Is It Time to Stop Playing Catch-up?

Looking at time

We often make a conscious effort to catch-up on our work and other aspects of our lives after time off. There is this burst of energy after a vacation or an unexpected interruption to speed things up and get things done.

But what if catching up becomes more than an occasional occurrence? What if it becomes part of your daily routine?

In today’s 24-7 connectivity, we’re inundated with numerous demands. It is very easy to keep adding more to your daily schedule—more communication, more demands, and way more expectations.

You feel stuck in a rut of doing more but getting less results.  You keep doing this day in and day out feeling anxious, tired and drained—barely coming to the surface to catch your breath. Eventually you fall into productivity oblivion; burnout sets in and avoidance becomes the main coping mechanism.

Avoidance is the number one action and motivation killer.  It comes with a hefty price tag: added mental and physical stress, and exacerbating self limiting beliefs.

Why don’t you stop trying to catch up and start over now?

Instead of continuing to struggle with balancing your past demands with your present abilities and time, try to do things a little bit differently. Make a conscious decision to stop chasing time and playing catch-up.

Today is a new beginning. Keep an open mind and realize that there is no magic formula that works for everyone or everything.  The guidelines below can be a good starting point.  Give them a try, use what works for you and ignore the rest.

1. Accept where you are now. You have fallen behind and feel overwhelmed; you’re struggling to catch-up. Go with the feeling and move from a place of acceptance. You are dealing with your life demands instead of avoiding them. Make a conscious decision to start over now. No rush, no pressure, no regrets.

2. Write things down. This is the most obvious step. It is worth mentioning because it is the the best way to start feeling calmer and putting things into perspective. Things do look much worse in our heads than on paper.

When you write everything down, you create space in your mind allowing creativity and insight to guide you.

3. Look at your list. Really look at it. Take time to think and reflect on each item on the list.

  • How did it get there?
  • Why do you need to do it?
  • What would happen if you didn’t do it?

After answering the questions above, remove any items that won’t make a difference. If you feel uncomfortable taking something off your list, create a new list for the not so important things. At least it won’t be in your face nagging at you every day.

Remember it is a new start so don’t beat yourself up over what was not done—no judgments or blame.

4. Prioritize. The most important skill to learn is prioritization. When you prioritize you become aware of what is important and what’s not.  Rearrange your list or highlight the most important things that you want to get done.

5. Know your limits. You have a limited supply of time and energy.  You can’t get everything done at the same time. When you say yes to something, you say no to something else. There is always a trade-off. Keep this in mind every time you choose to do something. Think of what you’re giving up and determine if it’s worth it.

6. Do one thing at a time. Eliminate the word multitasking from your lexicon and life and try to avoid distractions. Consider the following:

  • Disconnect if you can. Switch off your phone, smart phone, internet connection…etc.
  • Determine your end result.  Think of what you want to accomplish. Don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of efficiency.
  • Forget about everything else.
  • Focus and give the task your best effort and attention. This is where quality meets efficiency.

7. Use your resources wisely. Maximize the use of your time and energy. The best way to fully utilize your resources is to do less and have more time off. Consider:

  • Taking frequent breaks to renew your focus and energy,
  • Spending time alone every day to reflect,
  • Asking others for help when you need it,
  • Leveraging your connections and talents, and
  • Delegating what is not worth your time and effort.

8. Stay organized. When you create a messy environment, you add more mess to your mind. A clean uncluttered environment helps you stay connected and mindful of what matters to you the most.

9. Review and revise your approach on a regular basis. Take time to reflect and refine your process to keep your work and life flow manageable and enjoyable. Here are a few pointers:

  • When you need to add a new activity or task, determine where it fits on your scale of priorities. Is it important or not?
  • Is there anything in your daily activities that you can eliminate or replace with something more enjoyable?
  • Think of your time wasters—surfing the net, chatting, email, twitter. Are you OK with how much time you spend on such actives, or can you reduce it a little?
  • If something you want to get done is not, can you rearrange your schedule to allow for completion?
  • Do you add more items to your list than what you accomplish? If so, why? Update your list and reprioritize. Take out anything that is at the bottom of your list.
  • Look at the not so important list and eliminate a couple of items that have been listed for a while. Set your intention to eliminate more items without adding anything new. Eventually this list will disappear and you’ll be left with only one list of what is important to you.

With time your list will start to get shorter and more focused towards what you really want to accomplish. You will feel lighter and at ease.

And the best indication of success is when you get what you want done and still have some free time on your hands. You realize then that you have mastered your time and managed your priorities.

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