Like many, I've been feeling overwhelmed with a constant reel of things I have to do running through my brain. With two part time jobs, plus a third endeavor in the works, volunteering commitments and parenting two teenagers who think they don't need me but really do (right?), I've split myself into so many roles that I've lost track of how to focus. I feel like all of these little strands that I've divided myself into are getting frayed and will soon break. When I was at my lowest point, a phrase popped into my head - "I need some space." I've applied this to many areas of my life over the past several months and it's really made a difference. It's still a work in progress, but here's what I've discovered along the way.
The biggest game changer is that I'm giving each commitment time, space and focus. No multi-tasking allowed (studies show that multi-tasking makes us stupid), even with the most inane tasks. When I say space, I don't mean physical space. It's space in my brain to focus on the task at hand. I set a timer for a certain block of time so I can still feel in control, but it allows me to get lost in my task, which is so amazingly freeing.
I've also taken Coco Chanel's fashion advice, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off” and have applied it to my obligation list. Does everything really need to get done TODAY? The answer is usually "no". Taking a long view and really assessing what has to get done by when has changed my lens on my "to do" list.
This brings me to my next area of creating space. "Just Say No" - remember that from the 80s? I know Nancy Reagan was referring to drugs, but what about also saying "no" to things that aren't important to me or that I don't have the energy for? Saying "no" means I have more time for the "yeses" that really matter to me. I'm trying to do more things that I want to do, not that I should do, which requires really listening to myself.
I've also added space between technology and my brain. I'm thinking of it as a tool, not a way to pass the time or distract myself. The only alerts I have is for text messages. My phone is usually on vibrate only. I don't allow myself to check email unless I have time to actually to take action with the emails (this one is really hard to do!). There's nothing worse than checking email, seeing something that you have to respond to without having the time to do so, where it will end up taking up space in your brain - adding to your to do list. I limit my social media usage and if I do go on, it's for a reason. It's to get information, not to pass the time. After all, if I was feeling so strapped for time, why waste it on doing something which always made me feel depleted, not restored? No thank you! I gained a lot of insight about creating space with technology by listening to Manoush Zomorodi on NPR. She even wrote a book about taking a break from technology called Bored but Brilliant. I highly recommend!
I still struggle with feeling frayed at times, but I think the tide is turning in my favor. Instead of it always being high tide in my brain, the tide is receding, giving my brain a break and some much needed space to be true to myself and really live my life. After all, as Annie Dillard said, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we live our lives."
P.S. I'm working on a broader concept for bringing simplicity, clarity and meaning into one's life. What started out as a way to help myself has evolved into something that I think will help others. I'm still in the developing stages of this concept and would love to hear from others who struggle with balancing life. Please take this survey if you would like to help me in my research! Thank you in advance!