“Breathing Room”

A survey several years ago asked Americans what they would do if they had one more hour in the day. The most common answer, given by about 60% of the respondents, was one word: sleep.
Truth be told, most people would not spend that extra hour sleeping. However, the answer does indicate a desire or need for time not already committed to what seems like overwhelming obligations. People often say their most precious resource is time. Well, it is time to build yourself a reserve of time. I recently finished an article in a trade magazine that suggested some of the following ways to go about carving out uncommitted time for leisure and relaxation or to use as you please . . . to give yourself some breathing room.
Just say, “No.” We like and strive to be positive people who say yes and take on additional responsibility. Maybe it’s our Midwestern work ethic keeping us busier than anyone should be. Sometimes just say “no” to more demands of your time on the job, at church, even around the house. There will always be somebody who needs your help or “can’t do it” without you. You have to say: No, there’s a limit to my time and the amount I can do and I’ve hit it.
Just say, “Oh.” As problem solvers we often try to find solutions for people who complain or confide in us. However, you already have a full quota of problems to solve and besides the complainers may merely want to be heard. Just look at them and say, “Oh.” And then move on, not letting them sap your time and energy.
Exercise. Have you ever heard someone say they were too tired to exercise? Ah, yes, you’ve even said it yourself. Regular exercise is good for our bodies. BONUS: it is good for our minds and attitudes as well. Find a form of exercise you enjoy and start doing it regularly. It will enhance your life and give you more energy than you spend doing it. And if you don’t think you have time, well, you can use part of the time you saved by saying “no” and “oh.”
Save some money. Yes, I know it is a hard thing to do and money does not buy happiness. Having some in the bank does reduce stress and increase your options. Make it a point to rearrange some things and start saving today. Don’t wait till that one debt is paid off or until the tax refund comes. Start today. You won’t regret it.
Make a plan. To paraphrase an old saying, ‘If it’s worth doing, it’s worth making a plan to do it.’ We all need a roadmap to help us get where we are going, so why would this be any different. Set goals within your control, then make a plan of how to reach them. If it helps as an incentive, list what you’ll do with your reserve of time. Be careful not to over commit, that’s why you’re doing this in the first place.
Delegate, delegate, delegate. You may not be a business owner or manager, but I’m certain there are several things in your life that could be handled by others. You have to pass off some of those tasks and let others be responsible. You will be surprised how they respond and how rewarding it can be to give up things that are probably not the best use of your time anyway.
Redefine your goals. I recall a poster from years ago of a turtle trudging along with the caption, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” I am all for ambition and achievement, but the turtle had it right. There is more to life than taking on more and more and more. Figure out the best speed or level of tasks for you, limit yourself to it, then find out what is “more to life” and do that.
Life will never be stress free. However, these tried and true methods can prevent exhausting, energy-sapping over-commitment and give you the breathing room you need.