One of the common themes I see in working with clients–particularly those trying to become more stress resilient–is that they suffer from something I’ll call “schedule congestion.” Do you suffer from schedule congestion? Besides feeling generally stressed or overwhelmed, here are 5 ways to know:
- You move from one appointment / obligation / meeting to another, without space between them (perhaps only that for travel).
- Your evenings are as booked as your days (sometimes expressed as “I’m never home”).
- You “do” all the way up until it’s time to go to sleep.
- You’re frequently responding to interruptions, “fire drills”, and/or “emergencies.”
- You view taking care of yourself (e.g. eating, sleeping) as “a waste of time.”
Of course there are many others, but these are the ones I’m most familiar with.
So, what is there to do? How can one find space?
It’s often hard to “de-congest” right away, so we must begin in small ways.
I suggest you look at your schedule a month or so out, and implement these 5 rules as soon as requests for commitments during that month start coming in (from others and/or from you!):
- Whenever you accept an appointment / obligation / meeting, automatically block off an hour of time afterwards. You may initially feel this is excessive, but I encourage you to try it.
- Ensure you have an evening with “nothing to do” at 3-4 times per week, and try not to commit to anything on back-to-back evenings.
- Set a recurring alarm (on your phone) that goes off 2-3 hours before you plan to go to sleep. When the alarm goes off, shut off your phone, turn off all screens, and enjoy some relaxation time.
- Slot tasks into an Urgent vs. Important Matrix. Schedule at least 1 hour / week on your calendar for Weekly Planning (download the Urgent vs. Important Matrix Worksheet).
- Remember who you are: a human being. You cannot operate as a machine does. To function optimally, you must care for your mind-body system with recovery and rest. This is especially true if you are a caretaker for others.
If you adopt these 5 techniques, you will likely find you feel less stressed and better overall.
If you should try them for a time, and then stop (because you reverted to old habits, or your routine was disrupted with travel, house-guests, etc.) simply go back to doing #4. The Weekly Planning can help you get back on track.
Here’s to breathing more easily. 😉