Friday, May 28, 2010

Over Planned and Overwhelmed



To those of you in the U.S., Happy Memorial Day weekend! This is my favorite weekend of the year, the “unofficial start of summer.” I love this weekend for so many reasons, one of them being that it’s a three-day weekend (so long as I don’t have to work – this year I don’t). My Filofax is full of plans and activities – yoga classes, cleaning and preparing for company, barbeques, miniature golf with my husband, a long and lazy bicycle ride.

I love to leave this weekend as open as possible, not committing to anything until about a week before. Usually I plan things as they come up, but I like to leave this particular weekend for myself. As luck would have it though, this year I have so many things planned. Fun things, but things nonetheless.

This has been a problem I find myself with more often than not these days. I have events and plans scattered throughout my Filo, and honestly, there are so many things that I’m finding it a bit overwhelming. If you’re reading this blog, you probably understand and maybe even identify with the philosophy of planning – I love the act of planning. But sometimes it’s a little too much; sometimes I plan more than I can handle.

I’m a very social person. But I’m also the type of person who needs my down time, my “me” time. It’s not very often I get it. Sure, I schedule an hour here or a few there. But it’s very rare that I have an entire day to myself, for myself, or even an entire day at home. I’m running from place to place or trying to complete items on that never-ending to-do list. But things just never seem to be done, not even for an afternoon.

This constant running more often than not makes me very anxious and stressed to my breaking point. While I enjoy spending time with friends and family, if there’s too much planned, I almost don’t want to do any of it. I may even look forward to when it will all be over so that I can breathe easy again. So why do I do this to myself? Because, truly, it is my own fault for scheduling too many things at a time. The key is to find that balance between the things I want to do, the things I can realistically do, and not doing some things at all in order to keep myself sane. The truth of the matter is that I don’t like saying no. But I’m realizing that it’s becoming a necessity. I have also found that it can be very empowering, telling people no. Putting me first is not something I am used to but something that I need to do. And I’m finding that I like it.

I recently listened to an audio book called Ultra Calm. In it, author Dr. Mark Hyman describes ways in which to reduce stress and anxiety. One point that really struck a chord with me is that we have to give up something we don’t need in order to get something that we want. What I want is more time for myself, more time to just be. Since it is impossible to gain more hours in the day, I came to the obvious conclusion that I need to be the one to create more down time in my day.

I took a really hard look at my Filo, at the things that are planned for the next few months, and there is quite a lot. Some are things that I cannot change or that I don’t want to change. But then there are things that can be changed or eliminated altogether. There are also the plans that I don’t have to commit to until I’m ready to do so.

My plan going forward is to not commit to anything (unless it’s an event that absolutely requires commitment) too far in advance. This is where my Slimline binder comes in handy – the rings are so small that I can only carry three months worth of weekly pages with me (six months worth of monthly pages, but that’s only a shadow of information that my weekly pages contain). With only three months worth of pages, I can’t plan anything beyond that. That is to say, I have the perfect reason to not plan anything beyond that (because the rest of my pages are at home in my personal binder). And even planning three months ahead is too far in advance most times.

When I do plan things so far in advance, I do so because there’s nothing else going on at the time I plan the event. Inevitably, however, by the time the event rolls around there’s also a million other things that have been planned too, creating more stress for me and essentially taking the joy out of every event altogether.

This plan to not plan is calming me already. I’m sure it will be a work in progress, one that I’ll need to tweak and re-tweak every so often. And maybe I’ll even need to stop myself, un-commit to things I had previously planned for in order to reach my goal of saying no more often.

First, however, I have to get through my very busy June. And it hasn’t even started yet.

Have a great weekend and a terrific summer (or winter as the case may be), wherever you are in the world!

2 comments:

  1. I can totally relate to your planning troubles! For me reading Julie Morgensterns "Time Management from the inside out" was a total eye-opener. In addition, I followed a Mindfulness training, to learn how to live more in the moment, instead of having your head buzz will all the things you should or could do instead.
    Definitely changed my life (and stress level) for the better ... ;-)

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  2. You know, I have yet to read anything of Julie Morgenstern's. Odd considering I like planning, organizing and time management principles so much. But maybe it's time. I've been working on living in the moment too but it's hard to break habits. That's why I need to stop myself and back track a lot, though I tend to just wait for things to calm down instead of saying no from the beginning. It's definitely something I need to work on.

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