Episode 19: Are You Really “Too Busy”? Let’s Find Out.

Today we are going to spend time talking about the all too popular “I’m too busy” excuse that keeps us from achieving our health, nutrition, fitness, and self-care in our journey towards Whole Health Empowerment.  We will talk about breaking down what your day really looks like to create FREE time in your day, identify feelings that are playing into this excuse, and when to outsource to create more time in your day.  We also talk about quick strategies to improve daily time management.

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Are you really “too busy”? Let’s find out. 

By: Tricia Stefankiewicz 

Today we are going to spend time talking about the all too popular “I’m too busy” excuse that keeps us from achieving our health, nutrition, fitness, and self-care in our journey towards Whole Health Empowerment.  We will talk about breaking down what your day really looks like to create FREE time in your day, identify feelings that are playing into this excuse, and when to outsource to create more time in your day.  We also talk about quick strategies to improve daily time management. 

Are you really that busy? 

Have you ever met someone who seems able to squeeze an insane number of tasks into a single day? Or better yet, have you ever had a time in your life when you were so productive with your goals and it didn’t even feel like you made that much of an effort?  Do you ever wonder, “man how do they do it” or “how did I used to that?” But you started to discover that as life responsibility increased and the work/ home/ life became more imbalanced, it became difficult to prioritize ourselves and the very things that are important to us. Now, the day may seem so full, you can’t imagine adding anything else to your schedule, no matter how good it may be for you. Does this sound familiar? 

My friend Kate is one of those people. She is a natural leader in setting boundaries, prioritizing her needs and solving problems. When my son was first born and I was living with Kate, I felt like I was too busy to do anything for myself. I was stressed with the newborn phase, post childbirth pain, and the time constraints of early motherhood expectations.  The struggle was real. I would complain about not having enough time in the day to prioritize myself or tasks that I needed or wanted to do. Since I knew this phase wouldn’t last forever, I was OK with putting myself at the bottom of the priority list as I truly could not have squeezed more life into those early days. 

 But as my son grew older, the same old excuses persisted. Kate is a lawyer and annoyingly good at challenging any of the excuses I put into the universe about time restrictions. Things at home were getting easier. My son was in daycare and I was back to work full time, we had more of a routine, and I was starting to have a tiny bit more time available to prioritize myself. But I didn’t do it. I would complain about not having time for myself constantly, but I didn’t take any meaningful steps to make time for myself. I just kept on complaining about having no time while Kate offered many challenges to this notion. 

What I realize now is that complaining about not having time didn’t really mean I didn’t have the time. It meant that I wasn’t ready to prioritize my time, to include the self-care things I knew I should have been doing. Complaining about lack of time was a way to feel like I had control over something. Now I know that it may also mean other things such as: I don’t want to do something; , I am avoiding doing something; or I don’t know where to start or that it feels too hard to take that first step. And many times, I would do nothing at all except complain about not having enough time. 

You see, time is the great equalizer! We all have the same amount of time in a day to achieve what we desire.  The person who seems to get more done in a day is no different from you. The difference is that they prioritized their day differently than you did. Isn’t that both a freeing and disappointing thought!!! Freeing that you can be like the person you want to be if you make yourself a priority and embarrassing that you haven’t made yourself a priority. 

You may even be telling yourself things like “I’ll make myself a priority” later when:
things slow down, or life is less crazy and busy. How absurd is that? How many years will that take to happen? And then what happens to our health during that time? Don’t you deserve to have something you look forward to daily or weekly? You see, if you don’t make yourself a priority, I’m not sure anyone else will. I used to feel like I was a martyr for always putting myself last and felt like it was a badge of honor. It wasn’t. I was the one who suffered. I finally realized that if I didn’t make my health goals a priority – then I wouldn’t be able to achieve them. If you want to eat better, make exercise a priority, or have better self-care, then you need to make it a priority or it is not going to happen.  The reality is that you are never going to have enough time, you must create the time if it is going to happen. Let’s dive deeper to see if we can call “BULLSHIT” on your excuse for lack of time like Kate did to me. 

What does your day look like? 

For a lot of us it may look something like this: get yourself up, dressed, ready, and fed; get your kids up dressed, ready, and fed.  Now you are either taking them to school or setting them up for virtual school. Then you need to either drive to work, work from home, or take care of other kids in the household for at least the next 8 hours. Then you get home and start the night-time routine of making dinner, doing homework, getting lunches made for the next day, and then going through the exhausting bedtime routine. By the time you finally get some time to yourself, the last thing you feel like doing is something that requires more work. It’s so much easier to sit in front of the TV, sometimes for hours, zoning out and decompressing after the worries and stress of the long day. 

