Updated: November 5th, 2020

By Sherry Leikin, M.A., A.C.C.

Let’s face it, life sure can get hectic at times. And if you’re taking on classes, a project, a new side job, or whatever it is that is calling you, adding in the extra time required can add a whole lot of stress to your life.

For example, let’s say you decide to go to back to school in preparation for a career change. You really want this, yet you’re experiencing fear because you know this is not going to be easy. What can you do to be your most productive self and minimize the struggle?

Below are three effective actions you can take to keep your feet on the ground, your vision bright and clear, and your new experience a joyful one.

Set up a time management plan.

At the beginning of each week, instead of simply beginning with the first assignment you see, go over everything that needs to be done for that week and estimate the time it will take you for each task. This will help give you a picture of what your week looks like. Then, schedule each item into your week. As you allocate time for what is essential, you will be able to clearly see what you may have to eliminate in order to fit time in for work, school, and other things in life that are essential to you.

If you use a paper planner, write down what you are going to accomplish for each time slot you have decided to utilize. Do the same if you have an electronic planner. Do not simply make a checklist—this does not allocate the specific time you are committing to getting your work done. Then, if something comes up during the week that conflicts with the time you have already set aside, ask yourself, “What takes priority here?” If the new item wins, reschedule the items with lower priority. When you plan your weekly schedule out this way, it can help you avoid those late nights when you are racing to get your assignments done at the last minute.

Take a small amount of time to transition from one area of life to the next.

Do you sometimes catch yourself running around in several different directions from one task to the next, forgetting where you left off the last time? In my experience, this happens when we are not mindfully attuning to what we are doing. Let’s say you have just finished dinner and have planned to spend the next two hours studying. Set up your study space with as few distractions as possible, silence your phone, and do your best to create a clean space that will not interfere with your concentration. Then, set a timer for five minutes to sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breath. Set your intention to something that will serve you as you take this time to do your work. It could be something like, “I am grateful that I have this opportunity to learn. I am really going to enjoy this new learning tonight.” Then, focus on inhaling slowly and exhaling slowly for the next five minutes. This instantly triggers your parasympathetic nervous system and allows you to be more calm, relaxed, and focused. Resist any thoughts that may be telling you that you do not have time for these five minutes; the benefits of these five minutes far outweigh those five extra minutes of work!

Be kind to yourself.

No, seriously! Be kind to yourself. That means actively practicing showing compassion to yourself. Think about how you would treat a close friend who came to you feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Think of the words, the tone of voice, and the comforting hug you would likely give them. Now, do the exact same thing for yourself. Research has shown that practicing self-compassion reduces stress and creates resiliency, so this is not simply some “feel-good fluffy stuff.” This is the real deal. Know that you are not the only person feeling this fear and that everyone has these feelings at various times in their lives. It is perfectly normal and it is a part of being human. So acknowledge the fear, the stress, the anxiety, or whatever it is you are feeling. Tell yourself, “I am feeling stressed/scared/anxious. It is okay, I will get through this. Everyone feels stressed, I am not alone.” If you can make this your practice, as opposed to beating yourself up for feeling the way you do, you will be amazed at how you view your tasks with more ease. Who doesn’t want to feel more calm, peaceful, and focused?

Sherry Leikin, M.A., ACC, is an alumna of the Master of Arts in Health and Wellness Coaching program and currently serves as an Admissions Ambassador to new students at MUIH. Read more about Sherry here, and visit her website at apeaceofwellness.com.