When you’re starting your side hustle, new business or when you’ve stepped into a new role in your job, it’s very easy to get quickly overwhelmed by all the things you’ve added to your to-do list in those first few planning sessions.
So how on earth do you find time to work on your own worthwhile projects and spend quality time with your loved ones? And most importantly, when do you have time for you?
It’s important to create time for your own rest, relaxation, your own exercise and space to breathe. Often it falls to women to be the ones who organise everyone else, who give so much to their families and friends, who people rely on. We’ve been conditioned to be super-women: to have it all, to ‘lean in’, to be successful in the workplace, win awards and bake the best cakes ever. How are we supposed to live up to the high expectations we place upon ourselves and release the guilt when we inevitably don’t feel good enough?
Let go of anything that does not serve you.
I noticed that some women close to me who I admire have made conscious changes to their lifestyles, to support their complicated, ambitious lives. My sister is a successful solicitor always seems to have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, even though her job representing vulnerable ‘at-risk’ babies and children can be extremely stressful. I realised a few years ago that without making a big thing of it, she just doesn’t drink any alcohol.
It felt right for me to make steps to cut down on drinking myself and it has freed up an enormous amount of time and energy. It wasn’t an easy change for me but it was worth it.
Review with clear eyes – as objectively as you can – what is working for you and what is impeding you. Then start making incremental changes to cut down. If I could tell my 17 year old self just one small piece of advice, it would be to stop smoking. It will greatly improve your quality of life. For you, it might be trying out some form of exercise that looks fun, like dancing, or walking or swimming. Drinking more water can’t hurt.
Make time for yourself, even if it’s just a sliver.
People often tell me I’m doing so much all at once, as a compliment. ‘You’re so busy!’ ‘I can’t believe you do so much!’
This is partly because of social media, as I tend to broadcast whatever I am up to and publicise the events I’m running. However, I know it’s important to prioritise and plan my time. I put into my diary regular yoga classes and I don’t book more than three meetings in one day. I remember to factor in travelling time and I put a buffer around each session. Which means I’m not constantly rushing to the next meeting and I can give my full attention to the person I am with. We all have the same amount of time, the same number of hours in a day – planning enables us to use that time to counts.
Be fully present.
I read a magazine profile with one of the women presenters on The Daily Show, when Jon Stewart was still in charge. When she scored her interview to get on the programme, she asked about what to prepare and Stewart just told her: all I want is for you to be fully present in the room while we’re doing this.
The feeling of overwhelm can manifest when you are not fully engaged in what you are doing right now – instead worrying about outside factors you can’t control. Tomorrow isn’t here yet, so you might as well enjoy where you are, right here, right now.
Focused on one thing at a time, you can release the worry about all the other things that you think you should be doing. If things feel overwhelming, make a simple to-do list of all the things you need to do, big and small and schedule or make a plan. I also like to ‘hand over’ as much as possible, delegate to others, with clear actions and a deadline. I even ask the universe to help me, to find the best outcome for all concerned. Trust in the process, you can only do your best, no-one is judging you, except maybe yourself!
Release the guilt.
You can’t control the actions or feelings of others. So you might as well please yourself! It has taken me years of continual practice and trying out different tools to help me release self-judgement, guilt and despondency. It is still a practice. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself. Start talking to yourself in a kinder way. Keep a journal of your true thoughts and feelings. Try out some guided meditations. Keep going, keep making small changes to be nicer to yourself and it will pay off. You will feel lighter and happier and more relaxed. You will start to feel less worried about not having a tidy house when your time is spent on more creative, fulfilling projects.
Reflect on what you want often – how do you want to feel?
Do you want something in your life to change? But you’re not quite sure what or how to change? The first step is to spend a little thinking time on you. Take yourself away from all distractions, maybe it’s in the bath, or lying down for a few minutes. Day-dream. Think about all the things that you miss doing, that you don’t seem to have time for. Even thinking about spending time thinking about yourself, can bring up feelings of guilt and lack of self-worth. Keep trying. You’ll get to a point when you want to write down a list of fun things that you might like to try, one day. Roller skating or deep sea diving. Acting or cocktail making. It could be that even writing a list fills you with feelings of dread and worry. Or sadness. Explore those feelings. It’s just a list. Maybe even writing a list of fun me time projects brings up some deep seated feelings that are possibly blocking you in moving forward.