Carving out some free time

You can find time management work sheets online that take you through your day in 30-minute increments to see how you spend your time. I think a lot of us look back on our days thinking how busy we were, but these sheets are a way to see if that is true. If you were to do this worksheet for one day, you would likely find that you spend much more time engaging in time sucking routines that you think. 

Now look back at the same day we reviewed and think about how much time you are spending checking text messages or scrolling through social media accounts. How much time are you using to check email or reading the news? Are you spending time in between tasks watching TV? Really be honest with yourself here. This exercise is not meant for judgement but rather to provide you with information on how you really spend your time so that you can find a way to make new routines happen in your day. My guess is that you will have time frames throughout the day that are available, but you are spending your time on social media, or watching reality TV or Netflix.  If you replace some of that time with a new behavior, even if it’s only for 15 min, but you do it consistently, you will be one step closer to achieving one of your desired health goals. It’s important to know where you are spending your time so that you can dispel the lies you are telling yourself so that you have more control over your actions. 

Is “I don’t have time” an excuse for another feeling?

Is the “I don’t have time” excuse just a way to avoid, procrastinate, or not deal with how you really feel? For instance, are you saying you “don’t have the time” to exercise because you are scared and don’t know where to start or because you really don’t have time for exercise? It’s an important distinction to make because it may challenge your inner dialogue and change the way you think about creating new habits. For instance, I used to love exercising, but now it’s much more difficult for me to do it. I have a constant pain in my hip that makes the beginning of a session a little painful. Because of this, I find myself avoiding it. I will make a million excuses or suddenly need to call an old friend, just so that I don’t have to start the exercise process. I’m not “too lazy” to do it, I’m more scared of being uncomfortable and in pain, and a little embarrassed that I can’t do nearly what I could do a few short years ago. The distinction of excuses matters as it will change the solution to the problem. For instance, if I am in pain or avoiding pain, maybe I start implementing 15 minutes exercises at a time. Since time management isn’t the problem, then time management techniques aren’t the real solution. 

Maybe you truly are too busy and don’t have the time to make changes right now. 

We may have seasons in our life, when we truly are unable to carve out time for ourselves. If you look at every 30 minutes of your day and feel like it is impossible to find any extra time, then you may need to consider outsourcing some of your tasks to find some time for yourself. This could mean hiring someone a few hours a week to watch your kiddos while you take some time for yourself, or hiring a cleaner every 2 weeks or monthly to help you manage the never ending house chores, or paying for a meal prepping service, landscaping or someone to manage your lawn, or having a laundry cleaning service. If you don’t see any end in sight, then you need to create a system that will free you up for now to help you make yourself a priority. 

It’s important to be honest about your time and why you are not taking the time to do something. 

Owning the excuse of why you are not doing a behavior will allow you to seek clarity about the real barrier. I can talk to you for hours about making more time in your day, but if it is not a time issue, then those strategies won’t work for you. 

Strategies that work if it IS a “no time” excuse

Each weekend, before the week starts, spend some time writing down all the responsibilities and things that need to get done this week – this can include grocery shopping, appts, sports or activity for the kids or meeting you may have 

Notice any free time blocks you may have. It could be 30 min in the morning, 15 min after lunch, or maybe an hour after the kids go to bed? Start to notice this “FREE TIME”

Next, is there anything that you want to do for yourself this week? 15 min meditation, 30 min yoga or walk, lunch with your girlfriend? START to block off this time in your calendar. Picking a date and a time will increase the chances that you do it.  To start, you may only want to focus on one priority this week, and then as you do this process more frequently, you may be able to add in more. Be honest here. If you know that bedtime routine is time-consuming then it may not be realistic to pick this time to make yourself a priority. No matter how good the intention, it may not be able to get done. 

Pick the thing you will do, the night before or first thing in the morning – so you don’t have to think about it and are more likely to do it. 

Set a time limit to have an end to the task 

Acknowledge that you may need to give up something that you were previously doing to make the new behavior occur. For instance, if you want to wake up and doing 30 min of exercise each morning, then you may not be able to lie in bed playing on your phone for 30 min. The exercise will replace this time. 

I still complain regularly about not having enough time. It’s an old habit that is so easy to fall back into. But I now know that I am avoiding something I don’t want to do or I’m prioritizing something or someone over my own needs. It isn’t perfect but I am now aware of what and why I am doing this. It’s not about wanting to change something and doing nothing about it but rather noticing old behavior and knowing it can be different, if we let it. It’s not about having enough; it’s about how you prioritize your time. Knowing where you prioritize your time will help you to move towards making the health goals you desire and deserve. 

There’s no such thing as being “too” busy, if you really want something, you will make the time to do it. Unknown author. 

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