One out of ten women are so busy they’d even be willing to give up their significant other in order to have a bit of extra time to get ready for their day, according to a 2019 study. And more than a third of women haven’t taken a single afternoon to themselves in over a month.* But many people who might admit to being too busy have a truly difficult time knowing where to start eliminating the unnecessary from their calendar and daily lives.

You know the dilemma: you work hard all day trying to get ahead of the to-do list. Then before you know it, it’s bedtime and you despair about all the things you didn’t get done…you look at the schedule for tomorrow and realize it’s already jam-packed and you just don’t know how you are going to fit everything in.

At that point, you might even keep yourself awake binging mindless shows because you haven’t had a second to chill and take care of yourself.

So you wake up tired the next day and repeat.

If this sounds familiar – you are in good company. The tyranny of the urgent runs most of our lives and from that perspective it’s really hard to make any progress toward a pleasant quality of life, much less your actual overall goals.

But there is good news! If you are noticing that pain, you can make some slightly different choices going forward and find freedom from the hamster wheel of busyness.

Here are three manageable steps to help you prioritize what you really want to do and focus on what matters most.

1) Write out specifically what isn’t working.

  • Is there a certain task that always falls to the bottom of the list? Is there a specific area of your life that seems to always be falling apart? Are there other priorities or emergencies that always seem to creep up that keep you from making progress on your goals? Write a list of all the parts of your day that cause you the most stress. If you never have time to make dinner before the kids are starving and going crazy, or if you don’t get to actually have any “me-time” because you are so busy looking after everyone else’s needs, write those down.

2) Get clear on your values and preferred lifestyle.

  • If you could take away all the daily pressures for just a moment, what would you envision for your future life? Do you want time freedom? Financial freedom? More time with family? A career change? Better boundaries? More alone time? Once you identify the life that you would like to work toward and the values that you are most aligned with, you have a foundation to work from as you figure out how to eliminate the obstacles to those things in your schedule. 

3) Create a mission statement that sets the rules for what goes into your schedule.

  • Create a one-sentence mission statement that reflects your values and goals that you can run everything through as you decide what to say yes or no to, what to delegate, and in which things to ask for help to get them off your plate. An example mission statement would be, “My mission is to prioritize my self-care and wellbeing by making sure I have time to myself everyday as I pursue better relationships.” As you move forward, eliminate, say no to, delegate, or outsource as many of your to-do items as possible that do not fit within the scope of your mission.

No one is perfect when trying out new schedule boundaries, so give yourself lots of space to make mistakes and try things out. Don’t go all-or-nothing. The key is self-compassion and acceptance of our survival coping mechanisms – staying busy is where we may have learned to find our worth. 

Living a life free of distractions from your primary goals and limiting your schedule and tasks to primarily the things that serve your highest purpose will help you feel aligned, energized, and empowered. 

So go gently and start saying no when you are sure the task or obligation doesn’t align – the more you practice it, the easier it becomes and the more energy you’ll have to focus on the compelling stuff you love!