Welcome to the 21st century, where busy is the new norm. From youth, we’ve been told we can do anything, and that life is short – it’s no wonder that we’re constantly scrambling to fit it all in. We’ve been conditioned to want so much.
With our devices constantly in hand, we’re being told what to eat, where to holiday, how to decorate our homes, and why we should hike more. To add to that, we’re comparing ourselves to the ‘projected’ lives of our connections on social media, who selectively show off their bustling, exciting lifestyles. There’s an unspoken pressure to be busy, to demonstrate our zest for life, and avoid the perception that we may be lacking ambition, direction, or even work ethic.
Ultimately, we’re living creatures – subject to the limits
of our energy, and the routine of making an income. What we’re able to fit into
our days doesn’t always align with our expectations, and that’s when we get
down on ourselves for being ‘unproductive’. If your schedule is becoming too stressful,
with too little reward, it’s time to step back. Take the opportunity to
re-think not only your tactics for achieving your goals, but whether those goals
are actually worthwhile in the end.
Make organisation a daily ritual
So you’re a last-minute person. You may have
been using that line for years, but you owe it to yourself to prioritise organisation
– it’s not a natural born talent, but an easily learned skill. Organisation involves
a lot of ritual and routine, and while being a creature of routine sounds a
little dull, it’s actually liberating – it frees you from the anxiety that
comes with being unprepared, and gives you back time that would otherwise be
If you’re serious about becoming more organised,
why not consider taking a course? There are free courses you can take online,
like the one delivered by Udemy, and
as well as paid courses with more extensive information. One 6-week course that
stands out is The Daily Map, created by
artist Nirrimi Firebrace, which gives you organisation tools and methods to
help you clear the path to becoming your most creative self. It’s also beautifully
illustrated – who said organisation couldn’t bring you joy and whimsy?
Change your perception of stress
Why do some people cope with a hectic
schedule so gracefully, while others spiral into emotional turmoil? It’s all
about the way we perceive stress. There’s no concrete number of tasks that
constitute a stressful day, and while there are certain experiences that
commonly induce stress, it’s possible to remain cool-headed if you look at a situation
through a different lens.
Start by identifying what stresses you out,
and think about how you can normalise that experience. Repetition can help take
the stress out of a task, as can a bit of healthy comparison – the task may
feel difficult, but it doesn’t compare to such-and-such that you’ve experienced
previously. For more tips on reframing your perception of stress, health
psychologist Kelly McGonigal gave a great TED
talk on how to turn stress from an enemy into a friend.
Isolate the moment
Living in the ‘now’ has become a bit of a
buzz-phrase as of late, but this concept is the key to feeling relaxed, even
when you’re on a tight schedule. Once you’ve blocked out time in your schedule
to do a certain task, think of that time as a bubble, isolated from the rest of
the world, where there’s no past or future. If you’re thinking about what you
need to do next, or what you forgot to do earlier, you’re not reaping the emotional
benefits of the activity you’re engaging in.
To help you master this technique (which isn’t
always easy) the obvious first step is to switch off your devices when they’re
not necessary. Secondly, if any stray thoughts circle around in your mind when
it’s not their designated time – write them down. Transferring them from your
head to paper (physical or digital) allows you to relax, knowing your thoughts
are in safe-keeping. The fear of forgetting is the best way to throw off your
focus, so don’t let it mess with your priorities, or ruin your positive emotional
Ask yourself – what can wait?
Due to constant over-stimulation, our to-do
lists keep growing and growing with no clear direction. With little red
notifications popping up by the minute, begging for attention, how can we be
expected to get our priorities straight?
A great tool for creating clarity is a good
old fashioned notebook, where nothing can flash, pulse, or pop up at you. It’s
just you, your common sense, and a blank slate to sort through your goals. It’s
more manual effort than using a Word doc, but there’s something about the
pen-to-paper experience that really helps you connect the dots, and helps
information stick in your mind. So why not grab a coffee, sit down, and give it
a go – you’ll find that many of your goals are not as urgent as you think.
Find happiness in fewer goals
Every now and then, it’s wise to ask
yourself, should I pursue this goal at all? You may have decided on a whim that
something was worthwhile, but is it really? One of the best things you can do
for yourself is to write down a list of 5 things you want to achieve in your
life-span – things that make life worth living – and let that list be your
north star. Any task that doesn’t get you closer to these goals – let it go.
Life has a lot to offer. If you’re a person
who wants it all – that’s excellent – just make sure that you take time for
yourself. Sometimes it’s quality over quantity that wins in the end, no matter
what anyone thinks of you.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed fitting study into your lifestyle, don’t
hesitate to call a student advisor,
who can help you find a solution.