Why do I think you should not be busy like a bee? Well, first, you are not a bee, you are a human; completely two different species! Second, when people ask you about your job, they usually say, “What do you do for a LIVING?” Which means they basically know that you work in order to live instead of dying for work at least 365 days a year.
A former colleague introduced me to her manager who used to work 8 hours a day, was the regional manager of a company with more than 4000 employee, and responsible for nine branches in 7 cities around the country. However, she had enough time to enjoy her life with her husband and children, meet her friends, take care of her skin and fitness, travel, and study another degree.
What amazed me more than anything else is that she seemed always happy and relaxed. She might have looked tired sometimes, but she managed to keep a smile on her face. I thought that her happiness was a result of being busy all the time, you know, that she did not have time to be sad, but I was wrong. “Being overly busy can absolutely make a person more depressed, not less,” says Natasha Tracy, author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.
When I asked that happy lady about her time management secrets, she had a very similar opinion of Natasha’s and told me that time management does not mean finishing many tasks in a short time, but planning your time in a way that allows you to relax and play is the best way to manage your time in order to live happily and do better at work.
Having two jobs while studying many years ago made me think following her advice is impossible, but when I developed a horrible pain in my colon for the first time three years ago, the first thing that the doctor told me was that I need to relax and work less. I did not notice before how harsh I was on myself, and it was the time when I decided to follow these five tips, and they have been working well that I can now have more free time to enjoy:
1. Try to plan for a week ahead, set plan that shows your work and rest time clearly, and follow it as much as possible. This means you should not squeeze any new tasks into your schedule. Whatever pops in, if not seriously urgent, can wait until you are mentally and physically ready.
My most practical way to plan my workday is to use a “1-3-other” plan. This list has one big task and three other ones that are smaller. Once these four tasks are done, I try to finish as many small tasks as possible but only within work time; never at my breaks.
2. Sleeping enough at night and those lovely ten-minute breaks between big tasks are just sacred! They will restore your energy, clear your mind, and help you work better and faster. Take your sleep seriously, and you will definitely be more productive at work. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s website, the best amount of sleep for adults is (7-9) hours. Sleeping less that what you need can lead to overeating, laziness, slow thinking, irritation, and a low mood. I really feel the difference when I sleep early and wake up early as sleep boosts my physical and mental energy. If you allow yourself to “steel” from your sleep hours, then do not do it more than two days a week.
You do not need to take a nap every day, but it is always good to try to relax after lunch for 15 to 30 minutes. Lie on a sofa, listen to music, pray, chat with a friend, read joyful books, or take a warm bath. Whatever that relaxes your body and mind is really good for you.
If you found yourself forced to take extra hours of work, reward yourself with extra hours of entertainment or relaxation as well. One overtime hour a week spent on finishing an urgent task may not have a big negative effect on you, but doing this almost every day without giving yourself time to rest more is a good recipe to wearing your mind and body out.
3. Control your phone and do not allow it to control you. Try not to make calls or text anyone at meals time or social gatherings, and you can switch your phone off as soon as you leave the office or at least one hour before your sleep time.
Be careful not to fall a prey to social media addiction. One best way to do this is to limit your social networking activity, so instead of downloading Facebook and Twitter applications on your phone, you can check your accounts through a web browser to avoid the addiction of checking every notification the mobile applications show you.
4. Your job is important, especially if you need every single penny you make from it, but your loved ones must be your first priority. Sometimes, you may find yourself so overloaded with work when your child needs you to attend their graduation party, or your spouse is sick, or a friend has an important occasion. Whatever their need is, always choose to be with them when they need you.
If you are forever busy, you will keep a good job, but you are most likely going to lose the good people around you. Remember, it is always less painful to do badly in a job than to lose those who really love you and ready to sacrifice for your sake and be with you when you need them.
5. Never do other people’s work. You and your loved ones deserve your free time more than anyone else. If you have a co-worker or a classmate or even a family member who throws her/his responsibilities on you constantly as if they were entitled to be always served by you, tell them to do their work by themselves. If they say they do not know how, offer to teach them, but never accommodate their abusive laziness.
This does not mean to refuse helping other people. We should always show empathy and support others who are in need even if they were complete strangers. However, you need to distinguish between those who really need help and those irresponsible and manipulative leeches who suck up your time and drain your energy.