Busy-ness is not the problem. Priorities Are.

“Every time you say YES to something, you are saying NO to something else.”

This is a phrase I find myself saying to clients. Often. And this week, rather frustratingly, I found it came back to bite me.

For a while now I have been wanting to get my health and my body strength back ‘on track’. After having our second baby I found myself at a bit of a loss. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored my beautiful boys and I would sacrifice most anything for those exhausting little people. But at the same time as feeling completely elated and fulfilled, I also felt a little desolate and a bit lost. I had become so involved in the role of keeping these little people breathing/growing/developing etc that I had forgotten to put anything in to me, to look after me. And so, one afternoon I decided that needed to change.

It was a bit of a desperate moment really, and as my husband walked in the door from work I dramatically declared “I need to be me! I need to feel like me again!” My darling and ingenious husband somehow completely understood what I meant and so began a clockwork routine where three times a week when he got home from work, he would open the door, I would thrust a baby and a plate of toddler-appropriate food at him, and then promptly run out of the house to go to the gym.

Over the following weeks as I worked and stretched my body I began to feel strong, and ??? and alive. (This was after the initial blood, sweat and tears had passed – imagine, if you will, Bridget Jones’ treadmill scene and photoshop my face in!).

Now I need to quickly explain something important here – I am NOT in any way, shape or form a gym enthusiast. I am not one of those blessed people who loves to work out and who feels sad if they miss a gym session. I am married to someone with that gift, but it has not rubbed off on me. But, I fell in love with these times at the gym. I looked forward to them, to the space to think, to just be on my own, to run and lift and push and feel my inner strength and perseverance coming out and clarity and calm going in. It became a beautiful habit in my life.

And so, fast forward a number of years and here I am now, having had our third baby, and also having started my own little business baby, and although I do not feel desolate or lost, I don’t feel that strength and freedom that I felt when I was exercising. And so I have been determined, for the last few months, to get back in to that routine and habit. To build my strength again and to free up some head space. And yet it hasn’t happened.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about this, what the problem is, what’s stopping me, and unfortunately the only person I could point the finger at was me. I will mentally book time in the diary to exercise and then somehow that time will be reallocated – to emails that “just can’t wait’, to food shopping that must be done, to a client who wants to reshuffle their appointments, to children that didn’t sleep through the night and now I’m too exhausted. Some of the reasons are more convincing than others, but in reality, none of them are really reasons at all, they are excuses that make me feel justified to make the choice that I’ve made – to skip exercise.

And so, I decided that it was time to start saying No to other things in order to say Yes to me. My health and wellbeing is so important, (there are some incredible recent studies that show on brain MRI’s the incredible impact that exercise has on your brain development) and when I look after myself – all the people around me are better looked after too.

If you want to start setting busy-ness aside and start prioritising the things that really matter to you, here are two simple tips to get you started:

  1. Allocate the time in your diary, not in your head. Whether you use the calendar on your phone or an old-school paperback diary, you must write down the activity or task you want to do. In the same way as you would book a work meeting or a trip to the cinema in your diary and then stick to that time, you need to have the same mentality with ‘your own’ goals or priorities. Write it down, book it in and when something else comes up you can check your diary and say no, because you have a prior engagement.
  • Find someone to encourage you and keep you accountable. For a whole host or reasons it can be hard to stick to new habits, but it is made so much easier when you have someone alongside you who knows how important it is to you and will encourage you when you feel too tired or doubtful and challenge you when you feel like quitting. Choose someone that you trust but also someone that you know will ask you the tough questions when you need it and give them permission to help you keep on track.

So my challenge, and encouragement to you, is that the next time you find yourself saying “I would but I’m just so busy” sit down, look at your diary and see what you can say No to, in order to say Yes to the things you really want.