“Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.” — Shakespeare
With the days getting shorter, we can be left feeling a sense of urgency — fewer hours of daylight, same number of things on the to-do list. Add juggling the practice and game schedules of a minor hockey player while trying to balance a home, an office and a personal life, and we can be feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Whether it is society’s influence or just the pressure we put on ourselves, there is a perception that “busy” equals “success” and that we need to be able to handle it all flawlessly. This perception simply is not sustainable. The question then becomes: How do we stop scurrying around? Can we lower our anxiety levels, make life less stressful and slow down so that we can actually enjoy the ride? Here are seven tips to help you take your foot off the gas and make more time for the things that are truly important.
1. Come up with a family vision statement — This may sound like some corporate office mumbo-jumbo, but without identifying the things that are important to you as a family, there is no way to set boundaries about where to put your time and energy. Spending your energy trying to do everything leads to losing sight of what is truly important and to just being busy. Identify five to seven things that are important in your family. If an activity or event falls into the scope of this family vision statement, then focus on making time for it.
2. Learn to say “no” — Give yourself permission to say “no.” The same criteria mentioned above can be used to decide what you allow yourself to say “yes” to and what you decide to skip. Say “no” to the unimportant; your stress and anxiety levels will thank you.
3. Find a scheduling tool that works for you — Whether paper or electronic, finding a tool that you can use for scheduling events will help take the guesswork out of who has to be where and when. Trying to keep all the details of a busy life in your mind, besides being nearly impossible, will only leave you constantly wondering if you’ve missed anything. Off-load all of these times and dates into your calendar and just feel the wheels in your head slow down. Looking for scheduling tips?
4. Clear out the clutter— Nothing causes a more frantic sense of stress than searching for something when you are running out the door to make it to the rink on time. Clutter increases your stress levels and your anxiety. If you know exactly where all of the hockey equipment is, getting ready to go to the rink will be a breeze. Remember: Clear out the clutter, and then assign a place for everything and put everything back in its place. This will eliminate the frantic search on your way out the door when you need to be somewhere.
5. Allocate/Delegate Tasks — Errands can be difficult to accomplish and can eat up your precious time. If you are running errands on the way to the rink or in between drop-off and puck drop, you may want to re-evaluate what your time is worth. What is it worth to you to feel more calm, patient, and less hurried? Concierge services offer a solution to getting errands done while freeing you up to do the things you want to do. But don’t forget the importance of making sure that all members of the family are carrying their fair share of the load. This includes your player(s) — especially when it comes to hockey-related tasks. Delegating at work or in other life activities can also help to ensure you have the precious family time you want.
6. Put your phone away — Your phone can steal time more easily than you may think. Trying to bounce back and forth between answering emails or replying to texts while making dinner or attempting to watch your child’s game can leave you feeling like your head is spinning. And don’t even think about trying to multi-task by using your time behind the wheel to pull out your phone. The statistics on that strategy speak for themselves. Hands off!
Besides that, an American study reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that multi-tasking has a negative physical effect, prompting the release of stress hormones and adrenaline. This can trigger a vicious cycle: We work hard at multi-tasking, take longer to get things done, and then feel stressed, harried and compelled to multi-task even more. Research shows that multi-tasking is not just inefficient, it’s also stressful.
Multi-tasking is a significant reason why we are witnessing epidemics of rage, believes Dr. Alan Keen, a behavioural scientist at Australia’s Central Queensland University. “Why are people in large cities more angry?” he asks. “If I’m living in a big city with a busy job and I’m multi-tasking and I’m a busy parent, all that translates into chemical changes in the brain.”
Slow down. Be in the moment. Shut your phone off. Be present, and realize that the outside world will still be there when you return. In the end, your children will thank you.
7. Breathe — Involuntarily heightened breaths lead your body to think you are on high alert. When you feel like the to-do lists and schedules are overwhelming you and life is spiralling out of control, just breathe. You own your breath; it is something that is always under your control, never spinning out of control. Just breathe.
There is no way to deny that the world we live in just keeps getting faster, always coming up with more things to eat away at the most precious non-renewable resource we have: our time. Some simple strategies and some slight alterations to your mindset can mean a world of difference to both you and your family. Change the way you look at your day to day routines, and you can change the way you operate.