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Positive Change even when You're "Too Busy"

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This piece was originally published on the ZGiRLS website on April 7th, 2016.

People today are busy. Many of us are outright “too busy.” And with our schedules packed to the brim, making time for a special goal or new habit feels daunting, if not impossible.

You’ve probably bumped up against it before: wanting to integrate some kind of positive change into your life, but not having the time for it. Getting more sleep…Packing your own lunch…Going to the gym…Staying in touch with family…Reading before bed… Sound familiar?

Usually we set out with the best of intentions. And we can see that carrying out those intentions would be a pretty sweet way to live… But it’s not that easy. Or at least it doesn’t feel easy.

If you’ve ever wanted to tackle some kind of positive change in your life, but have concluded that you’re just “too busy,” don’t give up quite yet. After all, as Andrew Carnegie said, anything in life worth having is worth working for. The following suggestions might help you assess and eventually tackle positive change once and for all:

1. Cultivate Self-Compassion. Start with kindness. Acknowledge ALL that you already do. (I guarantee it is more than you typically give yourself credit for.) Be honest and fair about what you can ask of yourself. Set reasonable goals. Maybe self-compassion and understanding becomes the goal itself. Or maybe positive change is accepting that you are enough and you are doing enough already – no change necessary.

2. Prioritize. If you conclude that you do want to tackle a new goal or habit, take the time to identify what is most important to you. What exactly would create the most desired or impactful change?

3. Keep it Simple. It may mean isolating ONE small goal out of many – that’s okay. Set yourself up for success, pick something simple and manageable. You have to start somewhere.

4. Motivation & Accountability.

  • Connect with the “why.” Why is this important to you? If the reason you want to pack your own lunch is to have midday nourishment that makes you feel energized and healthy, then consciously remind yourself of that daily.
  • Brainstorm ways to stay motivated. What mechanisms can you put into place that will help you when you’re feeling busy? An app? Phone alerts? A workout buddy? Figure out something that will work for you.
  • Define a concrete, digestible, and constructive step forward that is under your control. Make it something that you know will move you in the right direction. (For instance, When you feel tired, maybe it’s too much to think about going outside for a run… Maybe it’s even too much to think about stepping outside the door. But is it too much to put your feet inside your shoes and tie the laces? Probably not. DO that…) The rest will come a little easier.
  • Finally, tell someone about your goals or new habits. Share specific ways in which they can support you in your efforts.

5. Acknowledgement & Reward. Always acknowledge your own effort and advancement. Track your progress. Forgive your mistakes or lapses. Create a reward system – big or small, come up with a way to reward yourself with something you genuinely care about.