Were all busy, all of the time. That’s modern life for you. Work, fun, kids, family, friends, things going wrong…..the list rumbles on. How do you cope when it all gets even busier? When your busy life becomes overwhelming busy-ness?
Over the last month I have had my busiest period since I went freelance. Being super busy is more than just not coping with the life/work load for me. It also comes with a threat to my wellbeing. If I over do it, my breathing can suffer and then everything I’m doing comes under threat. Maintaining an even keel in the midst of the chaos is an essential skill for me.
So I thought that I’d share 5 tips that I use to help cope with my busy-ness. Maybe one or two of them might help you. Here they are.
1 – Organise yourself
OK it’s not the most exciting of starts I know! But I do find that if I’ve got some ways of knowing what I’m doing by when; what I’ve got to do by when; and what’s most important, it helps me to not feel overwhelmed by the overload. What you use and how will be up to your preferences and your techie skills! My go tos are – an online to do list and online calendar.
Both techie solutions I use are apps on my phone that are linked to online systems. I have a To Do list from Any.do and the Google online calendar. This Martini method means I can check ’em out anytime, any place, anywhere. Of course it’s not enough just to have the system, it has to be live and you’ve got to keep it up to date.
I regularly check in to my To Do list, not just to see what needs to be done, but often to re-prioritise. Things change. Keeping on top of what is most important is your judgement call. Doing it means the list stays fresh, it then responds to new challenges and how you are on any one day.
Of course, there’s not only the online to do list! There’s often a paper based list. They tend to be the short term daily things – stuff to buy, chores to do etc. Sometimes they get transferred to the online list. How exciting?
The same applies to my calendar. Keeping an overview of what’s coming up and when helps me to decide how to priorise the To Do list and add to it, of course! Scheduling what happens applies to the next essential habit: building in downtime.
2 – Build in downtime
In amongst all the busy-ness and separate to all the supportive different activities that follow, I like to build in some time where nothing is being done. No expectations. No plans. Just R&R – rest and recuperation.
The tricky truth is that you may need to schedule that in too! For example this weekend we’ve decided that as an antidote to a crazy busy January and before frantic February really kicks in on Monday, we’re gonna have a downtime weekend.
No plans probably means takeaway food, a couple of drinks in the house a bit of TV, lots of sleep and rest. Maybe an amble to a cafe, a little fresh air, but none of it is driven by the need that it has to be done. Just that it’s essential for our wellbeing. Nice.
3 – Mindfulness and Gratitudes
As a mindfulness practitioner I could hardly let a list of tips about coping with busy-ness go by without extolling the virtues of a regular practice, could I? I’ll keep it brief!
Mindfulness is a practice that encourages an understanding and acceptance of how things really are and how you feel about it all. If you are to keep a handle on all the busy-ness and make wise choices to support yourself then this is a helpful practice. Not that it’s easy! You may not like what you notice. But then at least you can make a wiser choice, rather than just reacting habitually.
Mindfulness is underpinned by a regular meditation practice; regular practice trains your busy mind to focus, concentrate and quieten. This is an essential skill in amongst all the busy-ness. It’s very noisy in your mind. It is in mine too!
Initially when you meditate you will notice this noise and you may judge yourself as unable to meditate. Your expectation is that meditation is quiet. Oh no! The truth is that you notice how noisy your mind is. welcome to meditation. You are meditating. With time and practice a quieting is possible. Honest.
Then the more you practice, the more that other parts of your day and other activities will become mindful practices themselves. Just doing that one thing, whether that is the washing the dishes, walking the dog or updating your calendar.
One mindful practice that sits comfortably with this is an appreciation of your life. I do this by regularly sharing 5 things that I am grateful for with my sister at the end of every day. You can read more about this here, but I promise that this simple appreciation of the sunshine in your life is hugely supportive and can also help support your relationship with the person you share with.
4 – Escapist fun
What can do, where can you go where you can do something that completely inhabits everything you are? The kind of activity that means that the rest of the world drops away?
You could describe it as extreme mindfulness. My son (in the photo above) has had surfing as his go to, when the world gets too much, for the last 15 years. It’s not only a regular pleasure, its also the place and thing that allows him to become grounded, to be one with his world.
What works for you, works for you. You know what it is. You just have to fit in time to do it regularly. If it helps you to escape and become totally immersed in something outside of all the other busy-ness then you must schedule it in regularly. Get it on your calendar!
5 – Time in Nature
Finally, the one that we all know works, we just have to find the time to do it. Spending time in nature grounds you in the world. Breathing the air, feeling the sun (hopefully) on your face, appreciating the beauty of a beach, the sea, trees, rolling hills, rivers, lakes, mountains and the open plains, they all bring you out of yourself.
Of course you can help this process by not taking your phone! Does that sound crazy? Time away from your devices is something that you know works. I know it works, but like you I struggle to let go. When I do, I probably take my camera instead and follow a mindful photography practice whilst I am walking. But if you can just let go of it all for a little bit then you will be more immersed in nature, and that will be to you greater benefit.
There you have it. Let’s all go for a walk in nature.