Adjusting Your Time Management for Change Part Three

In Adjusting Your Time Management for Change Parts One and Two, we covered creating your schedule and your task management system. In this article, I am going to show you how to adapt your system to accommodate major changes in your circumstances.

Adapt Your System

The scheduling system discussed in the first article has “adaptability to the variables of life” built into it. You take your master schedule and flip things around to accommodate the needs of the week. But how do you adjust your system when everything changes?

The key is the master schedule. When you have a large change that is applicable at least for the next several weeks (even if it is not permanent), you look at your master schedule and make the major changes there.

Make your best effort to maintain the balance you have designed by switching time blocks rather than eliminating them when you can. But there is a very valuable question inherent in this process – what major adjustments to your balance will this new reality require, and how can you adjust your balance to accommodate those changes?

If you make those adjustments in your master schedule – you will be better equipped to create and maintain that balance in your life, and you will be less likely to resent that change because you know that YOU chose those adjustments.

Rather than feeling like you have no control over your choices and wishing you could get to those things you aren’t going to have time for, you make the conscious choice of what you can keep and what you have to let go during this period. With a predictably changeable schedule, such as the one an athlete experiences during his or her career with the shifting of the seasons, you can create a master schedule for each phase of the year and easily shift from offseason to preseason to season to postseason and then back to offseason without all the disruption and a long adjustment period.

By using this system over and over, year after year, you will become a master at shifting your schedule as the needs of your career, family and life change. It will become much less stressful because you will trust your skill at adjusting your system and implementing those changes in a way that honors your values.

Handling the Stress of Change

Let’s face it, change is uncomfortable. It is also unavoidable!

Things will change, sometimes in predictable ways, sometimes in completely unpredictable ways. Sometimes the change will be immediately for the better, sometimes it will take longer (even years) to see why this change really was for the best.

What is interesting is the stress we experience when things change is often completely unrelated to whether that change seems good or bad. Even when associated with great opportunity and joy, or when the change is a culmination of your dreams, that change can be tremendously stressful.

Change is unavoidable. Experiencing stress around that change seems also unavoidable, so what can you do?

Here are a few tips for managing the stress around change.

Take Care of Yourself

Stress has shown to have major negative effects on the body: hormonal changes, immune system suppression and even cardiovascular impact. It is extremely important you pay special attention to taking really good care of yourself. Here are ways you can do that:

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Drink water and stay away from energy drinks or drinks loaded with sweeteners (either sugar or artificial sweeteners).
  • Exercise, but not too much. Over training can exacerbate the stress of change and an injury will only cause more problems.
  • Eat healthy. Stay away from fast food and your personal habitual stress foods (whether that’s Ben & Jerry’s or donuts).
  • Make sure you are breathing fully and easily. When you start feeling stressed, just breathe.

Use Your Support Network

During times of non-change, invest in your relationships and build relationships outside of your team. If the change involves being traded to a new team or even leaving the game, if you are completely dependent for your support on your teammates, agent/manager and coaches, those supports may no longer be available for you. Build friendships, invest in your family relationships and create your support network with relationships that are not dependent on your playing circumstances.

When you are experiencing stress related to change, call on these folks for support. That support could just be a phone call or meeting for you to vent. That support could involve asking for specific help with tasks that are overloading your plate. But if you don’t ask, the answer is always “No.” So ask for support, there is no shame in needing help. We all do from time to time.

Drain Your Brain

If you are like me, when your circumstances are changing you have a million thoughts of items you have to remember, calls to make, things to do. All of these things clog up your brain until you cannot think, eat or even sleep!

Tip: Keep a small notebook with you (one of those small spiral memo pads that will fit in your pocket), and every time one of those thoughts comes in, jot it down. Write what is in your head down on paper, get it out of your head and put it on the page. You will likely find you have listed some items over and over. Next time you say to yourself, “I have to remember Item X” you can breathe and say, “It is okay, it is on the list. It will get done!”

Create a Plan

Now take that notepad and take all those items on the list, and turn them into a plan. Put them in a logical order, and decide when you will do each item or who you will delegate them to. And then as they get done, cross them off the list!

Include Clear Contingencies for the “What Ifs”

Part of what will likely be swirling through your mind is all of the things that could go wrong. All the “What ifs” that could happen to derail your plans. All the unknowns that are keeping you up late at night.

Depending on how much you tend to catastrophize things, some of those are legitimate concerns. So first ask yourself, is this really something that is likely or even probable? If it is, spend a few minutes and create a contingency plan. If this happens, here’s how I will handle it. Take whatever action you need to take to make those preparations. For example: What if the moving company flakes on us? Research a second moving company in case the first moving company doesn’t show up.

Then once you have your contingency plans created, let it go. Do not focus on those “What Ifs” beyond making the contingency plan. And when your over-busy mind brings it up, just gently remind your mind, “We’ve got that handled.”

Manage Your Thoughts

The biggest cause of stress during a time of change is what is currently going on in your head. What are you currently thinking about? How can you better manage these thoughts?

Find ways to simplify your thoughts, such as meditation or yoga. I find exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, to be incredibly helpful.

Focus your thoughts on your vision of the outcome of the change, what are you creating for yourself? Find things that make you laugh, whether it is the humor in the situation or an episode of the Big Bang Theory, laughter is a great stress reliever!

And finally, remember that you can handle this. More than that. You are going to rock it!

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