5 Ways to Slow Down and Focus When You are Really Busy

Not even two weeks into the semester and already I feel so behind as the workload increases daily. This is the busy time in an academic’s life but every one experiences peak times regardless of where you work. What do you do in those peak times?

The trend these days is to slow down. I am guessing people are tired of being stressed out. We, living in the United States, have also heard too much of the more relaxed pace and lifestyle of other countries. More and more, I hear of people trying to figure out how to ditch the daily overwhelmed feeling with a slower and more fulfilled life.

I read a life changing book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, this summer. I excitedly thought the concepts in this book will break me free from the constant stress of too much. Those optimistic thoughts occurred in the slow pace of summer. It seemed easy to apply the principles when the principles were not as needed. Now in my busiest times, I need to incorporate these concepts into my daily life and I simply can’t find the time. But the busy time is when I need them the most! So today I am taking a break from answering the 3173rd e-mail, ignoring voice mails for a moment, and setting aside my ever growing to do list to review these concepts.

Some lessons from Essentialism I learned that I need to remember:
1. Do projects in small chunks. Start as early as possible. I am bad about avoiding intimidating projects because of their size but small chunks are much easier to accomplish. I tell my students about Jack Canfield’s Power of Five practice. To practice the Power of Five take a big goal and break it into five manageable steps a day. You are constantly moving toward your goal each day.

2. Disconnect from social media and e-mail. I am getting better at this lesson. I stay off of social media in front of my son because I don’t want him to think his mommy is always staring at a phone. I also try to check my e-mail at 9:30 and 3:30 each day. Not checking it all day helps me get into a better work flow without the constant interruption. When I do check my e-mail I am ready to quickly address the issues being presented.

3. Get over the fear of missing out. Sometimes I say yes to work opportunities and social obligations not because I want to participate but because I fear after the fact, I will have missed something. But the author teaches you to go after what you are most excited about and do not fill your life with those mediocre opportunities just because you might not be a part of something.

4. Create small wins. For example if you meet your five steps for the day or complete that small chunk of the project, celebrate! The author does not have to talk me into this one because I have always been a big believer in rewards and treating myself!

5. Most importantly: what are you doing today that will impact your future? My students hate busy work without any real meaning. We should hate busy work too! Just because you are overworked does not mean that you are accomplishing anything. However, if you focus on your goals and what you are doing today for them, your busy day will become focused and productive. 

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