“When am I going to get all this done?”
That is a question I ask regularly. As I reminder to myself, I offer these seven tips for reducing stress when I’m looking for more hours in the day.
MAKE A PLAN
When it comes to a time-crunch, many of us just want to jump in and get stuff done. But taking a few minutes to develop a time-management plan provides focus and relieves stress. The following steps exemplify why a few minutes of planning are a good idea. So start with making a to-do list and assign a time for when you plan on doing the work to complete your tasks.
START WITH REST
This sounds really counter-productive. But planning a time for rest before you plan out the busy tasks prioritizes your self-care and helps to keep perspective. Rest is not counter-productive. I coached a running team for years, and one oft-repeated phrase in the coaching community is “your rest days are just as important as your workout days.” Without rest, you cheat production. So work from a place of refreshment instead of weariness.
The Bible makes a pretty big deal over rest (“Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”). This is not just a random commandment placed before humanity for blind obedience. There is a necessity to rest. Rest keeps us in proper perspective as we remember that it is not always our own toiling that provides.
USE ONE CALENDAR
When making your plans, see if you can’t keep all you appointments and to-dos on one calendar. This can be challenging for those of us balancing work-related calendars, family calendars, and personal calendars. But, once again, investing in a little prep to set up a single calendar in advance will save stress in the moments of trying to assess your availability while flipping through separate calendars.
EAT YOUR VEGGIES FIRST
You’re going to plan your rest first. Then, when taking action, look to complete your least favorite tasks before the less daunting tasks. This acts as a means for undercutting procrastination and, again, reducing stress. Rather than spending time stressing over the actions you prefer not to take, get them out of the way and enjoy the sweeter stuff.
It’s tempting to put our nose down and get things done, isn’t it?
Leviticus, for Christians, is no longer an oft-referenced book of the Bible. The book is full of rules and guidelines, covering everything from how to worship to how to prepare food to how to *relate* to your spouse. In its comprehensiveness, Leviticus suggests that many tasks provide a means for holiness — they can be spiritual practices. The book calls adherents to not overlook the significance of what we do.
As you work through tasks, shift your focus from “gettin’ it done” to the benefits and effects of this particular task. Is it homework you’re working on? Ask how this bit of learning is affecting your view of the world. Are you tasked with some kitchen cleaning: How does kitchen cleanliness benefit your household? How will it make your housemates feel to have a clean kitchen? Is this an expression of your care for others? Practicing this kind of mindfulness reminds us of the importance of what we’re doing… and may offer some perspective on our relationships with others.
LOOK FOR CONSISTENCY
Can you get rhythmic about what you do? Are certain tasks best accomplished at certain times in the week? Routine need not be tedium. Rather, routine adds consistency and predictability. We tend to get stressed wondering about when we’ll be able to get our to-do list items done. Consistency in schedule helps to define a time and place for us to complete our tasks.
MINIMIZE THE BACKGROUND NOISE
Try this exercise: begin making a list of street names. Five seconds later, begin making a list of famous actors. Switch back and forth every five seconds. You’ll be frustrated quickly.
Divided attention produces stress. Cut down on the things that pull you away from the task at hand. We can be tempted to run the TV as a mask for the unpleasantness of a household chore, but it may only be adding to the stress of getting the task done as we find our attention constantly shifting back and forth — neither completely on the task nor on the TV. Perhaps then it is time to cut the TV off and let attention settle in on one thing at a time.
For more ideas on how to keep the stress-level low and practice mindfulness, check out our Personal Development section.
Ryan Dunn is the author. Ryan is the Minister of Online Engagement for RethinkChurch.org. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN.
[Posted August 22, 2018]