Sometimes “finding the time” can feel like a treasure hunt rather than a simple task. We’ve all got things going on, but on occasion our schedules feel like too much to handle. I am lucky enough to have a manageable calendar this spring, however, with an irregular work schedule and a course, settling into a routine is not in the books for this quarter.
While it can be hard to feel like you are all over the place, managing chaos in one’s life is an important skill to master early on. After 1.5 years of working multiple jobs and engaging in various activities, I feel like I finally feel comfortable bringing my anything-but-9-to-5 lifestyle into order. If you are going through a particularly busy time, perhaps the following thoughts could be of help to you.
Despite our pollyannaish hopes, things do not usually just “fall into place.” On the busiest of days, we may even need to schedule things like meals and downtime in advance. If you literally have a twelve-hour day, make sure to adjust your routine accordingly. It might not be possible to visit your favorite café every day for lunch. On a sunrise-to-sunset grind, perhaps, it is necessary to pack a lunch or pick something up on the morning commute and put in the refrigerator rather than try to squeeze a café visit or forgo lunch altogether.
Even, and especially when, you feel like you are at capacity, it is important to schedule some downtime. Stress causes a rise in cortisol levels in the body. High cortisol levels over a long period of time can be detrimental to one’s health, enfeeble the immune system, and contribute to heart disease. No one has the capacity to run on 110% indefinitely. We cannot pull an all-nighter tonight and just “make it up” with a deep slumber the next evening. Your body is not so easily fooled. We are high maintenance creatures; we must take care of ourselves now or suffer the consequences later.
Calendar Apps are Your Friends
I was against calendar apps like those on G Suite and Microsoft Office Suite, however, after using one for a period of a few weeks, I have quickly changed my tune. These programs allow you to schedule personal appointments and meetings including the time, date, and location with a brief note. At first, I strictly used the calendar for work. Then, I started using it to be more productive by creating an agenda for my scheduled time. Now, I use it as much as I can. It is so much easier to plan out one’s time, when one can see all appointments, transit times, and free chunks. Scheduling activities like jogging and writing have also pushed me to complete, rather than put off my activities.
Humans are inherently selfish creatures. This “me first” mentality is key to both our survival as a species but also as individuals. No one can “do it all.” Sacrifices must be made. If you prioritize your career, then other pursuits like hobbies, relationships, and health are lined up on the chopping block. Likewise, if you prioritize family and stick strictly to the 9-to-5 grind then you may never make it to CEO. For myself, in my 20s I prioritize my educational and career growth and spend less energy on cooking, cleaning, or settling down.
When your schedule is at capacity, it can be tempting to skip a planned workout, adopt unhealthy eating habits, or sacrifice sleep to make a deadline. You may tell yourself that these are just one-time quick fixes, however when you make poor choices for your health and personal wellbeing, you are confirming that you value yourself less. If you have an important work deadline, then it is important that you shift around less-than-vital work items to accommodate the deadline rather than risk your own personal wellbeing. In the long run, you are what matters, so make a habit to put yourself first, prioritize you—your survival depends on it!
Stress happens, however, at the end of the day it is important that we live in a way that will lead us to the most long-term happiness. If you feel that your toil today will reward you tomorrow, then toil away. If you feel that you are working with no hope for something better, then pause and reflect. Busy periods are inevitable; however, these forces do not control us. We are the captains of our own lives and we have the power to weather the most violent storm if we plan ahead and batten down the hatches when we see the first signs of rough waters. I hope you will continue to persist and move forward even when times are tough. I believe in you, Dear Reader, I hope you do too.