We spend a lot of time talking about nutrition, exercise, and almost never enough about what is most important to our health and happiness – a lifestyle free of stress.
I should know. I’m starting a restaurant, which is what I would consider the most stressful profession where multitasking is inevitable. On a typical day I’m pulled out of bed by an early call from my architect, followed by responding to urgent email from one of the government agencies asking me for proof of something, taking a call from a lender, then sending an e-mail to my landlord wanting a proof of insurance, and it goes on and on. Somehow in this initial morning hour of reacting to multiple people, often at once, I manage to get showered and dressed, eat a couple boiled eggs and down a cup or two of coffee or green tea (depending how serious I am at that point about paleo).
Nope, this is not a good way to manage stress. You know it, and I know it. And unless we actively manage what happens in our day, other people will manage our day for us, and we both will go to bed stressed out, without any time for the things that really matter – – – playing, spending time with friends and spouse, exercising, reading (or listening to) books, meeting with mentors, volunteering in the community, going to social events, or anything else. I don’t know about you, but if I’m not careful I could spend all day just putting out fires, and get so stressed out that all the paleo in the world won’t be enough to help me.
And when I die, what’s going to be on my tombstone?
She was really organized and responsive to other people’s urgencies.
She was pretty good at putting out fires.
She was a good corporate employee who spent a lot of hours at the office. (This one is obsolete, my corporate job ended last week – hurray! But it was close.)
How about this one?
She was a good wife, sister, daughter, friend, community leader, mentor, (even mom – nope, no children yet, and I need to manage my time/stress better if I want to start!)
Yes – we could all improve the way we handle stress and allocate our time.
This post is not meant to stress you out even more about whatever is getting neglected in your life, such as talking to your in-laws, volunteering, or building your rocket ship. This post is instead meant to help you take a step back, and look at how you are spending your time.
And maybe stop working so much, and justify spending more time with friends, playing outside on the trails or with your bike.
So where do we start? Simple.
Step 1. Identify your roles and what’s important to you.
You want to be a good mom/dad? Aunt? Friend? Coach? Boss? Coworker? Entrepreneur? Writer? Racecar driver?
Whatever the top 5 or 6 are, write them down in the order of importance.
If you want your tombstone to say ‘she was the most successful entrepreneur in Colorado’, then you are probably going to have to spend more than 1/2 hour a day learning those entrepreneurial skills. If you want it to say that you were the most attentive parent who listened to their kids a lot, then you better spend a bit of time each day doing it.
Step 2. Growth and learning equals happiness.
That’s right. Not a nice house, expensive car, not even an annual bonus. Growing and learning new things is what makes us happy. Whether that’s learning to salsa, training to deadlift 200 lbs, learning to be a good mentor, studying restaurant management books, reading Chris Kresser’s newest paleo book (The Personal Paleo Code – love love love love it). You just have to keep working on yourself, even if you don’t feel like it. So set aside some time for it, it’s an investment in yourself that will pay off in spades.
Step 3. Make your 24 hour pie.
Now that you have identified the roles you want to play and the importance of investing time into growth, let’s figure out how you implement it. Make your 24 hour pie.
So here goes my pie. For those of you who have kids, feel free to chime in. I’d love to know what a day of an ambitious parent looks like.
Step 4. Follow the pie every day.
That means every day you have to take 5 minutes to plan before you start your day. And you will need a planner for that.
Low tech or high tech?
You can certainly go as high tech as you like. But I do prefer low tech planner. Something about actually writing things down instead of using Evernote, or any online calendar makes it stick better.
Besides, when planning, you won’t be distracted by your email or Facebook. I recently printed a pretty great planner at goodlifeplanner.com, which has everything that I need. But by all means, do whatever works for you.
This means when it’s time to have fun, you won’t let anything else get in the way. When it’s time to exercise, you won’t use ‘lack of time’ as an excuse. With this intentional plan, you can throw yourself into what you do without the nagging fear that you are missing out on doing something important – this is your life, to own and live in the moment.