As I was racing from one job to the next the other day, I suddenly remembered that I needed to find an hour to work on homework for grad school at some point and I also needed to find time to take a 30 minute walk (which I try to do every evening before bed to clear my head). At that point in time, the remainder of my day was already booked up and I wasn't even sure what time I would be getting to bed, never mind squeezing in more activities. As I mentally tried to rearrange my schedule to insert a slot of time for my schoolwork and my evening exercise routine, I caught myself thinking, "there just aren't enough hours in the day". And then I cringed. I really hate that phrase..and sadly it is a phrase that has been crossing my mind a lot lately.
The truth is, I am completely overbooked on a pretty regular basis. It isn't that there's not enough time for me to live, it's that I am stacking too many priorities into each day. I think most people are probably like me: working too much, not sleeping enough, not spending enough time with family, and not making time for their health and wellness. I am definitely not a unique case.
In the last couple of months I have had a bit of an awakening with regards to my busy schedule. I always knew I was overbooked, but in the back of my mind I kept believing that if I could just multi-task better or be more efficient at my tasks, I could really do it all in one day. And by "do it all" I mean: be a fully engaged mom, a successful full time employee at one job, a successful part time employee at another job, a grad student with a 4.0 GPA, a volunteer, a runner, a loving and happy wife, and a healthy and happy me, all at the same time. Yikes, I got tired just writing that sentence!
I realize now that no normal human can really "do it all" and be successful at every task, it's just not physically possible. And if I am multi-tasking all day long, am I ever really putting 100% into anything? The answer is no.
So what is a busy gal to do?
I started by making a list of all of my daily priorities. My initial intention was to rank them in order of importance so I could figure out how to better prioritize my days. Sounds simple enough, right? But what I quickly discovered is that I truly treat each of my daily priorities as "the most important thing" - every single one of them. I struggled with ranking the items on my list because in my mind I had already placed a #1 next to each of them. So this is why I am so busy all the time and feel as though I don't even have time to sleep. Sleep wasn't even on my initial list of priorities!
I meditated on this list and my feelings about each of the items on the list for several days. I soon realized that sleep wasn't the only thing missing from my initial list. I also left off "time with friends" and "mental health". I have spent so much time trying to be the best at everything, taking on very time-consuming tasks in an effort to further my career and support my family, that I have stopped making time for peace, love, and happiness. For years I have felt a very strong imbalance in my soul, like my entire life is off-kilter, and I am just beginning to understand the cause of that imbalance.
When I search my heart and think about what I want or need to feel balanced, I can say with certainty that the one thing in my life that makes me feel very happy and very at peace is exercise. Yup, it's true. I spent a majority of my life being a couch potato - and during that time I also constantly felt depressed and anxious. Once I started moving my body, my mental health drastically improved. Running is my sport of choice and although I am not super fit or ultra fast (a ten minute mile can leave me feeling winded on a good day), I enjoy the challenge of beating my own best times, training for road races, and of course, the infamous runner's high. Running is my way of meditating and it keeps me feeling mentally well, even when my busy schedule is kicking my butt.
My health has become very important to me over the past year or so. By nature I am a worrier and one of the things I worry most about is about my physical health. In an effort to lessen the "what ifs" that keep me up at night, I decided to take control of what I could and begin living a healthy lifestyle, which means eating right (no more fad diets or weight loss plans - just straight up healthy eating: reading nutrition labels, incorporating fruits and vegetables into every meal, and ensuring my family and I are eating the appropriate/correct portions with every meal) and exercising regularly (no less than 60 minutes of some type of exercise every single day).
Yet, my health (daily trips to the gym, cooking healthy meals for me and my family, getting the appropriate amount of sleep every night) tends to be the first thing to suffer when my schedule gets busy. And when my healthy efforts drop by the wayside, everything else goes haywire.
Looking at my "list of priorities" right now as I type this, I am starting to see it in a new light. Taking a hard look at this piece of paper and forcing myself to choose, I can confidently say that my top priorities are family and wellness; everything else on the list is just "stuff". I don't mean to minimize the importance of my career or my volunteer work or my masters degree that I hope to attain later this year - all of that is important, but nothing is more important than my well-being and my family. Nothing. So I need to make time for what is truly important and then schedule all of the other "stuff" if there's time. And if there isn't enough time, then maybe I need to look at cutting out some of the less important "stuff". Because if I cut out my own mental and physical health from the list, there is no way I can do anything else.
We are all busy people, everyone I know has a figuratively full plate of priorities. Time and again I have heard friends, family, and co-workers say that they can't lose weight or can't exercise because they just don't have the time. I used to say this too. Now I realize that I just wasn't making it a priority in my life. If something is really important to you, you can make the time to do it. It may require some shifting in your list of priorities, but it can be done.
The next time you think to yourself, "there just aren't enough hours in the day", stop and make a list of your priorities, figure out what is most important to you. Maybe exercise and physical health are not on your list of top priorities. I am not here to judge, your priorities are your own. But before you say you don't have time to be healthy, think about what you are making time for. And ask yourself what's important to you.