Are you constantly adding more items to your to-do list – and not giving yourself a break until you get them all done?
Be mindful of the toll this kind of hyper-productivity can take. For Connie Merritt, a registered nurse with osteoarthritis, the stress of her jam-packed schedule landed her in the hospital with a panic attack.
“People with arthritis often over-compensate for their disability by over-committing themselves,” says Merritt, author of Too Busy For Your Own Good (McGraw-Hill, 2009). “When you end up with too many activities and not enough time to recharge, it could ruin your life.”
Try Merritt’s suggestions to set more reasonable goals – and ultimately, achieve a more balanced life.
Your Challenge: “I Can’t Say No.”
Make A Change: Set boundaries and say no with grace. Don’t explain or complain. Smile and say, “That won’t work for me,” or “I have a prior commitment,” or “Sorry, I’ll have to pass, let me know how it goes.” Think about it: One minute refusing to run someone’s errand could give you 45 minutes to take a walk or a hot bath.
Your Challenge: “I Always Multi-Task.”
Make A Change: Complete one task well before proceeding to the next. Focusing attention on one task invites you to live in (and more likely enjoy) the present moment. And consider this: A 2009 Stanford University study found that those who multi-tasked displayed disorganized memory, inability to filter out irrelevant information and difficulty switching between tasks.
Your Challenge: “I’m Too Busy To Socialize With Friends.”
Make A Change: Streamline your schedule. Clean a little every day – instead of hours on the weekend. Pay bills online, saving time sorting and filing. Get your meds via mail-order prescription service, so you won’t have to wait in line at the pharmacy. And make sure to use those extra minutes in the day on the phone or having coffee with a friend! Maintaining good social connections can increase life expectancy and improve one’s sense of wellbeing.
Your Challenge: “I’m A Slave To My To-Do List.”
Make A Change: Create a don’t-have-to-do list. Itemize activities, people and habits that drain your energy, and avoid them. If you must use lists, don’t aim for perfection. “Sometimes we go for 100 percent when 80 percent will do,” says Merritt. “You’ve got to let go at some point.”
Your Challenge: “You Can’t Step Away from the Screen”
Make A Change: Cell phones, computers and other gadgets are constantly competing for our attention. We think they’re helping us be more productive – but psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, founder of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, Mass., says they’re likely not. “These are traps. There’s no real productivity going on; it’s all superficial,” says Dr. Hallowell. “Yet we’re afraid to slow down because we won’t be perceived as successful. I’ve seen people go into withdrawal without their phone.” Consider those words if you’re about to check email for the 10th time in as many minutes. Take a brisk walk instead to recharge your body and mind.