Most of us try to lead balanced lives, so why do we often find ourselves frantically juggling a million things at once? Whether you say yes to too many social engagements, get bogged down by endless work meetings, or just never have time to yourself, packing a calendar too tightly can seriously threaten your sanity.
While there are only so many events you can decline, there is a way to avoid overbooking. Read on for expert advice about why you always overschedule — and how to knock it off.
Know Your Patterns
Take stock of your current calendar and figure out why you're so overwhelmed with engagements. Ask yourself whether you’re "trying to prove something," or if "overscheduling is a distraction from something else,” says integrative nutrition health coach and lifestyle expert Lula Brown. If it’s tricky to do on your own, talk out certain tendencies with a good friend. If deeper issues come up, consider finding a therapist or coach, Brown suggests.
Brown also encourages taking stock of which events you end up canceling (or want to cancel). Then you can identify what kinds of commitments drain you — maybe it turns out that you need to stop scheduling anything on Sunday, or cut back on get-togethers with one particular person.
Overcome Approval Addiction
When you don’t want to disappoint people, it can be tough to figure out what to say no to, says health and lifestyle strategist Kara Martin Snyder, INHC. To combat this, Snyder suggests looking over the activities you've committed to and asking yourself two questions as you review each one:
- Does just thinking about this energize me or drain me?
- How is this activity serving me or helping me grow?
The answers will tell you your true motivations for RSVP-ing yes, and you can make sure you have a good reason beyond people pleasing.
Steve Siebold, a psychological performance and mental toughness coach to executives, athletes, entrepreneurs, and other high-performing people, says that to overcome what he calls “approval addiction,” it’s important to “realize that you are responsible [for being] honest and sincere, and acting with integrity in all that you do, but you are not responsible for other people's attitudes or behaviors towards you."
Prioritize What Makes You Happy
Make the activities that leave you "feeling like the best, most energized version of yourself" a priority, says life coach Hannah Braime. In fact, "the more regularly we do these things, the more productive we feel in other areas of our life," she says.
Psychotherapist Sharon Martin, LCSW, agrees. She also adds that many of us make the mistake of thinking about our personal goals or hobbies as optional — things we do only if there is time left over. Instead, be sure to schedule time for exercising, lunch with friends, crafting, reading at home, or anything else that makes you happy. And stick to it — no canceling on yourself.
Take Your Time Responding to Invites
So how do you make sure you’re not taking on too much? Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, suggests buying some time when someone invites you out.
Instead of responding with a knee-jerk 'yes,' "take an hour, a day, or whatever time you need," says Dembling. Say something like, "I need to check my calendar" to give yourself some breathing room. It's better than going to an event you don't want to attend, or backing out at the last minute.
Just Say No
Saying no isn't easy, especially since we often feel obligated to give a reason for why we can't make so-and-so's birthday party or squeeze in coffee when an acquaintance is in town, says therapist and wellness coach Nichola Brown, LICSW. She suggests practicing saying no without providing an explanation. Try declining without making excuses by saying something like, "I'm sorry, but I can’t make it."
If you're not sure whether you want to say no, career and workplace expert Cachet Prescott has an easy trick: "If it's not a 'heck yes,' it's a 'no.'"
Leave When It's Time to Leave
Outings can be especially draining when you linger too long, so remember that you aren't "obligated to stay at most events past the point where you are enjoying yourself," Dembling says. "If you give yourself permission to go home when you've had enough, accepting invitations is a lot easier." As you gain confidence in doing this, she says, you'll feel more in control of your time and get more done.
Avoid Meeting Overload
It's easy to get bogged down by work meetings, which can prevent you from completing the work you were actually hired to do. Try this trick: Block off your calendar, allowing only certain times for meetings. That way you’ve reserved time when you can’t be derailed by meetings so you can get your work done.
When Donna Talarico, entrepreneur and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine, used this trick, she says that she'd tell people to "look at [her] Outlook calendar to see [her] availability," so they couldn’t schedule over her work time. Take a cue from her and take back your time.
Enjoy Missing Out
Instead of feeling down about missing a night out, find joy in controlling your schedule, says psychotherapist and coach Dr. Perpetua Neo. When you decide to turn down an invite, reward yourself — and "whether it is a bubble bath, your favorite meal, or a lazy morning in bed, make it joyful," she says. This kind of reframing can "build and strengthen brain pathways, so you learn to consistently treat yourself better," she says.
This concept is especially helpful when it comes to last-minute obligations. Say you’re invited to a random work happy hour at 5 pm when you've had a rough week and can't wait to leave the office. Rashelle Isip, an organization, time management and productivity blogger, offers this advice: Rather than worry about what will happen if you don't go, give your downtime the respect it deserves.
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