How To Protect Your Time in a Busy World

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

DISCLAIMER: I am not a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or trained mental health professional of any kind. Everything I write is based on my own personal experience with coming to terms with my differences and adjusting to how my brain works. Please do not take my word as gospel of any kind. These posts are only meant to help further open the dialogue around mental health and dispelling the stigma around mental illnesses and disabilities.

An NBC News article states, “Americans’ working hours have steadily decreased over the last seven decades. In 1948, when the government started keeping track, Americans worked an average of 42.8 hours a week. Today we average 38.7, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey”. So why is this the case?

We live in a world of constant busyness. People are always on the move, cramming their calendars and schedules so full that they have to eat on the go because they don’t even have enough time to sit and enjoy a meal for twenty minutes. We have become a society that glorifies the idea of “productiveness,” – which we have interpreted as meaning “being able to do as many things as possible in the twenty-four hours that are in the day.” I fall into the same traps – reading and saving articles about how to be productive in college, productive when depressed or anxious, or even productive when you are sleeping! – Okay, I made that last one up, but it wasn’t that hard to believe, was it?

Productiveness has become an idol in 21st-century society, much like the idea of “having it all.” But what IS productiveness, and does it mean working compulsively around the clock?

What Is Productiveness?

According to VeryWellMind, being productive means “getting the most out of your time. It means being efficient and effective with your work”. The article elaborates to say that productivity is all about “being smart about how you spend your time to use it in the best way possible”.

Productiveness is NOT working around the clock until you cannot think.

Productiveness is NOT abandoning all of your hobbies and neglecting your loved ones.

Productiveness IS being kind to yourself and being strategic with how long you work and when.

At the end of the day, there are only twenty-four hours of time to use. And seven to eight of those hours (hopefully) are already spoken for as time to sleep, and another three are for eating meals, so you have only eleven to ten hours “up for grabs” for work and relaxation. Considering the math we have just done here, it goes without saying that you need to be picky about what you say yes to in your life.

Also, productiveness is different for everyone. People have different capabilities, strengths, and workloads that they feel comfortable with, so what would be too big a workload for some is just right for others. But no matter your level of comfort when it comes to working, it is a universal truth that everyone needs time for family, rest, and just existing.

My Personal Experience

My parents have never been super-strict about my studying habits, and as long as I got good grades and did my chores when prompted, they wouldn’t hound me about anything. Still, even as a child, I buried myself in my tasks since I was a people-pleaser, perfectionist, and generally anxious person. As a result, I had difficulty saying no when I was asked to commit extra time to my extracurriculars.

If someone needed help with the kids in Sunday school, I would do it, even if I was running on five hours of sleep from studying late into the night.

If I was asked by an adult coordinator in my homeschool group to step up into a leadership position suddenly, I had no idea how to say no, so I would accept it.

Only once I was in college and had a different kind of workload did I become okay with saying “no” simply because I wanted to work on school or even have a day of doing nothing. I didn’t become okay with this concept overnight; it took a lot of instances where I was stretched to my breaking point before I really listened to my mom when she said, “you are allowed to say no.”

I remember constantly worrying that I was letting people down or hurting their feelings when I said no. I believed it was selfish not to agree to sacrifice my time and energy immediately. I thought that somehow, I didn’t have the RIGHT to say no when I was asked to do something because the people in my life, like my parents, teachers, and friends, already do so much for me.

Certain things in life take time, like big projects and self-improvement, and devoting the necessary time to these activities is not selfish but logical and sensible. Also, just because people have done stuff for you in your life doesn’t mean you must constantly give up your time because you need to pay these people back. The people that truly care about you don’t keep score with love and caring.

Ways to Protect Your Time

You are probably thinking, “okay, Belen, I know that I’m prone to be overcommitted, but how do I keep from getting into the situations in the first place?”

Well, I am glad you asked, dear reader.

First and foremost, become comfortable with or at least okay with using the word “no.” Turn down events, projects, and work that you do not really have time to do or time to do well. Say no to things that mean you would have no break in-between your work and studies or work and chores. Turn down things you are too drained for, as being exhausted means your efficiency is lower and your mood worsens.

Second, start considering things that you planned in advance, even if they are just times of you doing something by yourself, as plans- reading for an hour after work?

Plans.

Taking a bath to relax after a stressful exam?

Also plans.

If you have already decided that a specific time is set aside for something particular, you are under no obligation to give that up just because someone abruptly asks you to do something. Plans you make alone are just as valid as those made with others.

Finally, remember to be kind to yourself. Prioritize your physical and mental well-being to the same degree that you value the physical and psychological health of those around you. So, for example, if you wouldn’t judge someone else for passing something up when they are busy, you shouldn’t judge yourself.

Well, that’s all I have, for now, folks. I think that 2023 is going to be a great year full of growth, joy, and learning.

Please like, comment, and subscribe if you connected with my post and if would like to see more of my crazy, exciting journey through life with Christ and mental illnesses. Every interaction I receive here means a lot. Thank you, and God bless you.

Until next time!

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