I had several clients last week express extreme frustration trying to deal with overwhelm. It was not so much that any one thing was overwhelming. It was rather that the combination of everything was overwhelming. They had to manage all the details of their job, their children’s schedules (school, playdates, and extracurricular activities), their personal finances, other family responsibilities, and exercise. This was, in itself, overwhelming, and then I was often asking them to allocate time to their personal development as well. They asked, “Where was all this time supposed to come from?” It was just too much.

What we did was look at every major bucket on their long to do list and allocate the amount of time that was reasonable in a week to spend on that item. Let’s say, for example, that 2 hours per week for personal finances was reasonable and that 6 hours managing the kid’s schedule was reasonable. And then, since we were trying to find time for personal development, I insisted they allocate 1 hour per week for personal development. So, for just those activities, we have 9 hours per week.

The next step was to reserve 9 hours of time on the calendar for them. We assumed that work was already blocked out for the most part. Usually, the kid’s schedule can be predetermined. So that went on the calendar next, working around work items. Then I suggested allocating time for personal development, and other duties, such as personal finances.

At this point, it is looking like a manageable problem and likely stress is decreasing.

But what if you cannot get everything done in that time allocation? What is reasonable to get done on personal finances in 2 hours? Try to anticipate that and delay the rest until the following week. And if, after 2 hours, you still have not completed what you anticipated was reasonable, give yourself a break. You did your best. You will finish next week, and you will eventually prioritize appropriately and estimate more accurately.

Then what if something comes up for the kids? Here is where the boundary idea comes up. Because at that point, you have a chance to exercise boundaries. And to do it consciously, considerately, and in the best interest of all concerned.

You have several alternatives:

  1. Rob Peter to pay Paul. With this option, you are saying right now, I think the present opportunity is more important, so I am willing to spend a little more time on this option. I will make up for it next week with a little more time on something else that is also important to me.
  2. Say no. Decline to make room on the calendar for more opportunities for the kids. This is a choice, and if you are making it consciously in the best interest of everyone, in the long run, you will make more right choices than not.

In any event, you have used the structure of your calendar to help you find time for all the priority items in your life. Over time, your system will get better and better. And your stress will reduce.

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