It’s easy to feel like your to-do list is never-ending. As women, we tend to overbook ourselves because we want to please people or we simply don’t want to turn an opportunity down. It’s OK to be overachieving if you are handling your busyness in the right way.
You can be busy as long as you don’t feel busy. That busy feeling just leads to stress — and to getting less done as you obsess over how busy you are. If you know how to schedule yourself and how to take a break every once in a while, you can get tons of stuff done without the stress.
Here are a few tips for cutting down on the overwhelming feeling that comes with being a busy person.
1. Accept that you won’t always be able to get everything done
Balancing a career, a family, exercise, friendships, various hobbies, self-care and much-needed relaxation comes at a price. You must accept that while you hope to get it all done, sometimes, you just can’t. And that’s OK. Be realistic with your time and your expectations. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Feeling like everything needs to get done will lead you to rush, causing sensory overload and stressed, “Oh, my gosh. I’m so busy” vibes. Just don’t go there.
2. Always give yourself extra time to complete a task
Regardless of how long you think it will take you to do something, plan for it to take a little longer. Consider this additional time as a backup plan in case you get distracted or have to attend to an unexpected issue that can’t wait until later. This way, even if you “get behind,” you’ll complete your work. And scheduling more time for yourself will cause you to cut down on the tasks you take on, leading you to feel way less crammed for time and way less busy. More on this later.
3. Do things you actually enjoy
We tend to feel overwhelmingly busy when we have a lot of things to do that we don’t enjoy. When was the last time you felt stressed-out because you set aside an entire day to treat yourself? Exactly. While we probably always have to do work tasks that we don’t enjoy doing, try to break your day up by giving yourself a few tasks you can look forward to (i.e., volunteering, spending time with your family, reading your book, etc.). This will not only brighten your mood, but will help your day go by faster and make your to-do list feel a lot less daunting. Plus, you’ll feel like your day is meaningful rather than feeling like it’s packed with busywork.
4. Limit your to-do list
When you have 5 million items on your to-do list, it’s easy to get flustered and feel like you’ll never finish (because you probably won’t!). Try to make two separate to-do lists: one for today, and one for another day. Prioritize the activities you need to complete in the next 24 hours, and don’t allow your mind to focus on all the things you need to do tomorrow. Focus only on the items you need to do right now.
5. Stop doing things you don’t actually have to do
We all get into the habit of checking items off other people’s to-do lists. While it’s great to do things for other people if you enjoy it and you have time, you don’t always have time. If you’re feeling too busy, let your husband, your children, your boss or your coworkers complete their own tasks. For example, if you’re the only person who makes the coffee at work, let someone else do it for a change. Or if you’re always cleaning up after your kids, have them help you out. Don’t be afraid to delegate, whether you’re at work or at home.
6. Dedicate time to relaxation (& actually spend that time relaxing!)
We tend to spend our dedicated relaxation time doing things that aren’t so relaxing. If you’ve scheduled an hour alone to yourself after dinner, don’t spend that time replying to emails or planning tomorrow’s itinerary or worrying about how busy you’ll be the following day. Spend that time doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing: relaxing. If you’re crazy-busy, give yourself an hour or two when you have absolutely nothing to do. That’ll make you feel less busy quick as can be.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.