How to Be Busy and Not Insane

Granted, I might not be the best person to write on this topic. There are certainly times in my life where I feel like I’m going to lose it, with all the balls I have in the air at once. But the fact remains that I have yet to actually lose it, so that must speak for something, right? Some people have asked me how I do everything I do and still have time to watch movies or read books or play games. This is actually something I’ve been thinking about for years, so why not write a blog post about it?

The key, for me, is making time to do things I like to do. Playing games and watching movies and reading books are an integral part of being able to do everything else I do. The times when I’ve had to work nonstop for a long stretch, I’ve discovered I stop being very effective at the work I actually do. Taking time to recharge every day lets me keep going. Marathon, not sprint.

This is something I first came across while I was on my mission in Germany. For those of you who haven’t served a mission, they’re pretty planned out for you. Missionaries have an approved schedule: wake up at 6:30, go to bed at 10:30, and all the time in between is blocked out. When to eat. When to study. When to work. When to shop. It’s all there. And while I was a missionary, I looked at how they had it broken out. Think about it from a logistical standpoint. Whoever planned that out had to figure out how to have 75,000 young men and women work hard for 1.5 to 2 years each and have as little burnout as possible. Better yet, they had years of trial and error to tweak things to see what worked and what didn’t.

Step one? Everyone got a good night’s rest. 8 hours, every night. I really do believe a regular sleep schedule is key. I might not get a full 8 each night, but I usually get at least 7, and I wake up and go to bed about the same time each morning and night. That lets me be active and focused during the days.

Step two? The other time was split evening between work and not work. Work (actively proselyting, meeting with church members and investigators) broke out to be 8 hours a day, on average. Not Work (studying, eating, sight-seeing, etc.) made up the other 8. Sure, you could choose to count some of that other 8 as work. Cleaning the apartment. Doing laundry and ironing. But it was fundamentally different than the 8 hours of work we were supposed to do.

Different is good.

I still use those lessons in my scheduling today. I try to do different things. Mix things up, so it all doesn’t get too rote-feeling.

Another lesson I learned came during my grad school days. I had so much work to do to finish my classes and write my thesis on time. It was absolutely daunting, and I felt I was going to explode with pressure sometimes. Everything felt scattered and disorganized. So I sat down and wrote out all the different things I had to do. How many pages I needed to read. How many pages I needed to write. How many days I had left to read and write them all. And then I came up with a schedule. Sundays were off limits, but every other day had a page count for reading and writing. And I knew that if I could get that page count done, then I’d be fine.

I broke that big goal down into bite sized chunks, and I started eating. But what helped me not feel too dragged down by it all was a mental trick I came up with: I got ahead. Being ahead of my goal, even by a day, was usually enough for me to feel like I was choosing to read and write those pages. Not that I had to read and write them. After all, I was a day ahead! If I wanted to, I could do nothing that day and still be fine.

For me, if what I’m doing is voluntary, I’m more likely to do it. I don’t know why that is. At the times when I’m behind on my goals, I feel like they’re a weight around my neck. I feel pressure. I worry. That’s usually when I have to sit down again and reanalyze my goals to make sure they’re sustainable.

And there you have it. The things I do to stay on top of it all:

  • Have a schedule
  • Break goals down into smaller pieces
  • Get ahead of those goals
  • Get enough sleep
  • Take time to recreate
  • Do a variety of things

It seems pretty straightforward to me when I write it out like that, but it’s gotten me through some very hectic times in my life, and I’m pretty confident that if it’s gotten me through those, it can handle whatever lies ahead.

Here’s hoping . . .

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