There have been many late evenings, as I collapse exhausted on the couch, that I think:
“How did this day go by so fast? I feel as though I didn’t accomplish a thing!”
You no doubt have those days too.
Indeed, women in the middle stage of life have full and demanding schedules. Besides working (in or outside the home), we may have to assume other responsibilities such as caregiving for parents, homeschooling, volunteering, or launching young adults. (*raising hand here*) Not to mention that we want to give necessary quality time to our marriages.
Until recently, my life had a full roster. While not working outside the home, I considered being a homeschool parent my occupation for eight years. During that same period, I was a part-time caregiver for my mother when she was living independently. I was head cheerleader for my oldest son when he was in college and chief support for my husband.
Doing the right thing was putting my family first. So why did I feel so tired, miserable, and unappreciated most of the time?
I am notoriously a peacekeeper and avoider of conflict. I’m also good at handling responsibility, so I would plug appointments and activities into my calendar without argument.
We can be terrific at taking care of responsibilities. So good, in fact, that we stop taking care of ourselves. Burnout is usually the result. And unfortunately, we may not even recognize it as burnout.
Burnout for me was heavy guilt and stretches of depression.
After some guidance, I discovered reasons for my burnout and why I was experiencing stress and anxiety:
I needed to set better boundaries.
I wasn’t prioritizing the most important things first.
I had to say yes to the best and say no to the rest.
I lost control over my own schedule.
How did this happen?
First, without prioritizing, there never seemed as though there was enough time, and nothing significant was accomplished. I felt incredibly guilty and was easily stressed and moody.
Secondly, by not setting my priorities, I allowed others to make them for me when I added appointments and events to my calendar, whether it worked for me, or not.
Finally, I associated my busy calendar with the love and care of my family. However, my motivations were driven by something else: the need to avoid conflict and gain others’ approval for doing all-the-things. Trying to do it all made me feel like a good person. (1). Instead, it took away my freedom.
It was evident that I wasn’t prioritizing what was important or setting boundaries for how things should be added to the calendar. As a result, others were allowed to dictate my schedule, and therefore, my life. For better mental health, necessary changes had to be made to manage my responsibilities and incorporate essential time for myself.
Often, we think of prioritizing as getting things in order of what should be done, when we really need to look at it as getting our life goals in order. When we complain about not having enough time, it is because we have not prioritized personal needs and desires.
What are the essential needs and desires in your life? What helps you thrive? Writing? Date night with your spouse? Exercising? Cooking healthier meals? Morning Bible reading or meditation? Book club meetings? Creating art?
If these are things you say you don’t have enough time for, it’s time to stop and rethink. What gets left off the calendar may need to be written in pen first on the calendar!
Once priorities are determined and scheduled, there is plenty of space to add anything else. What doesn’t fit may be the things to say no to. Say yes to the best and say no to the rest.
We are often frustrated when time is taken from us, like standing in long lines or enduring the never-ending traffic jam. Neither should we let others take precious time away from us!
Two ways that help me plan time more efficiently were One-Stop-Shop Days and Assigned Days.
Purposely combining several tasks into one day is what I call a “one-stop-shop” day. For instance, my son’s homeschool co-op was one day a week and a 30-minute trip from our house. After dropping him off for his two classes, I completed all my errands and weekly grocery shopping while in town. It created one hectic day, but the benefit was the considerable time slots for my priorities the rest of the week. The planning time it took to finish everything in one day was well worth it.
If you are caregiving for parents, what they require is now added to your responsibilities. One of these needs is managing appointments, such as medical appointments, and the occasional office visit for anything else. This is when assigning certain days of the week can be immensely helpful.
When my mother was still independent and could no longer drive, I took her where she needed to go. I didn’t mind, but it became a problem when she made appointments. Conflicts were frequent, requiring me to call back to change the appointment or rearrange my schedule.
To have control over my week (and sanity!), I needed to make mom’s appointments. At first, she saw it as taking away some of her independence. However, her schedule was more flexible, so we agreed on two mornings a week. When I made her appointments, they would always be on one of those mornings. It was easy for her to remember, and I had much less frustration!
Are you in control of your time? How are you prioritizing? If time is flying by, things feel undone, stress and moodiness are closing in, stop. Evaluate what is happening to see if you are planning your own life or if someone else is doing it for you.
Our lives are nothing but time. How we manage that time is up to us.
Do you agree? Tell me what you think in the comments!
(1) Read more about the Ten Laws of Boundaries from the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.