Making time to be happy

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit stressed out. In the last few weeks, work’s suddenly become insanely busy, leaving little time for things I want to do away from the office, and frankly sending me a bit loopy. On Saturday alone, I ordered a drink and then walked away without it, then got in the car and tried to drive off without starting the engine. You see what I mean?

As I headed home last night after an eleven-hour day in the office, I decided enough was enough. So here are some of the steps I plan to try and take to get through this busy time. I hope they might be helpful to anyone else who’s struggling to find enough hours in the day.

Leave work on time

Not an easy one this, especially if you’ve got a hundred things to do. And I really object to the theory that says anyone who has to leave the office late must be inefficient. Sometimes there’s just too much work. And sometimes you find out at 5pm on a Friday that UPS have lost an important package and have to spend the next two hours trying to find out what’s happened to it. Yep, I’m still annoyed about that. But there’s always tomorrow (at least hopefully – and if not, nobody will care that you didn’t send off that last email anyway).

Delegate

I’m so bad at delegating – not because I don’t trust other people to do things, but just because I like those things done a certain way (ok, fine, I’m a control freak). But sometimes delegating is necessary – and much as it can sometimes be painful to admit it, letting other people help out with things might mean they’re done better. If you’re trying to do something in a rush, while someone else has time to do it properly, it makes sense to hand it over.

Use travel time

This is one for the rail commuters, obviously. I’m not suggesting people who drive to work should try and multitask. I spend about three hours each day travelling to and from work, and I usually take advantage of that time to read (or sleep). Which is good, of course, but there are plenty of other things I could be doing with my time that might be more productive – writing blog posts, for instance, or making some headway on the book I’m attempting to write by Christmas. Or I could use my phone to catch up on emails, instead of wasting time on Facebook…

(By the way, I was just checking through this post and read the heading above as ‘use time travel’. Which would also work, but sadly isn’t yet an option.)

Make lists

Good at work and at home. Not only do lists help you focus your mind on what you need to get done, but it’s a good feeling when you get to cross things off. Maybe even add a couple of jobs that are almost finished, just so you can start by scribbling them out. It’s very motivating. Just don’t spend too long trying to decide what to put on the list – that’s a bit counterproductive.

Know when to let go

This is something else I really struggle with. I’m a perfectionist, and will always find something else to do, which might not make much difference to the end result, but will make me feel like I did my best. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do things right, but if it means you take twice as long to do something with little discernible difference, that’s just time you’re not getting back.

Take a walk

It might sound strange to suggest doing something else when you’re already busy, but I find going for a walk, even if it’s just round the block, really helps. It gives you a break, lets you clear your mind, and it’s exercise, so it’s good for you. I have most of my blog post ideas while I’m walking to and from the station, and often start writing them in my head before I get home. (Then frantically try and get my thoughts down on paper before I forget them.)

Turn off the TV

I watch way too much TV. It’s become my habit to turn it on almost as soon as I walk through the door, and I’ll invariably find myself watching repeats of something I’ve seen five times before (Friends, anyone?) when I could be turning the TV off and doing something more productive.

(The same goes for Facebook and Twitter, by the way. And Buzzfeed. They’re all evil time-wasting machines.)

Get some perspective

I’ll admit I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself lately – working late, getting stuck on delayed trains and arriving home with just enough time to eat before I go to bed.

But sometimes you have to step back and consider what your problems actually mean. Got a demanding job? At least you’re employed. Getting home late? Nice to have somewhere to go back to. Stuck on a train? Better than having to walk (although it sometimes feels like walking might be quicker). Having trouble making time for all the things you want to do and people you want to see? At least you have plans and somebody to share them with.

So I’m talking as much to myself (yes, I do that, even when I’m not stressed) as other people when I say let’s focus on the things that matter. And cheer up, because life could be much worse.

"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy." Anne Frank

PS So far so good – today I left work on time and wrote this blog post on the train. Also, I’ve now been home for twenty minutes and haven’t turned on the TV yet. Let’s see how long I can hold out…

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