dar fill up ran­domly by ac­cept­ing ev­ery re­quest that comes your way, in­stead try time-block­ing the most im­por­tant things in your life first. Get clear on your per­sonal and work pri­or­i­ties and pre-sched­ule time-blocks for these items. That might in­clude two hours each morn­ing to work on the strate­gic plan your boss asked you for, or 20 min­utes of time for med­i­ta­tion ev­ery morn­ing. Mark your cal­en­dar to in­clude time-blocks for things like ex­er­cise, a date night or other items that align with your core life val­ues.

Most sys­tems au­to­mat­i­cally sched­ule new events for 30 or 60 min­utes’ du­ra­tion. Highly productive peo­ple only spend as much time as is nec­es­sary for each task. Make the de­fault event du­ra­tion in your cal­en­dar 15 min­utes. Sim­ply by chang­ing your de­fault set­ting, you will au­to­mat­i­cally dis­cover that you can fit more tasks into each day.

Time-man­age­ment prin­ci­ples sug­gest that you sched­ule ev­ery­thing. In­stead of check­ing emails ev­ery few min­utes, sched­ule two to three times a day to do this. In­stead of writ­ing ‘‘call Sarah’’ on your to-do list, put it on your cal­en­dar or es­tab­lish a re­cur­ring time-block each af­ter­noon to ‘‘re­turn phone calls’’. Re­mem­ber that we make time for what­ever we pri­ori­tise and value. What is sched­uled ac­tu­ally gets done.

Con­sider util­is­ing this as a health-en­hanc­ing, en­ergy-cre­at­ing re­source in your life and no­tice the spa­cious­ness it can cre­ate for you to spend time with peo­ple and ac­tiv­i­ties you cur­rently wish you ex­pe­ri­enced more. I wish you well in this next chap­ter of your life!

Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for di­rect, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional.

Mark out a time block for things like med­i­ta­tion and ex­er­cise.

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