Wiggle Room

No, I don’t mean stand in a room and wiggle!  I’m talking about time.  Time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted so fit in as much as you can every minute of every day, right?  NO! Little bits of downtime can be more helpful than you think.

I used to fill every minute of every day.  I was rushing from here to there from 4am until 9pm.  Sure I got a lot done but I also stressed out my body so much that I ended up with a cancer scare.  I was lucky the cells were just precancerous.  My doctor urged me to decrease my workload. Even happy stress is negative stress.  I love my work! I immediately dropped from 90 hours per week to 65, which was still too many BUT comparatively it was like being on vacation.  

During that time, I also had a client that spoke of ‘wiggle room’ and the term stuck in my head and every planning decision I made from then on included wiggle room.  I can’t tell you how it changed my life! Somewhere in my busyness I was also taking Yoga Teacher Training which spoke of ‘moderation’.  As an endurance athlete and workaholic, this was a totally foreign concept! I can’t say I embraced it immediately but I did think about how I scheduled things into my life.

By incorporating wiggle room into your daily, weekly, monthly schedule you will decrease your stress hormone, cortisol.  This is a good thing.  Your body wasn’t meant to be in ‘fight or flight’ mode for so long.  Again, even a positive stress for too long is bad for your body and mind.  It’s tiring.  There can be too much of a good thing.  

Here are a FIVE tips for incorporating wiggle room into your life:

1. If you find you are rushing around first thing in the morning, go to bed 30min earlier and wake up 30min earlier.  Be sure you go to bed knowing where your car keys are!  Be sure you have everything you need to take with you in one area so you aren’t looking for things in the morning.  This extra little time will give you peace of mind to start your day.  You can use the time to sit and stare at the walls if you need to (I did for awhile) or perhaps go over your daily schedule so there aren’t any surprises. Perhaps you have a couple of emails to send out so your day is more efficient.  Just don’t lose track of time.  Limit yourself to one or two.

2. When scheduling your day, be sure to include lunch! Please try not to engage in ‘working lunches’ whenever possible.  Claim back this time!  It is yours to decompress from the morning, nourish yourself, turn off your brain for a little while.  Book work during work hours.  

3. If you must be somewhere after work, be sure you leave 15min earlier than you think you need.  This way, when traffic is slow you won’t be stressed out.  

4. Perhaps you see clients back to back.  Try scheduling a little wiggle room either between each one or a block of them.  For me, I can be ‘on’ for 4-4.5 hours at a time before I need a mental break.  I schedule time before and after that block to recharge.  

5. Learn to say NO.  I’m sure there are some things that you have agreed to do right away and then looked at your schedule and thought, “how the heck am I going to get this done?!” This certainly adds stress.  When someone asks something of your time, say that you will check your schedule and get back to them.  This buys you some time to truly consider if it is in your best interest.  Your time is precious! When you look at your schedule, consider how much time is needed to complete what was asked.  If it is a task, double the time you think it would take and then see if that fits into your schedule.  As we all know, things always take longer than you think.  If it is simply a meeting with a defined start and end, look at your schedule and see if it interferes with your wiggle room.  If not, you can go for it.  If it does interfere, you might be able to get away with the meeting if you haven’t given up your other wiggle room that day already. You can get away with not enough wiggle room on occasion but not regularly.

You might be able to come up with a few more ideas on your own.  Feel free to share them with me!

As of today, I work much less.  I work about a 40 hour week, give or take a few hours.  I have time to play without feeling like I’m squeezing it in.  My quality of life has improved tremendously! And those precancerous cells are long gone!

Do you have wiggle room?  

© Jennifer Wasylenko 2013