Life doesn’t slow down so you can finally read that book, take that trip, play with your kids, have sex or get some alone time. You just learn how to get what you need in the time that you have. Or you don’t, which results in feeling overwhelmed, angry, exhausted and overextended. It feels like you don’t have a say in your own life. Like your time is owned by everyone else instead of owning it yourself.
Have you ever felt like this? Like your schedule is overloaded with everything you have to do and nothing you want to do. I’ve found myself in this place more times than I’d like to admit. A mixture of misplaced priorities and violated boundaries. I found myself in this place just last week. This place feels like constantly being overwhelmed to the point that if one more thing is added to your plate then you just might have a nervous breakdown. It sucks, but I’m grateful for my latest breakdown because it led me to this lesson and back into balance.
“I don’t have time for my art,” I complained to my partner after having what felt like the longest workweek that seemed like it was leftovers from the previous workweek. The weeks and months were starting to merge together and my exhaustion was mounting to create a cycle of being overextended, overwhelmed and then cue the unavoidable emotional breakdown.
This was a common phrase I used and heard countless others use, “I don’t have time.” I don’t have time for this, for that, for myself, for friends, for anything other than going to work, eating and maybe sleeping every once in a while. I just don’t have time.
I stopped in that moment and thought about what I had just said. Not to mention the whiney, annoying tone I was using that was also laced with the most unattractive self-importance.
“Do I really not have time?” I asked myself. “How can I not have time when we’re all given equal hours in the day? I’m using my time right now.”
At that moment I began to reevaluate how I spend my time. Who I give it to, the intent in which I spend it and more importantly the mindset I have around time. The more I dug into my thought processes the more I discovered that I’ve been living with a mindset of lack regarding time. I followed the trail that led out from this mindset and found traces of it throughout my entire life.
I found it reflected in my language and in my emotional health when like a broken record I often repeat “I don’t have time.” I’ll tell it to anyone who’ll listen, I tell it to myself and I use it as an excuse. I neglect my wellbeing or allow others to make demands of my time that leave me feeling required to accept their demands as if I am not in charge of my own life.
“I don’t have time” is a passive and victimized statement that removes your power and freedom of choice. It’s a dangerous mindset because it perpetuates the belief that you don’t have power over your own time and that this resource will always be dictated by someone or something else.
When I began to look closely at how I spend my time, I discovered that I have more free time on my hands than I originally thought. It was my perception of my time that was the problem. I couldn’t even see or be grateful for what I did have because I was so focused on convincing myself of what I didn’t have or should have.
We all have time. It’s a matter of how we see it and use it that is both the problem and the solution.
So I decided to do something about it. I replaced the mindset of lack with a mindset of priority. I stopped saying “I don’t have time” and started saying, “This is/isn’t my priority.”
A mindset of priority is empowering. It encourages freedom of choice, sets and enforces personal boundaries, increases gratitude and awareness of the present moment.
Here are the three lessons I learned that helped pull me out of an overwhelmed state, and back into balance.
Set and check your priorities. When you know what your priorities are, you know when to say no. Your priorities consist of the things you desire, responsibilities and needs. Knowing what you want removes the passive acceptance of what others want from you or for you, and empowers you to make decisions for yourself.
Priorities give clarity. If an invitation, request or opportunity doesn’t fall in line with what you want in your life, then you know when to decline or offer an alternative option.
Priorities are based on seasons. Your top priorities for one season may not be your top priority for another. It’s important to have a clear and defined vision for that season – no matter how short or long it is. Pay attention to your current season. Are you needing more self-care, more social interaction, more adventure, more discipline? Order your priorities accordingly.
I’m currently in a season of life that will last for seven weeks as I train for a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition. For those seven weeks, I will have to say “no” to other requests and desires because I want to say “yes” to something I really desire. Knowing what my priorities are gives me an incredible amount of freedom to manage my time without guilt when I turn down invitations or spend more time training, rather than spending time with friends. I do this without guilt because I know it’s all temporary, and there will be a season that I prioritize my family and friends over my training.
Protecting your time is protecting your energy. Have you ever become angry or frustrated when at an event? Did it feel like you were wasting your time, even though it would typically be something you’d be interested in? Did things that you’d rather be doing, or really needed to do, float through your mind? Those are the moments you need to pay attention to.
If you’re getting ready and find yourself dreading the experience or wishing that you were taking a bubble bath and staying in after the long week you’ve had – pay attention to that. Those are warning signs that your boundaries and your energy are being violated and that it’s time to come back into balance.
You can violate your own energy by not honoring your priorities or making time for yourself. Call it self-discipline or anything you want, but I typically see this happen in two ways: not scheduling time for yourself, and then not honoring that time when you do have it. This could look like browsing social media for hours instead of reading that book you’ve had your eye on, or taking a yoga class because it makes you feel good.
Your self-care is important. Your emotional health and wellbeing is important. Protect your energy by scheduling time with yourself, and then be diligent in honoring that time.
Living in the past is regret. Living in the future is worry. Living in the present is peace.
When the mind and body live from a place of lack, it removes our thoughts from the present and takes it to the past or future. This effectively takes us out of a state of peace and into a state of regret or fear that turns our attention to things that we don’t have.
Regret’s voice sounds like, “I wish I still had this or that.” Future’s voice sounds like, “When I have this or that.”
Present’s voice sounds like, “I am here, and I have enough.”
Shifting the mind from lack and to a state of “enough” brings our hearts and minds into balance by way of gratitude. We stop wishing for things we don’t have and instead focus on what we do have.
Practice this mantra when you begin to feel overwhelmed and overextended: I am here, I am here, I am here. Repeat it until you believe it. Repeat it until you feel a deeper awareness of your surroundings and a fuller presence within yourself.
You are here. You have enough. You are empowered to prioritize your time, protect your energy and be present.