10 Ways to Love Life (and maintain sanity) when you are RIDICULOUSLY Busy
For the past few weeks I have been very busy at work. All you lawyers out there will be able to relate. From my own experience and from talking with other lawyers, I’ve noticed that we find it very difficult, if not impossible, to hang out in a space where we have "just enough" work. We teeter back and forth between camp “crazy amount of work” and camp “not much to do”, and rarely are able to balance in the middle.
Lately I’ve found myself in the crazy amount of work camp. And although I have been enjoying the additional responsibility and challenge, and have been excited about the work I am doing, I know how easily being busy can erode my well being. So I’ve been making a conscious effort throughout to notice those things that keep me sane, and to do more of them. Its been such a successful experience for me that I wanted to share with you the top 10 things that have kept me not only sane, but LOVING each day.
1. Keep doing the little things.
If you have certain practices that bring you peace of mind, don’t let them go when things get crazy. It may seem like its not a big deal to stop writing in your journal, meditating, or reading the morning paper when your to-do list is overflowing and it feels like there is no time. But it is those little things that keep us sane, keep us feeling human. When make little sacrifices in the name of work we also start on a slippery slope to compromising bigger things that are important to us. And that is when work (even if you really love what you do) starts to feel like a burden. By holding on to those little practices through periods of busyness, we can maintain our sanity, our humanity, and the mental space to tackle our to-do list with excitement and enthusiasm instead of dread.
2. Laugh more.
This is crucial. If you are working away for long hours every day without laughter you will die a little inside. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take your work seriously, sure. Take pride it in. Do it well. But do it with a light heart and some laughs and you will reduce stress in busy times without reducing the quality of your work.
3. Practice gratitude.
Again, crucial. Taking a moment at the end of the day to think about, or better yet write out, a few things that we are grateful for, allows us to gain some perspective. When I think about the things I am thankful for and how fortunate I am, and pull out those moments from the day that made me smile, not only do I prevent myself from catastrophizing over my to-do list, I end up feeling pretty amazing. I can go to bed with my mind at peace. Perspective always helps. Take a moment to think about it. You have so many things to be grateful for.
4. Know why you are doing what you are doing that is making you so busy.
This is probably the most important one of all. If you don’t have a strong why, none of the other stuff will matter. Knowing what is important to you, and knowing that the reason you are busy is because you are doing something that is important to you, will be the difference between getting up in the morning excited for the challenges of the day, and getting up to glare at your to-do list.
5. Prioritize and make a big picture plan.
Make time to look at your priorities and allot some time to other things that are important to you. And with those priorities in mind make a big picture plan.
The big picture plan will enable to you stop feeling guilty about not spending alot of time on the things you aren’t making as much time for during periods of busyness. For example, if you know the next two weeks are going to be crazy at work, your big picture plan will note down family and friends as being priorities that you have considered, noted down, and planned extra time to dedicate to in the near future.
6. Get it out of your head!
Write out a weekly to do list, a daily to do list, or both. Whatever works best for you, do it. Get everything you have to do out of your head and onto a paper. This practice literally empties your mind and makes room for creative, strategic thought. There is no better gift you can give your mind than space in times of busyness.
And getting stuff out of your head applies not only to your to-do list, but also to everything else, anytime your mind is racing with a million different things. Get it out of there and onto a paper. It really works.
7. Don’t cut corners and don’t do more than is necessary.
These are opposite sides of the same coin, and you don’t want to be on the side of either.
Firstly, don’t cut corners simply because you are busy and want to get more done. It will only erode whatever little bit of peace of mind you gained by completing the task in the first place. If you are working on things that are important to you, you will be much less likely to cut corners, and so, if you find you are telling yourself things like “well, it probably won’t make a difference if I check that” or “I don’t really need to read that over” or “no one will care if there are a few typos and grammar errors” you may need to check back to #4 and reassess whether you have a strong enough why for what you are doing.
On the other hand, don’t do more than is necessary. Do you really need to stay up all night to finish that draft? Do you really need to be putting together a document binder? Can you delegate? Ask yourself at each new task - is this necessary? If not, don’t do it, or ask someone else to where appropriate.
8. Get enough sleep and (at least a little) exercise.
As much we get this message blasted to us over and over, for some reason we don’t do it. And what I’ve realised is that sleep and exercise are MORE important when you are busy. You likely know this is true deep down. If not, experiment with it. Try sleeping more or go for a short run mid day and watch how your productivity is affected. You will likely find that despite taking time away from work to do these things, you actually do more work, not less.
9. Connect with human beings (outside of a computer screen).
Besides knowing your why, real connection is the most important thing to have in your life in busy times. There are so many benefits to connection that I can’t even start to talk about them here. If you are interested in how connection will save your sanity please check out my earlier post on connection.
10. Make sure there is an end.
If there is no end in sight to the crazy demands on your time, you may need to head back to #4, 5, and 6 and make a few changes. Take a look at the big picture. If you are too often in periods of intense busyness, happiness and sanity will not be sustainable. We are human beings in the end. Yes, even lawyers are human beings. And life as a human has much more to offer than intense work. Don’t deny yourself the full experience of being human. You only get to do it once.
So there you have it – the secrets to how I’ve maintained my sanity, happiness, and LOVE of life over the past couple weeks. These strategies have enabled me to not only get up every day excited about the challenges ahead, but to enjoy LIVING through them, and to arrive on the other side even more in love with life than when I went in.
I hope you can pull a thing or two from this list to incorporate into your own periods of busyness, and please feel free to share your own personal strategies in the comments below!
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